Ireland’s most famous bread is made with two of the oldest foods: wheat and buttermilk. The acid in the buttermilk reacts with the bicarbonate of soda and creates the rise. If you have kids you should teach them how to make soda bread, because it’s great to be able to put a loaf on the table within 45 minutes. Once you’ve mastered this recipe, try adding some grated vintage Irish cheddar to it for a cheesy soda bread.
MAKES 1 SMALL LOAF
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
250g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
250g plain wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon caster sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/425ºF/gas mark 7. Line a flat baking tray with baking parchment. Put the flours, sugar, salt, lemon zest (if using) and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre and pour in half the buttermilk. Using your fingers or a round-bladed knife, draw the flour into the buttermilk. Continue to add the buttermilk until all the flour has been absorbed and you have a sticky dough. You may not need all the buttermilk – it depends on the flour you use. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, shape it into a ball and flatten it slightly with the palm of your hand. It is important to work quickly, as once the buttermilk is added it begins to react with the bicarbonate of soda. Put the dough onto the baking tray. Mark into quarters with a large, sharp knife, cutting deeply through the loaf, almost but not quite through to the base. Dust the top with flour. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Eat on the day of baking, or toast it the next day.