Photo of a small piece of the soda bread, on a floral paper napkin

I didn’t expect to be writing a post about soda bread so I didn’t take a picture of the loaf. Only today, when I found that it was delicious when a day old I decided to post, by which time this was all that remained.

It is well-known that ‘Irish’ soda bread is good only on the day it is made, or so I have always understood (and that has been my experience). Consequently, I only made it when we had an ‘out of bread’ emergency, as yesterday, with no time to make a more conventional loaf (shop bought bread in the UK is not good, even in my opinion expensive ‘artisan’ loaves. I’ve been spoiled by German breads).

Because there are only two of us I always struggled to make a small enough quantity to eat on the same day (I hate discarding food but the birds were happy).

As Wednesday is one of our ‘veggie days’ we decided yesterday to eat an avocado each followed by ‘iahnie’ (pronounced, roughly, yak-nee-ay), a puree of butter beans for us but of the much larger ‘boabe’ (bwar-bay) beans in Romania, with bread. It’s usually flavoured with garlic, maybe other things like herbs.

No bread so I made a soda bread (but not the ‘real’ one as it calls for buttermilk, which I did not have). We ate it straight out the oven – the iahnie is cold. As usual we had some over so it was put in a bag, hot, still steaming when broken, with the idea of giving the birds a feast today. But, guess what, it was soft and absolutely delicious today when we ate it for our lunches. Poor birds!

Here’s the recipe I made:

250g wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
200 ml full-fat milk
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp honey

Mix the dry ingredients well in a bowl. Pour the lemon juice into the milk (it’s magic!). Stir in the honey till dissolved. Make a well in the flour etc, pour in the ‘artificial buttermilk’ and mix with a spatula till the ‘dough’ is ‘together’. Shape into a round loaf, put on a floured baking tray (I use coarse semolina), cut a deep cross in the top and put in the oven preheated to 180degC (that’s my fan oven; I guess 200degC for ‘conventional’ oven). Bake for 30 minutes or till it sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom.

Note. This made a very ‘sloppy’ dough, difficult to handle and shape, so next time I’d add a bit more flour.

 

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I must be getting back to normal; it’s taken almost two weeks following our marathon trip of approaching 5,000 miles over 45 days. First, yesterday, I made the first ‘full English’ breakfast since our return; today I’m baking bread for the first time (couldn’t bear any more from the shop, even ‘good’ bakeries) and I’m making ‘leftovers’ soup – from the carcass of a roast chicken with some mushrooms. That’s what I call ‘back to normal’.

The two loaves baked today, one still in the tin, the other out

Just out of the oven

It was only laziness that delayed breadmaking till now and I’m sure I’d offend that tv celebrity baker, Holiday Inn or something. I’ve long settled on my own recipe and let a breadmaker do the hard work, do the second rising in the warming oven, so all I do is a very brief knead, divide into two tins and, after doubled in size, put the two loaves in the oven to bake. If I lived in Germany I’d probably be even lazier – I’d buy my bread from the bakery. I prefer the firmer consistency to the airy ‘foam’ we get here.

My recipe, two tin loaves from: 500g wholemeal strong flour; 170g of wholemeal spelt flour, 430ml water; 10g butter; 2.1/2 teaspoons salt; 2.1/2 teaspoons sugar; packet of dried yeast. Sometimes I add sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Today I just brushed the tops with milk and scattered poppy seeds on.

Dinner tonight will be as lazy: beef stew made some time ago, from the freezer, with dumplings. I know, it’s not yet winter but I love stew and dumplings and it’s quite chilly today.

Although I kept a daily journal of the trip on Facebook (Dusty2Romania) I do intend to do at least one post here, about in particular the campsites on which we stayed, from the horrors of Budapest to the excellence of some in Austria and Holland. Soon.

I haven’t posted anything ‘foodie’ for quite a while so having been ‘multi-tasking’ today – doing a ‘grumpytykepix‘ post and making bread among many other things – I thought I’d pass on some thoughts from the bread-making.

Four delicious small round wholemeal loaves for 10 minutes of your time

Four delicious small round wholemeal loaves for 10 minutes of your time

I used to make all the bread in the traditional way but it is time-consuming and it became more and more difficult to find the time. I don’t think I’d have begun this blog, let alone a second, if I still made the bread in this way. But, wonder of wonders, I discovered the bread-making machine. Bought (a Schneider) from a charity shop for £10. 

A really good flour from a really helpful miller

No instructions, and I couldn’t find any guidance on the net at the time, so I’d no idea what recipe to use. However, I’d seen that a miller called Carr’s, in Cumbria just north of the English Lake District,  said they made flour especially for bread-makers. So I wrote to them telling them what machine I had. A recipe came back very quickly and, with small variations, I’ve been using it ever since.

And their flour; although the recipe works with others which I’ve had to use when I couldn’t get Carrs. I know their flour is reliable, but also their ‘customer service’ is so good I really want to support them.

However, I found that the loaf from the bread-maker was too large for the two of us at home; I therefore cut it in half and put one part in the freezer till required. Then I thought I’d try to divide it as dough and put it in the oven and that was a revelation – as you might expect, bread from the oven is better!

Dough made in the bread-maker is knocked back and shaped into four before leaving for the second rising

Dough made in the bread-maker is knocked back and shaped into four before leaving for the second rising

So now, I let the the bread-maker do the hard work (the 1.1/2hr ‘dough’ program). Turn it out and knock it back with a light kneading, a couple of minutes, divide into four and shape, leave in the warming oven for 1/2hr to rise then bake at 180degC (fan oven) for 15-20 minutes (till a knock on the bottom sounds hollow). 

It’s delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

1lb 1oz of Carr’s wholemeal bread flour

2 level tsp salt

2.1/2 level tsp sugar

2.1/2 level tsp of powdered milk (you can leave this out)

1 packet of ‘active’ dried yeast (I use Sainsburys, 57 gram in the packet)

Mix all the above in a bowl

Put 335 ml of cold water in the bread-maker

Add a knob of butter (Carr’s said 10g)

Spoon in the flour/yeast etc mixture 

Leave on the ‘dough’ programme (1.1/2 hours)

Lightly knead to knock it back. Divide into four. Shape and put on a baking tray sprinkled with semolina (only to stop it sticking – flour will do but I prefer semolina).

Put in a warm place, covered with a cloth, for about 30 mins till well risen.

Bake in a hot oven (180degC, fan) till it sounds hollow when knocked on the bottom.

Try not to eat it all while hot.

Feel free to mess about with some additions; I often add a handful of rolled oats to the mix, or a handful of sunflower seeds. Poppy seeds are good too. I like the soft ‘crust’ but you can brush with water, milk, egg or oil, to produce a different crust.

Same recipe as the 'plain' bread above but with the addition of a handful of sunflower seeds

Same recipe as the ‘plain’ bread above but with the addition of a handful of sunflower seeds

And it’s so easy, and great for the multi-tasker as your involvement in the process is five minutes at the start, and five in the middle.

That’s it!