A friend dropped me off a brace of craft beers last week but refused to take a corresponding payment.
“I’ll show him,” I said to meself, as he drove away.
Into the house I went and immediately set the oven to heating. Soda flour in a bowl with sugar and salt. Stir. Add in buttermilk and stir some more. Quick quasi-knead and fold and it’s onto a floured baking tray, cross cut into the middle and a quick brush with yet more buttermilk and into the oven. Half an hour later I’ve a big, fat, fresh soda scone – better than anything you’ll buy in the shops.
The beauty of soda bread – apart from the taste – is its quickness and in the wake of this ready-steady-bake mission, I have taken to knocking up a loaf in the mornings before the off-spring deign to rise. From the oven pre-heating to the measuring and mixing, the baking and then the cooling, the whole process takes less than an hour, which is a reasonable time in the morning to dedicate to something as essential as fresh bread. The spell in the oven also allows me to have two cups of tea and a leisurely read of the news – that Putin fella, up to no good as always – and before I know it, I’m slathering on the soft butter and if I’m feeling particularly decadent (which I normally am), a few dollops of jam.
You may remember a soda bread from last week’s musings on the quality of home-made jam. This is the same stuff, or near enough. And that’s the other great thing about soda bread: It’s infinitely adaptable. You can add an egg or butter to the dough for richness. You can add wholemeal flour and even porridge oats for roughage. You can add raisins and sultanas, herbs or even cheese.
I know a man who even requested that his wife stop making soda bread.
“It was so good, every time you went for a cup of tea you were buttering up another slice,” he intoned. This, I can relate to. Although, I don’t think I’ll be packing in the big scones just yet.
As well as making for a hearty breakfast, I find that I like little better than a buttered slice of my home made bread with soup for supper. I take solace in the fact there is no rubbish therein and with a deep and satisfying soup full of vegetables and their goodness, I also find it is mildly soporific.
A plain white soda is the bread of choice with the little humans in the house but if you’re after something a bit more hearty, just replace half the soda flour with wholemeal.
This recipe is one I adapted from the back of the Morton’s Soda Bread Flour packet. Thanks Morton’s.
However, with the best will in the world, your quantity of buttermilk was a little off, which is to say, I found myself adding a little more than was recommended. And this brings me to the other great thing about soda bread: It’s very forgiving and so much so, even fools like me can knock up great loaves.
450g of soda bread flour
half tsp of salt
scant tsp of sugar
320ml of buttermilk, approximately
This is very easy and doesn’t need to be complicated. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Dump the flour into a large bowl and add the salt and sugar. Mix to combine. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until it’s incorporated and you have a nice, sticky dough.
If things feel and look a little dry add another small dash of the buttermilk and continue mixing. Basically, you want all the flour to come together with the buttermilk in a lovely, sticky, messy dough.
Now, it’s not really necessary to knead this dough and if things come together well enough in the bowl then happy days, don’t fold or knead at all. The less you squash and pull this dough about the better.
Next, form into a round shape, place on a well-floured baking tray and cut a deep cross into the top. Brush with a little more buttermilk or instead, dust with a little flour and then retire to the oven.
Give it ten minutes at 200C and then lower the temp to 175C for another 20 to 25 minutes. It should be colouring gold when ready and sound a little hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Allow to cool on a wire rack and then cut thick slices and serve.
This is best eaten on the day it’s made but to be honest, you shouldn’t have much bother on that front.
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