A RECIPE: Soda bread

Autumn has been fighting hard to shove aside summer in New York City. We’ve finally given in, powered down the A/C and pushed up the windows, letting in a cooling if slightly polluted breeze and all the delightful noises that a nocturnal Brooklyn blows in- fire trucks, drunk teenagers, car alarms and early morning visits from the refuse collectors. Home sweet home; as they say.

The enthusiastic presence of autumn has also induced a surge of baking in the brand new Baxter-Helm kitchen. Although, things did come to a temporary halt last night when I managed to spill Jamie Oliver’s favourite curry sauce all over my set of scales, leaving them decidedly MOA. There’s always a man to blame. Fortunately for Don, it was Jamie this time and not him. It was however, Don who broke my favourite tea-stained mug washing-up and fear not, for that he paid. A mug and my scales all in one weekend? Life, can be so brutal.

Still, I did manage to churn a delicious loaf of soda bread before things starting breaking- and if you can’t have a cup of tea in your favourite mug during times of solace, then at least have a slice of freshly baked soda bread with a wedge of cheese to hand. The smell of bread baking in the oven is one of life’s guilty pleasures and this rustic bread could not be easier to make- and by that I mean no yeast, no kneading and no rising. This is what we call in the cooking world ‘a dump and stir’- the ultimate in simplicity. Warning: this will not create a shiny, well rounded crust. It’s rugged defined edges all play a part in it’s rustic charm- the perfect source of comfort when life becomes particularly brutal.

Soda Bread
When bread is this simple to make, there’s really no excuses. I love this toasted for breakfast with jam, with soup and butter for lunch and cheese and apple slices for tea. It’s heavier than your average loaf of whole wheat bread- ideal for the cooler months ahead.

Serves 6

Diet Facts: It has whole grains, doesn’t it? What more do you want?

225g/ 1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp wholemeal flour (whole wheat will do)
175g/ 1 1/4 cup plain flour
30g/ scant 1/4 cup wheat germ
30g/ 3 Tbsp 10 grain cereal or pinhead oatmeal, plus a little extra to sprinkle
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
50g butter, cut into cubes and kept cold
300ml buttermilk (whole milk buttermilk, if possible)

1/ Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Sieve together the dry ingredients, tipping any leftover bits back into the bowl and stirring through.

2/ Using your the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it is fully incorporated. Make a well in the center of the flour and using a wooden spoon to stir, slowly begin to add the buttermilk (you may not need all of it, you may need a little extra). The idea is to create soft but not sticky ball of dough, so don’t add it all at once. Once most of the buttermilk is incorporated use your hands to gently knead the dough into a ball.

3/ Pat into a round about 1 1/2- 2 inches thick. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and using a knife cut deep slits (almost the whole way through the loaf). Traditionally you cut so that there are 4 triangles but I prefer to cut 6 in mine. Dust with the extra 10 grain cereal and bake for about 40 minutes or until golden and when tapped underneath it sounds hollow. Let cool on a wire rack.

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