Soda bread is great. Not relying on organic, temperamental yeast, it is incredibly quick and easy to make, and forgiving of mishandling. Leavened with bicarbonate of soda, it can also take much more in the way of flavouring than regular breads – yeast can be killed or severely retarded by salt, sugars and fats, which can all be thrown merrily into soda bread. It perhaps doesn’t last as long as a well-nurtured sourdough, but the day-old loaf makes fantastic toast – and anyway, you can just make another one, as it doesn’t take two days to prove. The whole process should take little more than an hour.
I’m making this to go with my Burns Night supper – more Irish than Scottish perhaps, but I’m working on a whisky butter to go with it (although I might just add a tot to the dough). Anyway, the flavours – sweet and salty, rounded, nutty and wholemeal – go well with anything cured or meaty or rich. Ideal for dunking in soups and stews, especially when topped with a snicket of cheese.
Makes one small loaf.
140g strong wholemeal flour
140g strong white flour
20g jumbo oats, plus a few extra for sprinkling
1 and a half tsps salt (or a little less if you’re going to eat it with Marmite)
20g/1tbspn golden syrup
2 tsp baking powder
20ml milk (or whisky, maybe)
Heat the oven to Gas 6/200C/400F. Yes, preheat it before you’ve started making the dough; that’s how quick soda bread is. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, and leave to rest for five minutes, during which time it will absorb a little more liquid – although this is still a very wet dough.
Form into a rough ball, and flump this onto a floured baking tray. Sprinkle with oats and a little flour, then cut a deep cross in the loaf (like, halfway through deep). Rest for another ten minutes, then bake for 30-35 minutes -like most bread, it’s done when it’s good and brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
Leave to cool most of the way before you eat, or it’ll be a bit gummy. Slather with butter, whatever else you do with it.