On this year’s Great British Bake Off, for Bread week, the contestants were asked to create their own ‘Signature’ Soda bread. These are breads that do not contain yeast as a rising agent but instead use baking powder or baking soda as you would in a cake. This means you do not need to wait for your dough to rise as you would in a traditional yeasted bread but it also introduces a new set of challenges.
The baking soda used will have a chemical reaction with the wet ingredients in your mixture. Traditionally this would call for buttermilk but, round where I live, this can prove to be quite hard to get hold of. Fortunately yogurt works equally as well and will give you a lovely rise and crumble texture if used correctly.
A traditional bread dough needs lots of kneading to build up the long gluten stands required. This takes time and effort but results in a light and fluffy texture. A Soda Bread requires thinking exactly the opposite to work correctly!
More like a scone mix, overworking is the destroyer of soda breads. Dry ingredients should be mixed, wet ingredients added then the mix should be very lightly brought together with your fingers. As soon as you have mixed in all the dry pockets of flour, your dough is good to go! Don’t roll it, don’t press it into a solid shape. A good Soda Bread should be rough, crumbly looking and have all the visual charm of John Merrick on a bad day.
As we saw on The Bake Off, your imagination can go wild when it comes to fillings and toppings. Much like a normal bread, or even a cake mixture, be careful when adding wet ingredients though. Too much added moisture will affect your cook times and you can end up with a soggy mess instead of a tasty treat.
I stole this recipe many years ago from The River Cottage and I have never really wanted to try any others as it ticks all my boxes for a perfect loaf. Deep flavours from the Guinness and Cheddar works perfectly against the almost sharp notes coming from the Apples. I was supposed to top my loaf with yet more cheese but completely forgot when I went to stick it in the oven!
Shaping of a Soda bread is normally quite simple as you need to stick to the “don’t overwork it” rule. I find the bowl mix will make one large loaf or two smaller ones and will simply place a ball of uncooked mix onto a lined baking tray before cutting into 4 all the way through. This will not split the dough as it will mould back together when cooking but will allow heat to penetrate all the way to the middle when baking.
250g Strong white bread flour
250g Strong granary flour
50g Rolled oats
20g Baking Powder
100g Finely diced Apples (something sweet)
70g Grated Cheddar cheese
250ml Buttermilk or natural yogurt – unflavoured
100ml Melted Butter
Preheat your oven to 220c
Place all your dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir well to combine
Mix in the apple chunks and 50g cheese, stir well to combine.
Mix your oil, Guinness and yogurt in a jug.
Make a well in the centre of your dry ingredients then pour in your liquid.
Using your fingers like a garden fork, run your hands through the dough quickly, but firmly until all the liquid has been incorporated and you have no dry pockets. This should take no more than 30 seconds.
If making two loaves, split the mix into two and place half the mixture onto a lined baking tray. Again, try not to press or mess with the dough too much. Simply place it on the tray and leave it alone!
Place into the oven for 20mins for a small loaf and up to 40 for a large loaf. It will sound hollow when baked.
Once baked, place on a cooling rack and leave for half hour.
Enjoy with a Ploughman’s lunch!