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.
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.
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!).
Here’s my idea of half a teaspoon…
And a level one…
4. Melt the butter…
… 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…
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?