While the bloomer may be the most standard of western breads, it is not the easiest, nor is it the quickest. That goes to soda bread. It doesn’t involve kneading, rising, or proving, so you can make it within an hour. I decided I’d have to be stupid to not give it a go.
I’m very glad to say that making soda bread really is as easy as Paul Hollywood (whose recipe I used) claims it to be. I only had two issues with it.
The first was that he implied I would need all 420ml of buttermilk, but even approximately 300ml made my dough far too sticky to handle. Usually, this could be solved simply by kneading, but the recipe explicitly says not to knead (which made me a little curious as to what would happen if I did knead it). Instead, I just added more flour, which seemed to do the trick nicely.
The sticky dough was really hard to get off my fingers, and even harder to get off the kitchen worktop once it had dried there!
The second is merely that I do not feel like I’ve made bread because I didn’t put nearly enough time or effort into it, and yet there’s a fresh loaf sitting in front of me.
After mixing the ingredients and shaping the dough, I left it to rest for half an hour while the oven heated up, during which time I made several variations of mushroom pate to go with the finished bread. Look out for my blog post on that!
Anyway, here’s the final loaf!
The most noteworthy thing about soda bread is its distinctive smell, which is quite hard to describe. I’m not sure whether it’s because of the wholemeal flour, or the yoghurty buttermilk, or the bicarbonate of soda, but either way, it’s a little difficult to decide whether it smells delicious or just a tiny bit weird.
It tastes lovely, though. It has a hard, chewy crust but slightly moist inside, though a little rough due to the wholemeal flour. At first I thought I’d find it too rich, but sliced and with toppings on, it was just right. It went really well with my mushroom pates, but apparently not with Brussels pate.
I imagine this would be a great recipe for any first-time bread baker to try – you can find it in Paul Hollywood’s book Bread.