Though baking bread is simple, not a lot of people do it on a regular basis. The reason? Time. Bread takes time. Well, almost all good bread does. But there is an answer. A simple one; Irish Soda Bread.
The difference between a “normal” bread and a soda bread is that the latter makes no use of yeast. Instead, bicarbonate of soda reacts with an additional ingredient – buttermilk – to form bubbles of carbon dioxide. This reaction, in turn, causes the bread to rise.
A clearly different method of leavening, this process yields an unconventional texture. Irish soda bread possesses a closer texture and heavier crumb. It’s more rustic. But still soft and tempting, when made properly.
To make a perfect loaf of Irish soda bread, forget everything you know about common bread making. It won’t help. The last thing you want is lots of stretchy gluten. If you’ve got developed gluten, you’ve got a brick.
Instead, always use a plain wholemeal flour, as opposed to a bread flour. And don’t, whatever you do, knead it for 10 to 15 minutes. A couple of flips and a turn to bring the mixture together will suffice.
Basically, if you’re in a pinch and in desperate need of bread, then Irish soda bread is your… loaf. Even if you have all the time in the world and crave nothing more than a slice of flavourful bread, slathered with all the salted butter a knife will carry, then you could do far worse. Simply spend the rest of the day pleasing yourself.
Irish Soda Bread
Makes 1 Small Loaf
- 500g wholemeal flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp honey
- 420ml buttermilk
- flour, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C(fan).
- Tip the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix together well.
- Make a well in the centre and incorporate the honey and buttermilk.
- Once mixed in transfer the dough to a floured surface and gently bring it together into a free-form boule.
- Transfer the loaf to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Cut two deep, crossing slices in the top of the dough.
- Pop in the oven and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until golden brown. Be careful not to let it catch. Leave to cool before serving.
Cost: Though more expensive than an average bread – a result of the addition of buttermilk – Irish soda bread is rather frugal. Indeed, the entire loaf should set you back no more than £1.50.
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