This is the first of the abitmoreveg recipes. It’s a simple recipe for wholemeal soda bread. If you like you could use this recipe to make the brown fruit scones, just adding in sultanas or big juicy raisins, and adding in a little more liquid – so around 275 ml buttermilk instead of the 225 ml for the plain loaf here. You could also use softened butter rather than sunflower oil – I used to use oil because it was less hassle and I didn’t feel it made that big a difference to the taste. Also, at the time I believed oil was healthier, whereas now I don’t think it matters too much if you use oil or butter – well unless you’re talking about loads of butter…
Soda bread is one of the easiest breads to bake. They say baking is more of a science than an art but when they do they are certainly not talking about soda bread, it’s one of the most forgiving recipes you’ll meet. It takes only a few minutes to throw together, no kneading is required, throw it in the oven and bake until you have a gorgeously crusty and wholesomely dense loaf.
With carbohydrates getting a bit of a bashing over the last decade or so it can be difficult to remember that bread, wholemeal homemade (or good shop/bakery bought) bread, is packed with nutrients and fibre. Wholemeal flour contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fibre. No wonder it’s been a staple in people’s daily diet for centuries. Which makes me wonder now, why are so many people these days reporting trouble digesting gluten? I’m certainly no fad follower – sorry, I couldn’t resist adding that comment. I really miss wholemeal soda bread – there’s just no substitute for it.
Buttermilk is also very good for you. Buttermilk is a byproduct of making butter and so it is lower in fat than whole milk as the fat has been removed to make the butter. It is also a good source of calcium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus.
Much of the vitamins these ingredients contain are lost while baking but the fibre and minerals such as the calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and iron remain.
I’ve had this recipe for years and changed it as my tastes or needs change. I used to use only wholemeal flour, no white flour at all, and I really do like the texture of this type of bread, but it only keeps for 2 days, by day 3 it’s very dry. I also used to add more liquid and bake it in a loaf tin, this was necessary if using only wholemeal flour, but adding plain flour makes the dough a little more flexible, a little more bound together, so now I can bake a round cake of bread on a flour dusted baking sheet instead. If you find you have added too much liquid, simply bake the bread in a well greased loaf tin.
When I first made this bread I was cutting out dairy from my diet so I used soya milk with a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. If you don’t want to use dairy you can easily substitute soya or almond milk mixed with lemon juice for the buttermilk. Buttermilk has a much thicker consistency though so you might need to play around with the measurements. It is also possible to leave out the egg. If you don’t want to use egg add two more tablespoons of oil.
Soda bread is definitely more of an art so play around with different ingredients and measurements to find your own masterpiece. Just don’t forget to add the bread soda (also called baking soda or bicarbonate of soda) and the sour element to the liquid.
When I originally posted this I said the seeds were just for decoration but actually the baked seed crust quickly became my favourite thing about this bread. I also started adding seeds in the flour mix as well, but it’s really the taste of them baked into the crust that’s great.