A while ago now, I learned to make traditional Irish soda bread from Darina Allen at Ballymaloe in Ireland. This simple and wholesome bread is made quickly and can be on the table to enjoy in less than 45 mins. It uses a combination of wholemeal and plain flour to give a rustic texture and flavour without being too heavy. Soda bread uses bicarbonate of soda as the raising agent rather than yeast; it does not need to be kneaded and in fact the best soda bread is made with as little handling as possible.
250g plain flour
250g wholemeal plain flour
1 1/2tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
450g buttermilk or sour milk
1. You will need a large baking sheet, lightly dusted with flour or lined. The AGA Cold Plain Shelf with a piece of Bake-o-Glide is ideal. Take a large mixing bowl and weigh in the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and mix together. Add the buttermilk or sour milk and mix together briefly, using either a wooden spoon or your hand. No further kneading is required.
2. Tip the dough on to a floured surface and shape gently into a round, approximately 4cms thick. Make 2 cuts a little way into the dough to form a cross, prick the centre (to let the fairies out) and bake in the AGA roasting oven or conventional oven at 220C for 30 mins.
3. Cool and serve with butter, delicious with soup or with jam and a cup of tea. This bread is best enjoyed on the day its made; the day after it will benefit from being toasted.
Soda bread scones - form the dough into a round as above then cut into 8 sections like pieces of cheese. Place the pieces slightly apart from the others as they will rise during cooking. Bake for 20 mins or so.
Teeny weeny soda bread bites - cut the dough with a small scone cutter to make mini scones, brush the tops with a little beaten egg yolk and milk, then decorate each one with either sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, nigella seeds, poppy seeds, oat flakes, cheese, for example. Bake for 15 mins or so.
Cheesy soda bread - add 100g of roughly grated or diced cheese, this can be a selection of different cheese depending on what’s in the fridge.
Other ideas to try - try adding some finely chopped woody herbs like rosemary or thyme, or some lightly roasted nuts such as walnuts, or even some dried fruits such as raisins or dried cherries or dates.
This recipe is easily adapted to make smaller scones which can be individually frozen and also by adding a range of flavourings