Surely it’s impossible not to love soda bread! Not only is it soft and delicious, it’s ridiculously quick and easy to make.

Malted-Spelt-Soda-Bread-5239 Malted-Spelt-Soda-Bread-5241

When I talk about soda bread, I am using the term to cover any bread where bicarbonate of soda is the rising agent, rather than yeast.

This type of bread making is thought to have originated in the Americas, where European settlers and indigenous peoples used potash to leaven quick breads. Recipes began to appear in American cookbooks from the last few years of the 18th century onwards. The technique didn’t really appear in Europe until the middle of the 19th century, when bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda) first became available here.

Regardless of the origins, for me Ireland is the spiritual home of soda bread where it’s widely enjoyed, much loved and considered a classic, perhaps even a staple.

Soda bread can be made with wholemeal or white flour, or a combination of both. In Ireland, only versions made from white flour are commonly called soda bread. In Northern Ireland, wholemeal varieties are known as wheaten bread (and are often a little sweetened); in Éire, wholemeal versions are simply called brown bread.

With the exception of buttermilk, the ingredients are all long-life store cupboard essentials, so you can knock up a loaf at short notice. Even if you don’t have buttermilk, which is used in most traditional recipes, natural yoghurt or acidulated milk can be substituted in its place (see recipe). The key is to include an acidic element to activate the bicarbonate of soda.

Indeed, this recipe came about when Pete and I fancied some warm, freshly-baked home bread for lunch but weren’t prepared to wait the several hours a yeasted loaf would have taken.

I have a trusted recipe for soda bread but this time we decided to replace the whole meal flour with spelt – spelt flour is better suited to soda bread than yeasted recipes, as its gluten doesn’t readily form the elasticity required to stretch and trap the air bubbles created by yeast.

We also added malt extract, to give a little more flavour.

Some recipes use a higher proportion of oats to flour than ours, but we find this can make the texture a little too dense and heavy for our liking. Here, we used Mornflake medium oatmeal. Mornflake has been milling oats in South Chesire since 1675 and is still family-owned and managed by the descendants of the original miller, William Lea. The company contracts farms throughout the UK to supply it with grain and now sells both milled oats and a range of breakfast cereals.

We used Sharpham Park white spelt flour, grown on an organic farm in Somerset. We are also huge fans of their pearled spelt, which we use regularly in recipes like this chicken and pea farotto, a risotto-like dish in which spelt takes the place of rice.

 

Malted Spelt Soda Bread Recipe

Ingredients
175g spelt flour (wholegrain or white)
75g strong white flour
25g medium oatmeal
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon malt extract
250-300ml buttermilk

Note: The spelt flour in this recipe can be replaced with regular wholemeal flour.
Note: If you don’t have any buttermilk, you can use plain (natural) yoghurt thinned down with a little milk or sour 250 ml of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
Note: This recipe can be doubled up to make a larger loaf, but you’ll need to increase baking time accordingly.

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 210 C (fan).
  • Combine flours, oatmeal, bicarbonate of soda, salt and malt extract together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add half the buttermilk and mix with the dry ingredients to start forming a dough, then add the remaining buttermilk a little at a time – you may not need the full 300 ml and adding too much results in a very stick dough that’s hard to handle. There’s is no need to knead the dough; simply mix quickly until everything is properly combined and avoid over-working.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and place in the centre of a baking tray lined with baking parchment or a silicon liner.
  • Pat down to flatten into a disc, about an inch deep. For a traditionally shaped loaf, press the blunt edge of a knife down into the dough twice to form a cross-shaped indent.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes.
  • Check the bread at 20 minutes by tapping the bottom – the crust should be firm; the sound should be a dull thwack – if not, return to the oven for a few more minutes before checking again.
  • Once done, leave to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  • Break into pieces along the indentation lines and enjoy warm with salted butter and your favourite sweet or savoury topping.

Malted-Spelt-Soda-Bread-5240

Kavey Eats received product samples from Mornflake Cereals. We have previously received samples from Sharpham Park.

 

What’s In A Name?

Risotto – pronounced [ɾiˈzɔtːo]

a classic Italian dish of rice cooked in wine and stock to a naturally creamy consistency; traditionally made with high-starch, short grain rice varieties; the grains are usually toasted in butter and oil before liquid is added gradually; to finish finely grated parmesan cheese is stirred in

Rice is the key to risotto really; it’s in the name and everything…

Riso is rice. And -tto is, well, the rest of it!

But recently we made a delicious risotto-like dish using pearl spelt. Can’t call that risotto!

