• Nicholas Carey

Soda Bread

Every time I make this bread for someone new they ask for the recipe, and I always forget to send it, so from now on it's right here.

This is the quickest, easiest bread you'll ever make. Once you've done it a few times you'll never have to refer to this again. Seriously, i've made this bread in less than 5 minutes. No measuring required. You can totally wing it and it's almost always great. It's extremely forgiving, so you can vary pretty much everything in this recipe and be OK. If you want to make it bigger or smaller just alter everything proportionally and bake it for a little longer/shorter.


Preheat oven to 180C and get a big bowl.


Core ingredients

I don't bother measuring anything when I make this, but I did it for this one. You could leave any of these out except the flour and bicarb if you don't have them.


450g Flour - I usually use a 50/50 mix of wholemeal and plain. I have used 100% one or the other when I am out of one, and I imagine other flours could be mixed in too.

50g Oats - I use whole rolled oats, rather than finer porridge oats, but they would work too. Tesco organic whole oats is what I generally buy.

1 - 1.5 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda or Baking Soda - NOT baking powder.

1 - 1.5 tsp Salt - I use coarse kosher or sea salt. Use about half that if it is fine table salt.

1 - 2 tbsp Honey - just to counteract the bicarb and acidic liquid which are both bitter.


Mix all these together.

Other Stuff

Also add whatever else you want (or nothing else, it's still delicious). Here I'm using sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and cheddar cheese. You can add just about anything - nuts, seeds, cheese, sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, olives, herbs, dried fruit (apricots and dates are amazing in it). Only thing i've ever tried that didn't really work was feta cheese - the bread was fine, but the cheese just dried out into big empty holes.

Liquid - 400 ml

Bicarbonate of soda is alkaline, so you need something acidic to react with it. That's the rising agent. I usually use sour milk. If I don't have actual sour milk I make some by adding a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to some regular whole milk. Add and stir it until it looks a bit grainy and curdled, and basically tastes like sour milk. You can also use buttermilk, and sometimes I use greek or natural yoghurt with a little vinegar, or some combination of all of the above.

If you're making your own sour milk it should look like this.

Get a strong wooden spoon (seriously, thin ones will snap) and start to mix in the liquid. Start with maybe half of it, then add it bit by bit. You may not need it all - for this I had about 100ml left over. It will be hard to stir and really sticky. Keep mixing until no dry flour remains. The dough should look wet but stand up on its own and not sink down. If it does add more flour. If it's still dry and you've run out of the liquid just add a little more milk or some water.

For baking I use a cast-iron skillet, but you can put it on a regular baking tray or oven proof dish. Scrape it out of the bowl then shape it to roughly round. If you want to use your hands, wet them a little first or it will stick like crazy.

It should stay upright and not start to slump down, and look quite spiky and rough. Don't worry if it doesn't, you can still bake it and it will be fine, if a bit flatter. As I said, all of this is very forgiving. Make a big cross in the top (wetting the knife helps).


Baking

This is based on my oven, which does not have a fan. I have it at 180C, but you might have to experiment - probably reduce a little it for a fan oven. Put in bottom or middle of the oven. Bake for 40 mins then check it. It should be getting dark brown. If it is getting too dark on the spiky parts your oven is probably too high. When it's done it should sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom and have a bit of give when you poke the top, but not too much. Give it another 5-10mins if you think it needs it. I sometimes move it to top of the oven at this stage if it's not quite browned. Mine usually ends up being in for 50 mins or so.

Put on a rack and let cool. You can probably start eating it after 15mins or so, if you can wait that long.


It's best fresh with butter, jam, humous or just on its own. Keeps okay for a couple of days in a plastic bag or wrapped in a tea towel, and is great toasted for several days after that. You can also slice and freeze it.


If you end up making it let me know how it goes! (That's code for i want some....)

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