Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Soda bread

As a general rule, I'm the first person to say something is shit. The thing I like doing most is laughing at the creative failures of others, while never being brave enough to do anything really creative myself, in case people laugh at me.

So when I read a couple of mean reviews of The Great British Bake-Off, I watched the first episode with popcorn and a party hat, thinking "Oh wow, this is going to be really bad." But it wasn't - it was brilliant. And anyone who says it's not just isn't interested in baking. That's all. That's the only thing wrong with it - if you're not interested in baking, it's dull. If you are, it's like porn.

I sort of love and hate Paul Hollywood - one of the Great British Bake-Off's "experts" although I shouldn't have put that in quotation marks because he really is an expert. He looks and sounds like an old editor of mine, whom I liked and disliked in equal measure. Anyway, he's really bossy and says things like "you haven't used enough salt" or "this has got a soggy bottom".

His book, 100 Great Breads - or something like that, is out of print and is changing hands for upwards of £90 on Amazon. But, God bless the internet, a lot of his recipes are available online.

Like this one, for soda bread. Soda bread is the potato painting of bread making. It requires no skill or dicking about with yeast whatsoever - all you need is opposable thumbs, a hot oven and an okay recipe.

And this is a good recipe, although I should point out that Paul Hollywood is not someone who is afraid of salt. Neither am I, so I think this bread is nice, but anyone who isn't that crazy about it, might think about reducing the salt content here from 1tsp to 0.5 or 0.75 tsp.

Paul Hollywood's soda bread - makes one loaf.

250g strong wholemeal bread flour
10g baking powder
1tsp salt
35g butter at room temperature -  (you really do need to have it at room temperature, I know it's a pain but really it will only take about 20 mins out of the fridge to achieve this. Take it out and then read Grazia for a bit and before you know it, the butter will be ready)
75ml buttermilk (yes, you can get it in Waitrose - please see the comments section for instructions on how to make your own buttermilk from Hannah of Han Picked )
75ml milk
1 medium egg, beaten

1 Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and work in the butter, as if you're making pastry. If you've never made pastry, this means you sort of crumble it and squeeze it through the flour, rubbing it together in your fingers until it goes crumby and disappears.

2 Add the other ingredients and mix well to form a dough, which ought to be quite heavy but not sticky or wet. Knead briefly, once or twice, just to get it all together and so that there are no obvious huge cracks in it.

3 Shape into a flattish round on some baking parchment on a baking sheet, score a cross in the top with a knife and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Set your oven to 200C now so that when you come to put the bread in the oven, it's really properly hot, which will mean your bread will bake evenly.

4 Dust with flour and bake for 35 minutes

Eat with butter and jam OR with a boiled egg, is my advice.


  1. Anything that reunites Mel&Sue from Light Lunch gets a massive YES vote from me. And BTW, do you know you can make buttermilk v easily yourself by mixing 3/4 pint of whole milk with 1/4 pint cider vinegar and letting it stand for 10 mins until it goes thick. I do this for my soda bread and works a treat.

  2. Ace, thanks for those most instructive instructions. xxxx

  3. I love GBBO. It is SO earnest. Wonderful.

    I'm tempted to try to do the soda bread, but can you confirm that an amateur like me won't get it horrifically wrong?

  4. You absolutely cannot get this wrong unless you willfully fuck it up by ignoring the instructions or something. Easier than a cake by miles. Easier than a stew. About as hard as a roast chicken.

  5. That programme is completely addictive. We even missed the seemingly unmissable combination of Dave Lamb commenting on Jodie Marsh and Lembit for it last night (why - why is this not on 4OD today?), simply because we couldn't believe mad Jas was still in it. I still cannot get over how much filling she tried to cram in her pasty. Has she never seen one? And who wants Ruth to win? Even her bog-standard meat pie looked fantastic.

  6. Thank you for this lovely recipe - it's is written at a level I understand, which is rare for recipes in general (I was very happy you explained the pastry rubbing butter bit). I never thought I was a breadmaking kind of person but this really does look... easy. I say that while touching wood, throwing condiments over my shoulder and doing various other things that I'm hoping will stop me tempting fate.

  7. hehe its funny to see its named differently , that to me ( vfrom northern ireland ) is wheaten bread and soda bread is totally different from it, soda bread to us is usually cooked in a triangle shape on a griddle and boy is it filling!

  8. Buttermilk can also be 'made' by adding lemon juice to milk (a tablespoon to a cup, I think). Actually anything acidic will do the trick. Proper buttermilk is left after milk has been churned to make butter, the lactose begins to ferment to lactic acid to give that characteristic tangy yogurty taste. I added cider vinegar to some elderberry jam I made a couple of weeks ago (because I needed some acid and couldn't find anything else) and it has quite a strong flavour, so you could use any kind of vinegar you like if you wanted something less flavoured.

  9. Domestic Sluttery posted a recipe for this and I'd never tasted it before. It's amazing! Dipped in honey is also just perfect. The savoury soda counteracts with the sweet honey so well.

  10. ahh... just got back from California where they eat tonns of Soda bread and was looking for a recipe... and ta da... here's yours, which I will lift and transplant into my blog... may even use the photo too!

  11. I made some of this bread yesterday, and it was excellent. So easy to make, and what a result too. I managed to find buttermilk in Morrisons here in the god-forsaken north - alas, no Waitroses this close to Norway...

    I did reduce the salt a little bit, and I must say that it was lacking for it. Next time (of which there surely will be) I won't be reducing it. I might even be upping it, frankly.

    Overall, excellent!

  12. If you're feeling spectacularly lazy - can recommend the soda bread recipe by Hugh F-W - it doesn't even require the rubbing in of the butter. Mixing bowl to oven to table in about 45 mins.

  13. I've just made this and it's totally delicious. Could you use white bread flour instead of wholemeal do you think? I like it like this. I actually can't believe I made this myself, it's so delicious, but my boyfriend doesn't like wholemeal he only eats white bread. He's one of those boys. Elaine x

  14. I'm sure you could use white flour and it would be fine x

  15. This is NOT soda bread . . . there is NO soda in it!!!!