When I lived in Belgium I rarely made my own bread, but ever since I moved here, I’ve become so fond of brown soda bread, I now find myself in the kitchen every Sunday morning, making my own loaf to bring to work for some delicious homemade lunches. Although I still can’t resist buying a more special type of loaf from Arbutus Artisan Bread in their pop-up store at work every Friday (their ‘Olive Batard’ & Tomato and herb focaccia are divine), there is something about making your own bread that just makes me feel so good.
For starters you are in charge of what goes in it. There are no weird ingredients that no one can pronounce, no added unhealthy elements and you can add whatever you like: nuts, olives, tomatoes, .. Whatever you want! And when it comes to making soda bread, things can’t get any easier. 5 Ingredients, a minimum amount of work (the less you work on it, the better!) and you have a delicious bread in 35 minutes!
When it comes to health, there’s a lot being written and said about how unhealthy bread is, causing bakeries all over the place (especially Belgium) to have to close down their shop. I will never ever cut out bread from my life, and we need to be more supportive of our bakers instead of bashing them. There are plenty of healthy breads out there, there is absolutely no need to never eat bread again. Soda bread for example scores a 8 out of 10 when it comes to being a good loaf. “Soda bread is made with baking pow der rather than yeast, making it ideal for anyone on a yeast-free diet. Wholemeal is the healthier sort.” – Daily Mail
Women’s Health Clinics: “Irish soda bread is 100% natural. It uses baking soda as a leavening agent instead of yeast so it doesn’t give people a bloated feeling. Low-fat buttermilk gives flavor and texture to the bread. Whole wheat makes it healthier and heartier. A good source of energy yet low on carbohydrates and deters hunger for longer.”
This recipe today is based on traditional Irish soda bread, without any ingredients some people add nowadays like eggs. I do still use plain flour, as this makes the bread lighter and less dense. You can make this bread with 100% wholemeal flour, but I personally only got the best result when I mix it with white flour.
I must give fair warning though to anyone outside of Ireland who wants to try this bread. There is a high change of it turning out very bad. That is because Irish flour is different, softer and lower in gluten. It’s made from wheat grown in a particular soil and climate. If you can’t find Irish white flour, go for unbleached or plain white flour. Your second best option would be all-purpose flour, but whatever you do, don’t go for hard or bread flour as they are very high in gluten and simply will not work in breads that do not use yeast.
Makes: 1 small-medium loaf
- 300g stone-ground wholemeal flour
- 200g plain flour
- 425ml buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons of soda
- 1 teaspoon of salt
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Mix both flours together and add the salt. Make sure it’s all mixed up nicely and then add the soda, mix again. The soda will stay inactive until you add any liquid, so make sure it’s all mixed nicely before adding the buttermilk, as it’ll cause the soda to become active, after which you need to get it in the oven fast.
For the best results, please just use your hands instead of a mixer, this dough needs a minimal amount of work and needs to go in the oven very quickly. Now don’t freak out or panic, it’s not like this bread has to be made within seconds or else it fails, you do have a bit of time but try keeping it below 5 minutes. I just mix it together with my hands until all the flour has been mixed with the milk, and then, without kneading or even shaping, I lift the dough up and put it down in my bread baking tin. I spread it out with my hands a bit but that’s it, I don’t level the top or anything. Why? It gives it a very unique finishing, with a hobbly bubbly crust on top with a more uneven surface than the moon and I find it quite charming.
However, this will only give a nice result when you have an actual bread tin, if you don’t have one and are baking it on a flat surface, you do want to shape it a bit into a nice round loaf. I didn’t have to do this as the dough settles into the tin perfectly on the sides, it’s only the crust that does whatever it wants. If I had put my own dough on a flat surface, it would have turned into one oddly shaped bread. So to sum it up: if you don’t have a bread bin, shape it quickly into a nice round shape (still no kneading though!).
Whether you are using a flat surface or a bread tin, I always like to add just a little bit of extra flour on top. In this case I would opt for just a teaspoon or 2 of the wholemeal flour.
Pop it into the oven for 30 minutes at 200°C and enjoy!
Tip: I love having this type of bread for lunch with some hummus, smoked salmon and radishes.