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Sunday, 3 July 2011

Super Simple Soda Bread

Bread scares most people, kneading, proofing and knocking back put fear into the hearts of even the most experienced home baker, it took me several failures to master it.  However good old fashioned Soda Bread requires none of the above, in fact the only secret to excellent Soda Bread is ……. Less is more!

I don’t know where I got this recipe from, in fact this may be the first time I’ve ever written it down, it may be from my school principal in primary school, Sr. Gemma, who was my first (and last) formal cookery teacher.  I’ve been making Soda Bread since I was old enough to use the cooker without adult help (approx 28yrs).  The amount of salt you use is really up to you, I find ½ teaspoon plenty but I tend to prefer to go light on the salt, try it a few times and soon you’ll know how much suits you.  I’m not 100% sure why the amount of buttermilk varies, I think it’s something to do with the weather, the warmer it is the more buttermilk is required, it may also have to do with the batch of buttermilk you’re using and the mood of the miller on the day the flour was milled, the alignment of the planets and the mood of your youngest child, all I know is start with less and add more!

The raising agent in this bread is the same as for my scones – the chemical reaction between bread soda (bicarbonate of soda) and buttermilk.  But make sure you have preheated the oven and it’s up to temperature before you start to make the mixture as it mixes together so quickly and the chemical reaction starts immediately, without heat, so you’ll end up with cavities in the bread if you leave it to stand before baking. 

You can also make brown soda bread by replacing the white flour with some wholemeal, I don’t recommend doing a full replacement, the most I’ve done successfully is 75% wholemeal and 25% white, the wholemeal flour is thirstier than the white flour so you will need more buttermilk!

The less you work the wet bread mixture the lighter and nicer the result.  In fact I don’t even bother to flour a board and work the mixture together in the bowl instead, it saves cleaning up and makes sure I only do enough to bring the mixture together and I get fail safe results, so now to the recipe batman!

Soda Bread

450g (1 lb) plain white flour (not strong)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp bread soda
350mls to 450mls buttermilk


  • Preheat your oven to 220oC
  • Sift your dry ingredients together, make sure the bread soda is broken up and mix thoroughly
  • Add approx 300mls of the butter milk, make a claw with your hand and mix thoroughly, adding more buttermilk when necessary, a bit at a time, all the time mixing with your ‘claw’

  • When the mixture is coming together nicely stop adding buttermilk, bring the mixture together in a ball
  • Place the mixture on the baking tray and flatten it out, cut a cross in the top and place in the oven
  • After about 25 minutes turn the bread over to avoid a soggy bottom (avoiding a soggy bottom is a life lesson not just a baking lesson)
  • After another 10 minutes test the bread, if when you knock the base of the bread you hear a hollow sound it’s ready, if not give it another few minutes.
  • Once it’s cooked allow it to cool on a wire rack.

Don’t be tempted to eat is straight out of the oven unless you live alone and are not expecting company, you will fart and fart and fart, you get the picture.  You can eat it slightly warm but make sure it has cooled sufficiently.

A note on oven temperatures:  I give the temperature that works for me.  Your oven is different to mine, be mindful of this, if your bread is getting too brown on the crust too quickly cook your bread at a lower temperature, lower it by say 10oC and see if that works for you.  If it does then if you decide to bake more of my recipes (and I really hope you do) adjust your temperature by the same amount each time.

Next Time: Family Favourite Fairy Cakes