You’ll Never Make Another Loaf

One of the first things I ever made in my food processor was a loaf of bread. It was a Delia recipe, from her Complete Cookery Course, and for years it was the only bread I ever made. It may have looked like a brick but it was easy to make and tasted lovely even if it lacked the elusive ‘risen’ quality of shop-bought.

Then, a couple of years ago, the recipe didn’t work any more. Or I didn’t. Suddenly it started tasting like a brick as well as looking like one. So I stopped making it. I attempted a few sourdoughs, having borrowed bowlfuls of white foamy starters but, yet again, I failed to create anything edible.

Then this recipe came into my life. My friend Claire, who knows a thing or two about soda bread, said this was the best recipe ever. And she wasn’t kidding. Once you get past the fact that it’s made in a lidded casserole dish, you’ll wonder why you never used one before. You preheat it with the oven and I imagine it acts as a mini-steamer or something. Anyway it works. I don’t think I’ve ever made something so satisfying…just look at this loaf.

The finished product

It looks, well, it looks like bread not a brick. Really worth your time, and not much of it. Fab fresh and toasted and if you wrap it in foil or a clean tea towel it will keep for a good while in the cupboard.

This is the white version. I’ve made the brown too, which contains an egg for some reason; it tastes just as good but I want to try it without since that seems like a weird ingredient for bread. It lists buttermilk, which is difficult to find and can be expensive, or failing that fresh (not off) milk soured with lemon juice. I have also happily made it with a what’s-left-in-the-fridge mix of buttermilk, sour cream and the lemon juice/milk combo. If you can get buttermilk then great but it’s fine with milk and lemon juice, or sour cream thinned with milk or a combination of all three.

Irish Independent Soda Bread (and they should know)

You will need:

A 22cm casserole dish like this; mine is a Le Creuset but there are cheaper versions. The writer, Brenda Costigan, also says she’s made it in a deep cake tin (23cm/9in) with a sandwich tin inverted over the top.

A 22cm Le Creuset dish: essential for perfect bread!

500g white flour (my friend Angela asked me if this is strong white bread flour; the recipe doesn’t specify, but that’s what I use)

1/2 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda in Ireland)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon baking powder

25g melted butter

425ml buttermilk or fresh milk with lemon juice. I dispute this amount: I’d say 375ml is enough but it will depend on your technique. I’ve made this twice and I’ve never used the full amount and the recipe says use three-quarters so not sure what it thinks you will do with the rest…

1. Preheat the oven and the lidded casserole (capacity of min 1.75l or max 2.8l; no idea what mine is) to 200C/400F/gas 6.

2. Put flour in a bowl (can’t quite believe I took a picture of it!).

3. Add bicarb of soda (sifted in the recipe; I don’t bother), salt and baking powder to the flour.

Here’s my idea of half a teaspoon…

1/2 a teaspoon

And a level one…

4. Melt the butter…

Butter on its way

… and add it to the buttermilk/milk. Be careful here and let the butter cool off a little. Last time I made it I was a little hasty and the milk went a bit lumpy. Bread still tasted fine but I think I was just lucky; the milk could have curdled.

5. Pour about three-quarters (or don’t measure out full amount in the first place…) of the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix to a soft but not wet dough. There is no mention of method (in a bowl with your hands, in a processor with the dough hook?) but I’ve done it both ways and the processor is better and faster.

It should start off looking a bit like this…

and end up looking like this…

After a few minutes of processing

6. At this point the recipe says turn it out onto a floured board and knead a little. I tend to turn it into a bowl and knead it in there with floured hands, if only because it’s still quite sticky and I don’t want it stuck to my chopping board.

You want it to look like this:

7. Take the (now very hot) casserole out of the oven and open it (use oven gloves…). Sprinkle a bit of flour into the base and then put the dough in. Cut a cross on the top (apparently it helps it to rise evenly)…

…then cover with the lid and bake for about 40-45 minutes. My oven is old and sometimes it takes the full 45 mins but usually it’s 40.

8. Take it out and knock the base: it should sound hollow if it’s done. Shove it back in for five minutes without the casserole if you want it a bit browner. Otherwise admire your handiwork then cool it on a wire tray.

Beautiful isn’t it?

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4 Responses to You’ll Never Make Another Loaf

  1. Pingback: ‘Bread with a Purpose’: Speedy Spelt Bread | Chop, Stir, Grate

  2. M Greenwood says:

    Just made two loaves of soda bread for family, they didn’t cook through so half the loaf was in the oven at one time, but ah well, they still tasted great. Just wanted to suggest adding oats to the mixture and sub in some wholemeal flour for about half the white stuff, gives it a really nice texture and makes it that bit more crumbly ^^
    I haven’t tried it yet but I’m intending to make a sweet one with sugar, cinnamon and raisins, I’ll get back to you on this one!

  3. flaxmergirl says:

    Hello Matt!

    Yes, I’ve made it with wholemeal too but I’m not a fan of the oats. However, I tried one with treacle the other day and it was even better; I’ll upload that recipe at some point. Have you started your blog yet?


  4. flaxmergirl says:

    PS Matt, get an oven thermometer. The bread might not have cooked through because the oven’s not at the right temperature. Brilliant gadget if, like me, you have an old cooker.

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