24 January 2012

It's Farmhouse Breakfast Week, so let's make Soda Bread!

Isn't that what everyone is thinking?

Well, it's what sprang to my mind - but then, I've been wanting to make some soda bread for quite a long time now.  

This week is Farmhouse Breakfast Week, which is being promoted by the Home Grown Cereals Association.  You can find out all about it on their website and Facebook page, if you're as much of a fan of breakfast as I am!

Breakfast is one of my favourite meals of the day.  I've been known to have some (supposedly) odd things for breakfast - but then I can't see that they're any odder than cold pizza, or last night's kebab, or leftover Chinese takeaway, which seems to be the breakfast choice of many.  For sure, I had a phase of having things like a Mars Bar and a can of coke for breakfast - but then that's not recommended and I was just 18 at the time.  For years, my breakfast of choice was a couple of pieces of buttered toast, eaten as I drove to the stables.  I can also remember going through a number of years when breakfast became later and I would have a coffee and a "Paddington Sandwich" (orange marmalade) once I'd reached work, having walked the dogs and done the horses.

However, more recently, breakfast has become rather more formulaic, as in tea, toast, porridge or cereal, swallowed in a hurry in between tending to one or other of son & heir's wants.

As son & heir has grown up and I have become aware of the anti-inflammatory diet, breakfast has changed.  Nowadays, during the week I have my breakfast once I've taken son & heir to school and we've walked the dogs.  Because of the new information regarding protein keeping you fuller for longer, along with the positive news of the egg -v- cholesterol situation, I've found that eggs - and now oily fish - have taken up star billing.

Getting back to the soda bread, the problem with it you see, is that being on the Anti-inflammatory diet, most carbohydrates are off the menu - and that includes soda bread.  Looking on the Nutrition Facts analysis for it however, it appears that 100g represents a negative score of -235 (moderately inflammatory).  This isn't terrible, but it's not good.  However, if you're choosy about what you're putting onto the bread - and perhaps what you eat for the remaining two meals of the day, then you can cut down the inflammatory effect.

Strawberry jam won't help make it anti-inflammatory - but it's jolly nice!
For instance, if I was to take a slice - approx 20g - and put some mackerel on board, then the total score becomes in the positive, such is the effect of the mackerel!

The next job, having decided that I'd throw caution to the winds and make some, was to find a recipe.  My usual resource was particularly unhelpful in this instance so I went further afield and discovered www.BakingMad.com.  They have one or two recipes for soda bread (and some wicked cupcake making ideas, plus a great section on baking tips so I'll be back there for more), some with flavourings, some without - and one recipe which seemed particularly user-friendly in that it combined white flour with wholemeal, which suited me just fine.  I was a little concerned that 100% wholemeal might wind up like a brick, as opposed to a loaf, you see.

An exciting aside, is that the making of this loaf of soda bread enabled me to - ceremonially, you understand - use my new Mason Cash mixing bowl that I'd received as a gift at Christmas.  My Mum always (or it felt like always) had a Mason Cash mixing bowl and you'll have seen them gracing the worktops during programmes like The Great British Bake Off.  For as long as I could remember, I've wanted a genuine Mason Cash mixing bowl.  Mine is now one of my kitchen children, such is its status in my eyes.

You can only imagine the frisson of excitement in my heart as I sifted in that first instalment of flour.  A Mason Cash bowl - and I'm using it to make bread.  My cup runneth over.

The recipe itself is really ludicrously easy.  Of course, it's not essential to have a Mason Cash bowl for the production of soda bread - any old bowl that'll handle the quantity of its contents will do.

The bonus as regards soda bread in comparison with any other kind of bread, is that without the use of yeast - it uses bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar to rise - there is no need to go through the laborious and labour intensive kneading/proving routine.  My loaf was put together in around 20 minutes and was on the cooling rack following 35 minutes in the oven!

As such, I can see that whenever - in future - we'll be requiring "crusty bread" to accompany a main course soup dish, it'll be a fairly easy matter to quickly knock up some soda bread rolls.  How lovely!

I had no problem sourcing buttermilk for the recipe either.  Our local Asda very obligingly had plenty in stock - although it is possible to use plain yoghurt and a dash of lemon juice which apparently will do the trick perfectly, if all else fails.

The loaf came out of the oven looking like the archetypal "Rustic Loaf".  We managed to keep our paws off of it for as long as it took for it to cool - although I will admit that it was still a little warm when we cut that first slice and reached for the butter.  The flavour is surprising, when you consider that there is no yeast there to help the flavour along.  You could taste the nuttiness of the wholemeal flour but the bread has a flavour all its own.  I can see that this loaf stands every chance of becoming a favourite.

SODA BREAD  (makes 1 loaf)  Recipe taken from www.BakingMad.com

Ingredients :

250g wholemeal plain flour
250g plain white flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp cream of tartar
25g butter
335ml buttermilk
60ml warm water.

Method :

1.  Preheat your oven to 200deg C/fan 180deg C/400deg F/Gas 6.

2.  Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a large bowl.  You will probably find that the bran is left behind in the sieve, so just make sure there are no large lumps of flour hiding under it and tip it into the bowl.

3.  Lightly rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

4.  Stir in the buttermilk and sufficient water to bring everything together into a non sticky dough.

5.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead lightly, then shape into a 20cm round and place on a baking sheet.

6.  Using a sharp, floured knife, cut a large X into the top of the dough.

7.  Bake the loaf for 30-35 minutes or until risen and golden brown.

8.  Cool on a wire rack.

Printable version


  1. I am a recent convert to soda bread and I absolutely love it! And, it is so easy that I even made soda bread rolls on Christmas Day - making the dough really is the work of minutes.

    Also, can confirm re the buttermilk - I never bother buying it, I just take some normal milk (skimmed seems to work fine and that is what I tend to have in) put a good squirt of lemon juice in it and set it aside for ten minutes. Voila.


  2. I was surprised by how easy it was to assemble, Seren. For me, to be able to make bread is just incredible. Home-made bread, previously, was way out of my league as I just don't have the staying power in my arms for the kneading. So you can imagine what a turnaround the discovery of soda bread is for me! :)

    I reckon I'll go down the home-made buttermilk route in future. It's got to be cheaper, even though a tub of buttermilk isn't all that expensive - every penny saved, helps!


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