The dough can be baked in a tin or in a traditional free form anointed with a cross on a baking tray. Very important to prick the dough to let the fairies out of the bread!
For scones, flatten the dough a little more and cut into round, square or rectangular scones, bake as they are or for extra excitement brush the tops with a little buttermilk or egg wash, then dip in grated cheese or kibbled wheat for a melty or crunchy top. I sprinkled a batch recently with dukkah and Aleppo pepper – and delicious they were too!
Scones will be out of the oven in 10 – 12 minutes while a loaf will take 30 – 35 minutes but either way you wouldn’t have found your car keys and be back from the shops by the time the bread is out of the oven. There’s nothing to beat the smell of crusty bread wafting out of the oven and even though I’ve been baking all of my adult life and lot of my childhood I still get a buzz out of it.
The Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread is another delicious staple, even though it’s made with yeast, there’s no kneading involved and only one rising. This bread is known and loved by all the guests at Ballymaloe House since the restaurant opened in 1964 and by the family for decades before that. I particularly love the crusts, the best bit of every loaf. Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread takes longer than Soda Bread to make – allow 1 ½ hours from start to finish. It takes time but not your time, it’s mixed in a matter of minutes and the rest is rising and baking time.
Soda bread is best eaten on the day it’s made but brown yeast bread is delicious for days and makes heavenly toast for up to a week later.
If neither of these breads appeal, well how about some of the flat breads? The variety is endless – all were developed in countries where many homes didn’t have ovens. The breads were cooked on griddles or as is the case in Mexico, on a comal, or sometimes it was a combination of griddle and open fire as in chappatis.
These breads too are superfast to make and children love making them but I’ve become even more interested in experimenting with fermented batter made with teff for Ethiopian Injera or Indian dosa or String hoppers from Sri Lanka.
They are also nutrient dense, and really flavourful and fun.
But for an easy everyday loaf it’s difficult to beat, brown or white soda and who can forget the wake-up call we had in February 2018, there was mass panic when the country was snowed in. In supermarkets customers were pulling loaves of bread from each other, having totally forgotten how easy it is to make a loaf of soda bread.
Go on, have a go and post your very first loaf of bread on Instagram using the hashtags #realbread #hugthecook
Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread
Even though this is a modern rather than traditional version of soda bread, I’ve decided to put it first because it couldn’t be simpler. Just mix all the ingredients together and pour into a well-greased tin. It’s important to put all the milk in – the dough may seem too wet but it’s meant to be that way for this particular bread. It will keep well for several days and is also great when toasted. Most modern Irish soda bread recipes include far too much bicarbonate of soda, which makes the bread very dark and taste strongly of soda. Makes 1 large or 3 small loaves
400g (14oz) stone-ground wholemeal flour
75g (3oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached
1 teaspoon dairy salt
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda/baking soda), sieved
1 organic egg
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 teaspoon honey, treacle or soft brown sugar
425ml (3⁄4 pint) buttermilk or sour milk
sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)
one loaf tin 23 x 12.5 x 5cm (9 x 5 x 2in) OR three loaf tins 14.5 x 7.5 x 5cm (51⁄2 x 3 x 2in)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Brush the inside of the loaf tin or tins with vegetable oil.
Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix well. Whisk the egg, adding to it the oil, honey and the buttermilk or sour milk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid. Mix well, adding more buttermilk if necessary (the mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy). Pour into the oiled tin or tins. If desired, sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on top.
Bake for about 1 hour or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
White Soda Bread
Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 - 40 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my 'great convertibles'. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses. It's also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.
1lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon breadsoda
sour milk or buttermilk to mix - 12-14fl oz (350-400ml) approx.
First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.
Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up and flip over gently. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked it will sound hollow.