Otherwise known as wheaten bread, this is a recipe that’s close to my heart, as it has taken me years to perfect. It’s a great bread for novice cooks to start with, as there is no proving or kneading, as the bicarbonate is responsible for the rise when it reacts with the buttermilk. If you don’t have any buttermilk in the house, sour ordinary milk with the juice of a lemon or 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, which gives the bread a little more tang, will work too. This bread literally goes with everything, but is particularly good with soup or cut into slices and served with smoked salmon.
Brown Soda Bread
Makes 1 x 600g loaf
rapeseed oil, for greasing
225g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
225g wholemeal flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp light muscovado sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
300ml buttermilk, plus extra if needed
1 heaped tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tsp melted butter, plus extra for spreading to serve
1 tsp golden syrup
a handful of porridge oats
1 heaped tsp pumpkin seeds
1 heaped tsp sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6). Lightly oil a 600g loaf tin.
Sift the flours and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, then stir in the muscovado sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk, sunflower seeds, melted butter and golden syrup. Using a large spoon, mix gently and quickly until you have achieved a nice dropping consistency. Add a little more buttermilk if necessary until the dough binds together without being sloppy.
Put the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle over the porridge oats, pumpkin and sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, until cooked through and the loaf has a slightly cracked, crusty top, checking halfway through the cooking time to make sure that it isn’t browning too much. If it is, reduce the temperature or move the loaf down in the oven.
To check that the loaf is properly cooked, tip it out of the tin and tap the base – it should sound hollow. If it doesn’t, return it to the oven for another 5 minutes. Tip out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
To serve, place the brown soda bread on a breadboard and cut into slices at the table. Hand around with a separate pot of butter for spreading.
Neven’s top tip
If you prefer a lighter brown soda bread, simply use about three-quarters strong white bread flour to one-quarter wholemeal and add 25g of pinhead oatmeal before adding the buttermilk. I also try to use a coarse wholemeal flour, which will give your bread a lovely nutty flavour and nubbly texture.
Extracted from Neven Maguire’s Home Economics for Life (Gill Books, €22.99). Photographs by Joanne Murphy.
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