But not scary yeasted bread – that comes later. A soda bread that can be ready in an hour. And that’s an hour from walking in the door to eating it (I timed it in case you didn’t believe me, and you can see the timer running in the photos).
Soda bread and scones are very closely related. Instead of yeast, soda bread again relies on baking powder or bicarbonate of soda for leavening. As the name suggests, soda bread is most often made with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda if you’re in North America) along with something acidic like buttermilk. And apart from flour and a bit of salt, that’s all you need. A little melted butter is often added to make it more tender. There are also recipes with more butter, some sugar and raisins that make something more like a tea cake or a scone – also very good, and see the Smitten Kitchen variation below, adapted from the New York Times, which suggests serving with some cheese and apples.
Back with a more austere recipe, with so little in the way of ingredients, you really need good flour, and proper seasoning to get a good flavour from the bread. Wholemeal or a mix of plain and wholemeal flour gives you a wheaty flavour and a more interesting texture. Spelt flour is also good, and small parts of rye flour mixed in will give another flavour again. Stoneground flour has more flavour than regular flour – the grinding process will incorporate the germ and more of the oils into the flour, so you can often see a visible difference, and it looks creamier than steel-ground plain flour.
Like scones, this bread will also stale fast, so it is best made and eaten warm on the same day (although it will also make decent toast the following day). But it’s so quick that there’s no need to keep it hanging around. Just make it when you want it.
Nothing new here: scales and measuring spoons, plus:
- Wooden spoon
- Baking tray
- 200g plain flour
- 200g wholemeal plain flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 190g yoghurt + 140g milk (or 330ml buttermilk)
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
Turn the oven on and set the temperature to 200C or 180C for a fan oven.
Weigh the flours into the bowl. Add the bicarbonate of soda and salt, and combine with a whisk.
Add the milk and yoghurt to the bowl. Add the honey on top if using, then use the spoon to mix everything together until you have a sticky ball of dough.
Sprinkle the top with more flour, and flour your hands. Fold each edge over into the centre to make it into a ball. It will be very sticky. Use plenty of flour, and don’t handle it too much. Just get it into a rough ball shape.
Flour the handle of your wooden spoon, and press it into the surface of the dough to make a cross. This will give the dough room to expand in the oven, and help the loaf to rise a little, giving a lighter crumb.
Put the tray into the oven and set the time for 35 minutes. After that time, check the loaf. It should be a dark golden brown. If you’re not sure, bake for another 5 or 10 minutes. I baked for 40 minutes at 180C in my fan oven. An oven without a fan will take longer.
Leave to cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes, and then slice and enjoy warm with butter.
Lorraine Pascale has a lovely recipe which makes a large loaf. She uses treacle to give the loaf flavour and a little sweetness.
Smitten Kitchen adapted a New York TImes recipe to make a much sweeter, more cake-like loaf, that is still incredibly good. I like to bake this one in my deep oven-proof cast-iron pan, lined with baking parchment, but it will work on a baking sheet as well.
In Northern Ireland, soda bread is often known as wheaten bread. Here Richard Corrigan of Lindsay House and Bentley’s Oyster Bar in London, gives his wheaten bread recipe.