You can make soda bread with white or wholemeal flour – I find all wholemeal is a bit heavy so I tend to make it with a mixture of the two. You can use ordinary plain flour and really don’t need a strong bread flour. Soda bread uses no yeast and doesn’t have to prove – the bicarbonate of soda makes it rise – so the whole process is really quick and simple and you could easily be eating your bread 50 minutes after you got the flour out of the cupboard.
250g Plain flour
250g Wholemeal flour
2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
A good pinch of sea salt
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, 400°F or Gas Mark 6.
Sieve the flours and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and add the salt.
Stir in the buttermilk to make a soft, pliable but not sticky dough. If it is a bit dry add a splash of milk. If it is a bit wet add a light sprinkling of flour.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead it gently until it comes together into a ball – no more than a minute. This dough does not require kneading and won’t look like the smooth elastic dough you may be used to, work quickly as you do want to get it into the oven whilst the bicarbonate of soda is still doing its thing (that’s the science bit).
Dust a baking sheet with flour and place the dough in the centre – dust the dough lightly with flour. Using a sharp knife cut a deep cross in the top and place it in the oven. Bake for approximately 40 minutes then check it. The loaf is done when a crust is formed and it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
Cool it on a wire rack. You should probably cool it completely but I can’t resist eating it warm so that the butter melts. If the crust is a bit hard for your taste try wrapping it in a clean tea towel to cool – the bread will steam slightly and as the steam gets trapped you will end up with a softer crust – but you may never have lovely curly hair…
Soda bread doesn’t keep well and is best eaten on the day you make it – if you do have some left next day it toasts well or can be eaten dunked in a good soup.