- 370g/13oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 130g/4½oz wholemeal flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 40g/1½oz butter, melted
- 1 tbsp black treacle
- 300–340ml/11–12fl oz buttermilk (or alternatively use warm milk plus 1 tbsp lemon juice)
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- Place the flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and stir together. Make a large hole in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the melted butter and treacle, plus enough of the buttermilk to make a loose sticky dough.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly dusted work surface. The dough will be quite sticky. Knead the dough for one minute, then shape it into a large ball with a taut, smooth top. Place the dough on a baking tray and flatten it a bit.
- Using a sharp knife, make a deep slash right across the top of the dough - it needs to be a couple of inches deep. Do another at right angles to the first.
- Dust with some flour then bake in the oven for 30–40 minutes, or until the bread is brown, has risen nicely and the dough inside where the cross was made is not damp.
- Serve fresh from the oven. This bread does not keep well, so is best eaten on the day that it is baked – but if you have any left, it does make good toast.
I made this at the same time as the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. Not to be flash but because I fancied some crusty bread and it was such a dreech day outside that I couldnt face going out to get some, and it was too close to lunchtime to make conventional bread.
For those of you (few?) who dont know about soda bread, it uses bicarbonate of soda to produce the rise, rather than yeast. This makes it quick - in fact it is rather like a large savoury scone rather than bread (which is not a bad thing) - it has a crumb which is not elastic, because there is no kneeding or proving so the gluten never develops the texture of real bread. But it is exceedingly quick (to the table in less than an hour) and as long as you have Bicarb, you probably have everything else, so it is a good "fall back". But it needs buttermilk to be echt - but you can make "buttermilk" with a little lemon juice and, well, milk.
Everyone says though it should be eaten fresh, which is true although it makes passable toast the next day. There is to my taste always a slight "twang" from the bicarb which limits its appeal but it is definitely better than nothing and so a good thing to have in your armoury.
This particular recipe incorporates some wholemeal flour and treacle for added texture and taste - It has an appealing brown crust and some caramel overtones from the treacle that make it more interesting from the bread just using white flour. But feel free to omit those if you don't like (or don't have) them to hand - you may need to adjust the liquid a bit to compensate - but you should still get passable soda bread.