Sunday, 17 January 2016

Bread Part Two - An Ode to the oh so easy soda bread

One of my new years' resolutions was to eat better. Not diet, but eat healthy food with high nutritional value that will give me the energy that I need to get on with my day and achieve my other new year resolutions. Part of this was to buy less ready made food and make things myself. 

One of the easiest things to make ourselves that 
 we use every day is bread, and out of the many types of bread the quickest by far to make is soda bread. Soda bread uses bicarbonate of soda as a rising agent instead of yeast therefore doesn’t need hours of waiting around for your dough to proof. It also doesn’t need 15 minutes of hard work kneading to develop the glutens that help make bread dough stretchy. Infact the less you handle soda bread the better.

These are all of the tips that come with making soda bread, and I followed all of them, where I diverged was the recipe, and that was out of necessity rather than just me wanting to mess around. I used a Paul Hollywood recipe for Irish Soda Bread which is as follows:

250g white flour
250g wholemeal flour
400ml buttermilk
1tsp salt
1tsp bicarb soda

First rule of baking, preheat your oven, you cannot skip this step, your cakes won’t rise as much, your bread will end up like bricks. The only time you do not preheat your oven is when the recipe expressly tells you not to, and I haven’t seen such a recipe yet. In this case your oven needs to be at 200C for fan ovens and 210-220C’ for non fan ovens, depending on the temperament of your oven. Next line a baking tray with baking parchment. Now for the baking part.

I didn’t have wholemeal flour, I had cornmeal flour so here came swap number one. I then realised I didn’t have buttermilk, I had 100 ml of milk a lemon and yogurt. If you are like me and watch food programmes, read food blogs and research food recipes all the time you will know that those 3 ingredients can easily replace buttermilk.

I added 1 tsp spoon of lemon to the milk, 3 large tablespoons of greek of yogurt and enough water so that when it was all mixed together it added to 400ml of liquid with similar consistency to buttermilk. You can also just do it with 400ml of milk and a tsp of lemon or just 300 ml of yogurt and 100 ml of water - you need the water to loosen the yogurt up otherwise there is just not enough liquid there.

So once you have all your ingredients ready you mix, one thing you need to remember is that you need to add whatever liquid you are using a little at a time, start with half and start mixing with your hands or a rounded edged knife (Paul’s tip, and let's face it if it’s bread Paul is always right!). Keep adding the liquid until you have a sticky dough, depending on the type of flours you are using you may not need all of it, I did. Once all the ingredients are combined turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, combine the dough into a ball, that is ALL you need to do to it, do not knead it any more after you have it in a ball.

Here is a science fact that is very important to the process:  Bicarbonate of soda, unlike baking powder, reacts to liquid so once you get all your ingredients together you have to work fast to get the bread into the oven. For those who are curious, baking powder reacts to heat.  

Quickly move your ball of dough onto the baking tray, with a sharp knife make 4 very deep cuts going almost all the way down to the tray, but not quite all the way. Dust with flour. Put in the oven for 30 minutes of until it turns deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.

Best way to eat it is hot with butter and jam OR you can cover it with freshly made pesto and a pit of mozzarella and melt the cheese under the grill, OR dip it in a hearty bowl of Beef stew!

Bon Appetit!