A: I have been thinking of baking bread for a while. The inspiration was definitely from both watching N knead the dough at home and Paul Hollywood on TV. As I haven’t tried making breads before, I thought I will be cautious with my first bread. Not knowing all the techniques, I decided to try something quite simple – soda bread.
Soda breads originated in Ireland out of necessity. One of the main components of bread making, yeast, was not easy to find. Brewers used yeast for making stout. Housewives had to collect yeasts from their local breweries in order to be able to bake bread at home. This was not always easy as the brewers were not eager to supply yeast disrupting their more lucrative stout brewing business. So the yeast free soda bread was born.
The soda in the bread is carbon-dioxide. It is generated within the dough mix by the bicarbonate of soda (alkaline) reacting with the buttermilk (an acid). The carbon-dioxide makes the bread airy and when baked it gives the bread a texture. It is possibly the easiest bread to bake as it doesn’t involve any kneading technique. That is precisely the reason I chose it as my first attempt at bread making.
Ingredients for a loaf:
250 gm plain wholemeal flour
250 gm strong white flour, plus some more for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
420 ml buttermilk
As I mentioned earlier, this bread making doesn’t need kneading. But it still requires to get your hands dirty in mixing the flour. Take a large bowl and add both flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Mix it all together. Then add the buttermilk and continue mixing with one hand to produce a very sticky dough.
Sprinkle some strong white flour on the work surface to form a uniform cover. Tip the sticky dough onto it. Gently roll and fold the dough without kneading. Use the cups of your hand to shape the dough into a ball gently but firmly.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and dust it with strong white flour. Place the dough ball on this and use a sharp knife to deeply score the bread, diving it into quarters. Open them out slightly to allow the heat to get to the centre of the bread. Even if you decide to separate the quarters completely but place them close enough, the quarters will join up again as the bread expands in the oven.
Set the loaf aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oven to 200°C.
Bake the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes. The crust should turn golden brown on top and pale brown at the base. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Soda bread is best eaten on the day it is made but it can keep for a day or two inside an airtight bag in the bread tin.
Due to the sour taste of the buttermilk, Soda bread has a distinctive taste. Do let us know if you try baking your own Soda bread. My first attempt at bread making was quite a success and I am encouraged to try out some other breads which will require me to learn a few techniques. So watch out for more updates on this blog.