Posted On March 14, 2019 By Kathryn
It should be easy to write a recipe for something you have made hundreds of times, but in truth it is really difficult. Every time I make soda bread, it is slightly different. In fact I never actually weigh anything. Once you get the hang of this, it is not really necessary. There is a simple science that makes soda bread what it is. The reaction between the acid in the bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk is what makes the bread rise, and together with the other ingredients, once you generally have the right quantities, you will have a nice loaf. There are a few fundamentals to stick to, which will be the difference between a good and great loaf. Work the dough as little as possible and a nice gentle, long bake. If you have any porridge oats lying around your cupboard, throw in a handful. They make the loaf even lighter still. One hour is the general cooking time for this loaf, but check after 45/50 minutes to be on the safe side. It should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and have a nice crust all over. Buttermilk in the UK and Ireland is hugely different. In Ireland it pours like a thicker version of milk , whereas in the UK it is more like yogurt. The quantities should roughly be the same, but start off by adding three quarters of the liquid and add more as required. You want the dough to be soft, but not too wet or sticky. In the event of adding too much liquid, simply add a bit more flour. If you can’t find buttermilk, add the juice of a lemon to full fat milk and leave to sour (the milk will separate slightly and look curdled) or use full fat natural yogurt.
500g plain flour
1 tsp maldon sea salt
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda or bread soda
550-600 ml buttermilk
- Preheat your oven to 180’C. Place all of the dry ingredients into a big bowl and mix together well. Pour in three quarters of the buttermilk and using your hands or a wooden spoon lightly and gently mix everything together. If the dough is still dry add a bit more buttermilk. It should be soft, and it will stick to your hands a little but that ok.
- Once it is starting to look like it’s coming together, tip it our onto a lightly floured surface and kneed very gently into a relatively smooth dough (it’s ok for it to be a bit rough around the edges). Shape into a round loaf, place it onto a lightly floured baking tray, score a deep cross in the surface of the bread, scatter with a bit more salt and porridge oats if you have them, and bake for 1 hour.
- Turn the loaf upside down after 50 minutes. When ready, transfer to a wire rack to cool. It is best served with proper butter and jam.