Friday, 23 January 2015

Home baking: Soda bread

My dad is to blame for my expensive taste in bread. Rather than the typical 'rubbish white loaf' he would come back with selections from all sorts of artisan bakeries, breads made with different concentrations of rye flour, and sour doughs filled with various nuts and seeds.

What I would give now for even that rubbish white bread. Although the Arabic bread sold here is nice, I miss real bread, the type you slather butter on.

So I decided I would start making my own. Soda bread is a good one to start with, the ingredients and instructions are simple, and the preparation and cooking time short so we get to enjoy it hot for breakfast at the weekends.

The basic recipe is:

500g plain flour (I use diet flour which is a combination of rye and wholemeal mostly)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
400ml buttermilk

As you can probably tell from the pictures there is milk and a lemon included in my recipe and that's because from what I know Oman doesn't sell buttermilk, but souring normal milk with a lemon works just as well. I take 400ml milk (low fat as I'm trying to be healthy) and add about two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. You then leave this to sour for about 5 minutes, or however long it takes you to prepare the rest of the ingredients. After that time you notice lumps in the milk, it was difficult for me to picture but trust me you'll know when you see it.

After mixing all the dry ingredients in a bowl add the milk and stir. The mixture is sticky and at some point you have to get your hands in there to make sure everything is combined.

I have adapted a Paul Hollywood recipe, he would now tell you to dust a surface with flour and roll the dough into a ball shape on that, which I did once and you just make a mess for yourself to clean up so I skip that step and roll it into a ball in the bowl as much as I can before transferring to a baking paper lined tray.

You then flatten out the dough a little and mark it into quarters cutting through the dough but not through to the bottom.

Finally a dust of flour and put the dough into an oven at 200oC for 30 minutes. You should end up with a golden loaf that sounds hollow when you tap the base.

Leave it to cool on a wire rack before slicing, or do what we do and cut into it straight away and enjoy.

I've also experimented with adding sunflower seeds, which worked well and might even try an olive and pesto version next. I do plan on trying more complicated bread recipes, are there any that you would recommend next?