Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Soda bread: last-minute baking

Today we were due to meet friends on Hampstead Heath for a picnic and I didn't have any suitable bread to take with us. What I had was fine for toast, but not ideal for hungry youngsters. I should add that I'm currently well into my baking obsession and reluctant to buy any bread (particularly given the feeble offering at our local Sainsbury's). I've discovered that baking bread tends to be anything but a last-minute affair (unless you don't use yeast).

Well, this was a good opportunity to test out soda bread – something I haven't enjoyed home-baked since my childhood best-friend's Irish mother knocked up one Saturday afternoon when we were about 8. I turned to my copy of Bread by Daniel Stevens from the River Cottage Handbook series and quickly got on with it, mixing some malty flour into the white.

Soda bread

Makes 2 loaves

350g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
150g malthouse flour
10g salt
4 tsp baking powder
300ml milk (or buttermilk, thin yoghurt or water)

For coating:
A little flour (they suggest that rye would be good)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix in the liquid to make a dough. I needed to add a bit more milk as my dough came up quite dry. I also added a splash of maple syrup. (The book suggests adding a good tablespoon of black treacle if you use wholemeal flour.)

Knead briefly and divide the dough into two. Shape into two rounds, flatten them a little until they are about 5cm thick. Shake flour over the loaves and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. (I'm suggesting this as my loaves got a bit stuck and I needed to use a fish slice to lift them off.) Cut a cross in the top of each loaf, almost through to the bottom and then gently stab all over with the knife.

Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

We pulled the soda bread apart by hand and ate it filled with ham or sticky cheese, nibbling cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber, while sitting in the sunshine. A bit scone-like (maybe because it had cooled right down), but good nonetheless, and the malthouse flour adds decent texture and flavour. With a hearty soup or casserole – for dunking or mopping – it would be fabulous.


  1. A favourite classic soda bread recipe of mine too. May I come along to the next picnic...?

  2. Oh Lucy! That's just gorgeous!

    Lots of love from your "childhood best friend" with the Irish mother.... mwah!