Soda bread

Something based on an Irish recipe for St Patrick’s Day.

Soda_Bread_Tile1

This is adapted from a recipe by Elizabeth David in English Bread And Yeast Cookery. This amount makes one small loaf (enough for 4 people). It is an easy way of producing homemade bread in a short time.

Soda bread is leavened chemically – a much quicker alternative to yeast leavening, using the reaction of soda (an alkali) and yogurt and lemon juice (acid). It is essential to keep these two ingredients apart until you are ready to bake the bread.

  • 300g plain wholemeal flour
  • 3/5 of a level tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 140ml natural yogurt
  • 140ml milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Warm water (if the mixture is too dry)

Heat the oven to 230C (Gas Mark 8). You will also need a floured baking tray and large heatproof glass basin (to cover the loaf in the oven – this promotes a steamy atmosphere which helps the loaf to rise).

Sift the flour and soda together in a large mixing bowl.

In a jug, mix the yogurt, milk, lemon juice and olive oil.

Pour the liquid into the flour and mix as quickly as possible (add warm water if necessary – you need a dough which will stand up on its own, but which is not too crumbly).

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form into a round, making it as high as possible.

Place on the floured baking tray, and cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife.

Cover with the large heatproof glass basin and place in the oven for 30 minutes. It will be cooked when a skewer inserted into the loaf, comes out clean. If the loaf needs some further time to cook, remove the glass basin and return to the oven until cooked.

Allow to cool before serving. It’s delicious warm with butter. Freezes well, and can be revived in the microwave.

Served here with chicken liver paté.

 

Sage and onion cornbread

This recipe is adapted from one which appeared in the Guardian Cook supplement on 3 January 2015. It’s good warm, on its own with butter, or for mopping up soups and casseroles.

  • 110g plain wholemeal flourCornbread
  • 100g polenta (not instant polenta)
  • 4 tsps (heaped) baking powder
  • 70g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp chopped sage leaves
  • 1 bunch spring onions (thinly sliced)
  • 100g mature cheddar (finely grated)
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 240ml milk
  • 120 ml olive oil (and a little more to grease the cake tin)

Line the base of a 20cm cake tin with silicone paper and paint the sides with olive oil.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (Gas Mark 6).

Sift together the flour, polenta and baking powder. Stir in the breadcrumbs, onions, sage and cheese, until the mixture is evenly combined.

Beat together the eggs, flour and oil in a separate bowl.

Mix all the ingredients together, and spoon into the cake tin, levelling the top is necessary.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cooked inside (if you insert a skewer and it comes out clean, it will be cooked).

Allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, or store in an airtight tin for later use. Freezes well.

 

 

Onion focaccia

FocacciaTileThis is based on a recipe in ‘Muffins scones and breads’ in the Austrailan Women’s Weekly cookbook series. There is enough for 6 as an accompaniment to soup or salad. It’s fairly quick to make as it requires only one rising.

  • 1&1/2  tsp dried yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 220ml warm (blood heat) water
  • 150g strong plain flour
  • 150g wholemeal flour
  • 35g Italian hard cheese (this is the ‘cheap version‘ of parmesan), finely grated
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion (finely sliced)
  • Sea salt

Mix the yeast and sugar with 100ml of the warm water. Cover, and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it starts to ferment.

Meanwhile sift the flours together into a large mixing bowl. When the yeast is ready, warm the flour briefly in the microwave (say, 20 seconds on high).

Mix the cheese and herbs into the flour, add the yeast mixture and 2 tbsp of the olive oil, and a further 100g of the water. Mix to a soft, but manageable, dough. If too dry add further water (if too wet, knead in some more flour). Knead for about 5 minutes.

Roll out the dough and place it so that it covers a baking tray (I used one 30cm square). Cover and leave in a warm place to rise (until it has doubled in depth).

Heat the oven to 220C (gas mark 8). Spread the onion slices over the top, and sprinkle with sea salt and the remaining olive oil.

Bake for about 25 minutes. Pleace on a wire rack to cool.

Mega-bakers fear problems with more salt reductions

bread

The tasty looking loaf (right) is from: The Little Loaf

The UK’s mega-backers who produce all that tasteless spongy bread using the Chorleywood Method think that government imposed further salt cuts will pose problems for their manufacturing process.

Maybe it will, you need salt for added flavour (especially) if you are using cheap ingredients, and it seems that salt also serves to strengthen gluten (British wheat has less gluten than wheat produced in North America). However salt also decreases the fermentation activity of yeast, so less of it might make their bread-making even faster!

I have made very tasty bread containing nothing other than wholemeal/white flour (50/50), water, yeast, sugar and a bit of oil to ‘paint’ on the top of the loaf  to improve the crust. It tastes even better if you knead in a few seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and linseed), before leaving it to prove prior baking.

Homemade bread is much tastier a more satisfying that much of the bread you can buy in the shops. I’m not including ‘artisan bread’ in this ‘bad bread’ category, but then artisan bread if often quite expensive. You get what you pay for, but if you put in the same amount of effort yourself you can have inexpensive, tasty, satisfying bread.

In my opinion you don’t need a breadmaking machine. Yes, making decent bread is a long process, but it actually ties up very little of your time. You just need to be available to do the kneading and baking and the timing can be flexible depending on the ambient temperature during the proving process and the quantity of yeast used. There’s also very little more therapeutic than kneading dough!

I’ll be dealing with the bread-making process in a later post. Meanwhile here’s my daughter’s efforts with sourdough.