Wulf's Webden

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Soda Bread

I have posted about soda bread before on this blog but it was (checks…) almost a decade ago! Even there, I was posting about a packet mix rather than making it from scratch and it appears I wasn’t too impressed with what I found. This weekend I watched a programme where Nigel Slater demonstrated a quick soda bread that I decided to try. This morning I wanted to make another batch but, rather than tracking down the programme, I checked my recipe books (nowt in the ones I sampled) and then turned to the Internet to find some different approaches. And then, as you do, I didn’t follow any of them exactly but used a mixture of intuition and experience to derive my own recipe.

I started with the dry ingredients – I think it was 150g plain flour, 150g brown flour (strong brown flour in this case but I think regular brown would have done if I’d had it), 0.5 tsp each of bicarbonate of soda, salt and brown sugar. Oh, and a handful of porridge oats. I then measured out 300g of milk separately and added a splash of red wine vinegar – probably about a teaspoon. The acid ingredient is important as that kickstarts a chemical reaction with the bicarb, resulting in CO2 production for the rise instead of using (slower acting yeast).

Wet and dry were combined in a bowl, before I realised that the mixture was far too sloppy so I added further flour to make it firmer. I’m sure the recipes I saw had a fairly even balance of flour and milk but perhaps they suggested adding the acidulated milk until reaching a soft but shapeable dough? Next time I’ll probably try for about a 3:4 wet to dry ratio – either 400g flour or 225g milk (and perhaps including the red wine in with the milk measure rather than in addition).

I’d preheated the oven to 200°C and had left a small iron pot (Dutch oven) in there with the lid on and some water in the bottom to create steam. By the time I’d adjusted my dough, the oven was at temperature so I tipped out the water, tipped in the dough and scored the top. It took longer to cook than I’d expected – it seemed like getting on for half an hour and the top was still quite soft – so I ended up tipping it out of the pot and finishing on my breadstone. I didn’t therefore get to take any to work (too hot) but tried it as soon as I got in.

Delicious! Better than Nigel’s recipe turned out (in my hands) and I think I’ll be making this again a few times to work it into my ready repertoire. Refinements next time will be the adjustments to measuring and caution in combining mentioned above. I might also try my larger Dutch oven as possibly it was too constrained in the smaller one. I want to simulate a small oven rather than a covered bread tin. We’ll see how that turns out.

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