Sharpham Park call their pearl spelt products speltotto but I like the idea of sticking to an Italianate name and have plumped for farrotto.

 

About Spelt

When Sharpham Park asked me if we’d like to try their spelt products, it was initially the spelt flour that drew me to say yes. Pete is a great baker and has been baking ever better bread since we went on the Tom Herbert course earlier this year. The first spelt bread he made on receiving the Sharpham Park samples was a little heavy but with nice flavour.

Some people who have coeliac disease or a gluten allergy or intolerance, have found they can digest spelt with less difficulty than regular wheat. This is not because spelt has less gluten but is down to the molecular structure of the protein within spelt; it is shorter than in other cultivated wheat species and that’s what makes it easier for the human digestive system to break down. (Do get advice from your doctor or professional dietician before trying spelt, if other forms of flour are a problem for you).

Those same properties mean you can’t knead it as hard nor create as stretchy a dough. And it also has a lower absorption rate, meaning it needs less water to be added to achieve a workable dough. All this means that bakers must work differently when baking with spelt. Since his first attempt, Pete’s been working on adapting his recipes, kneading and proving times to suit spelt flour.

Spelt is an ancient species of wheat. During the bronze age, it spread widely across Europe and was an important staple through to medieval times.

Reading about the evolution of spelt is fascinating, not least because of a parallel speciation theory that the hybridisation between domesticated wheat and wild goatgrasses that created spelt may have happened not once but twice, independently in Asia and in Europe. Alternate theory states that spelt developed just once in the Middle East and was spread East and West to Europe and Asia by human cultivation.

Spelt fell out of favour because it has a tough, thick husk surrounding the kernel which makes it harder to separate the husk from the grain. It also has a lower yield per acre than newer varieties.

But it survived as a relict crop in northern Spain and central Europe (and also in the wild, I would imagine).

More recently, there has been a renewed interest in spelt for a number of different reasons.

I’ve already mentioned the increased market for spelt amongst some sufferers of coeliac disease. This is not the only segment of the health food market to show interest. Nutritionists claim that the nutrients in spelt are more “bioavailable”, that is more readily accessed and absorbed by the body during digestion, than in other wheats. Spelt is higher in protein than regular wheat, and is also a good source of zinc, complex B vitamins and riboflavin, the latter considered to reduce the frequency of migraines in sufferers.

The Romans referred to spelt as “Marching Grain” because of its high energy content.

There are also advantages for the farmer. Unlike modern varieties, spelt can grow well on poor soil – sandy or with poor drainage. It also requires less fertiliser than other varieties as its tough husk protects it from insects, which makes it particularly popular with organic farmers. That same tough husk also makes spelt grain more resistant to storage problems.

 

Chicken & Pea Farrotto With Braised Gem Lettuce

Spelt has a lovely nutty flavour, a little like wild rice. It works really well in a risotto-like dish and the cooking method is the same.

Ingredients (Farrotto)
Large knob of butter
120 grams pearled spelt per person
1 generous handful leftover roast chicken meat per person, chopped
1 small handful of peas, chopped mangetouts and/ or chopped sugarsnaps, per person
500 ml chicken stock per person
Ingredients (Braised Gem Lettuce)
Half a gem lettuce per person
Chicken stock to braise (see below)

Note: Amounts are approximate and can be varied by quite a large amount, according to what you have available. We used a selection of peas, harvested from the garden and leftover meat and stock from the previous night’s meal. The lettuce was also home-grown. Add water to the stock, if you don’t have enough.

Method

  • Wash the lettuce, chop the peas and leftover chicken and set aside.

speltotto-3 speltotto-2

  • Put the stock on to heat.

speltotto-1

  • Fry the dry pearled spelt in butter for a couple of minutes, then add the warm stock bit by bit, letting it absorb into the grains before adding more.
  • Whilst the farrotto is cooking, cut the gem lettuces in half along their length, and place in a shallow baking dish. Add stock to come up about half way up the sides of the lettuce and bake in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes.

speltotto-4

  • Once the spelt is cooked (soft but not mushy), with a little excess liquid in the pan, tip in the meat and peas and stir through until piping hot. The chicken will absorb the extra liquid and result in a thick, untuous finish.

speltotto-5

  • Serve with braised lettuce over each portion.

speltotto-6

We absolutely loved the pearled spelt in place of the usual risotto rice and will definitely be making this dish again, as well as other farrotto recipes.

© 2006 - 2014 Kavita Favelle Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha