The Soda Bread Diaries

Having enjoyed the soda bread my friend made for a picnic in her garden recently, she sent me the recipe. It’s published in a book called The Baker’s Tale by Catherine Brown but is credited to James Burgess.

The first time I made this soda bread (last Wednesday) I followed the recipe exactly and the bread was just gorgeous.

The second time I made it (on Saturday) I accidentally added a touch too much buttermilk which made the dough too sticky to shape easily but texture and taste were still fine.

Third time, tonight, I added two “heaped” teaspoons of treacle, reduced the volume of buttermilk (adding a little at a time until all the flour and oatmeal were absorbed into a dough without it getting too sticky). Formed ball, flattened it, criss crossed the surface and baked for the normal 20 minutes.

Came out really, really well. The treacle made it only slightly darker in colour (so still not sure quite what went into the really dark brown stuff we encountered in County Cork last month) but definitely added a subtle depth of flavour.

Recipe (method re-written by me)

175g (6oz) wholemeal flour
75g (3oz) strong white flour
25g (1 oz) medium oatmeal
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon salt
300ml (10 fl oz) buttermilk* (I buy a 284 ml pot and don’t quite use all of it).

*Apparently, if you can’t get buttermilk you can use milk soured with the juice of a lemon.

  • Measure all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
  • Add the buttermilk a little at a time and mix into flour/oatmeal with hands to form a soft dough.
  • Take care not to add too much or dough will become very sticky.
  • No need to knead dough or leave it to rise/prove etc.
  • Shape dough into ball then flatten into a circle about an inch deep.
  • I’ve taken to slicing parallel lines across the top with a sharp knife at two angles to form diamonds. Not traditional for soda bread but I like it more than the more traditional quartering.
  • Bake for 20 minutes in pre-heated oven at 210 (fan assisted) or 230 (non-fan). (If you don’t like a very slightly moist and dense bread, which I do, leave it in a couple of minutes longer).
  • Check it’s done by tapping bottom – should be a firm crust and a slightly dull thwack form inside.
  • Leave to cool for as long as you can stand it – I didn’t last 4 minutes tonight!

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