Necessity truly is the mother of invention. Last week, whilst suffering with the lurgy half of Perth seems to have at the moment, I managed to cobble together some soup for dinner. Only after achieving this magnificent feat did it occur to me that I didn’t have any form of bread to serve it with. Bread is the only thing that can convince The Princess to actually eat soup, so serving dinner without it was unthinkable. Unthinkable only because I wasn’t up to the moaning. It was wet, cold and I really didn’t want to go out. A yeasted dough was beyond me at that point, and I didn’t have any stored dough in the fridge, so I thought I would give a no knead Irish soda bread a go. I’d never made soda bread before so what better time to try something new than when my nose was completely blocked and I couldn’t taste a thing.
I have owned Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery for a while now. This month it is the focus for a monthly cook book club hosted by The Cookbook Guru, so I had actually been reading and cooking from it rather than just admiring it on my bookshelf. Although Soda Breads form but a small chapter, that they are “rapidly mixed, immediately consigned to the oven …, the demands of this kind of dough (being) the very reverse of those made by yeast-leavened bread doughs” sounded well within my capabilities at that point.
Many soda bread recipes require the dough to be briefly kneaded prior to shaping. However, soda bread relies on bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) as the raising agent, which starts to act as soon as liquid is added. Any kneading therefore risks reducing the lift of the loaf, so I adhered to Mrs David’s suggestion of a light and swift touch when shaping my dough. Although soda bread was historically made with low protein wholemeal flour, I find 100% wholemeal loaves very dense so added white bread flour to my loaf. There is still enough wholemeal flour for the delicious wheaten flavour to shine through.
Buttermilk is the traditional liquid for soda bread; the lactic acid in the cultured milk reacts with the baking soda to create the lift. However any acidic liquid should work as well. I make my soda bread with milk kefir as I always have it in the fridge, but in a pinch I have used sour cream thinned down with milk.
Mr Grumpy and The Princess were adamant that all I had delivered to the table was a very large scone, but whilst the texture of the loaf is definitely different to a kneaded, yeasted bread, I find it denser than a scone. I don’t care what they think actually. I am quite in love with this loaf. It is quick to pull together, quick to cook and tastes great (and is even better the next day as toast). Until they decide to bake, soda bread it is.
No Knead Irish Soda Bread
- 250 g wholemeal flour
- 250 g strong white bread flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 400 ml cultured buttermilk or milk kefir
- Extra milk or buttermilk if required
- Extra flour for dusting.
Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan forced)
Line a baking tray with paper.
Sift the flours, bicarbonate soda and salt together into a large bowl.
Make a well in the middle of the flour.
Pour the buttermilk into the flour and mix together with a spatula to form a dough. You want the dough stiff enough to hold its shape, but not so stiff tht it barely hangs together. If the mix appears to be too dry, add a small amount of extra milk to bring the dough together.
Pat the dough into a high ball and transfer to the lined tray.
Dust the top of the loaf with extra flour and slash a cross into the top.
Bake in the hot oven for 30 - 40 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
Eat straight away or allow to cool before serving.