Baking bread is one of those things I’ve always to tackle, but I’ve always felt so intimidated by the thought. Kneading, proofing, making starters… It all seemed a bit overwhelming.
But then I discovered Irish Soda Bread. It’s basically just bread that uses buttermilk and baking soda as the rising agent instead of yeast. There’s no kneading involved, you don’t need to let it rise and it is just so unbelievably simple to make. A great starting point for budding bakers!
There are a million and one ways to make it, most with white flour or a mixture of white and wholemeal. I prefer wholemeal bread so this one uses 100% plain wholemeal flour. I also added fresh rosemary and garlic to flavour it. You can omit these altogether, or substitute it with whatever herbs you like, but I think rosemary and garlic just work really well in this.
For some added depth, I used browned butter. You can use just regular melted butter, but if you have an extra 5mins to spare, make browned butter. It will be worth it, I promise you. The browned butter adds such a unique nutty flavour to it I think. To make it, all you need to do is melt the butter over a medium heat, whisking constantly until brown flecks start to appear and the butter starts to give off a sweet, nutty smell. Almost like that of like freshly baked biscuits (or maybe that’s just me?). When this happens, you’ll need to take it off the heat immediately and let it cool completely before using it. There’s also a great tutorial here about browning butter which what I used to teach myself in the beginning.
While we’re on the subject of butter, if you’re anything like me and don’t normally keep buttermilk in the house, it’s also another really simple thing to make using just regular milk and white vinegar. I use the ratio of just under 1 cup of regular dairy milk (organic if possible) with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar stirred in. Leave that for about 5 minutes and voila, you have a cup of buttermilk ready to use. And if you are using this method, yes the milk is supposed to curdle slightly so don’t worry about that.
When combining the wet ingredients together, I find that sometimes if the milk is too cold or the butter is not cooled enough, the butter tends to solidify/curdle in the mix. It’s not great when this happens. Especially if you’ve taken the time to brown the butter. I learnt this the hard way. So to avoid this altogether, I leave the browned butter out of the wet ingredients and add it on it’s own after I’ve partially mixed the dough.
You really only need to gently fold and mix with a spoon to combine it all. Once you’ve done that, tip it out onto a floured surface, sprinkle a little flour over the top and gently press and shape into a ball. Pop it onto a lined baking tray and cut a half inch deep cross into it, pop it into the oven and… You’re done. Seriously, that’s it. Don’t even double check it. Just leave your dough and all your worries for the next 40 mins and when you return, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious smelling kitchen and a perfect loaf of Soda Bread.
You’ll notice with Soda Bread, it has a very unique taste and texture. It’s moist, dense and slightly crumbly. You can leave it uncovered on a cooling rack to make the crust extra crunchy, or place a clean tea towel over the top to stop that happening.
Feel free to do what you wish with it. Dip it into your favourite winter stew, slice it and top with your favourite sandwich fillings. Let your carb-loving imagination run wild!
So, if you’re like me and you’ve always been keen to bake your own bread, I would really recommend giving this soda bread a go. It’s a great place to start as it definitely takes the fear of baking bread away and has given me more confidence to try more bread recipes in the future.
- 3 cups plain wholemeal flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup buttermilk (see notes)
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 3 tablespoons browned butter or regular melted butter (see notes)
- Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, rosemary and garlic in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk together buttermilk, egg and honey in a separate bowl.
- Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour and fold gently with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the browned butter into the bowl and continue folding the mix until all ingredients are well combined and the dough comes together in a ball.
- Tip the dough out onto a floured surface.
- Sprinkle a little extra flour on top of the dough.
- Gently press and shape into a ball.
- Place dough onto a lined baking tray.
- Score a half inch deep cross into the dough.
- Bake for 40mins, or until bread is golden on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Leave uncovered on a cooling rack for a crunchy crust, or cover with a clean tea towel for a softer one.
- If you do not have buttermilk, make your own by combining just under one cup of dairy milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Stir and let it sit for 5mins, then use in the recipe as per instructed.
- If you do not wish to use browned butter, this can be easily substituted with regular melted butter. If you do wish to use it, a tutorial for this can be found in the blog post.