Standby soda

I don’t think there’s an easier bread to make than soda bread. A little sifting, some mixing and patting, then slam it into an oven and within the hour you have hot bread to burn your mouth and fingers on. So simple and yet, in the UK, so difficult.

It’s the buttermilk that’s the problem. In Ireland there’s a fridge shelf devoted to various buttermilks in every supermarket. Corner stores and even petrol stations have a few Tetrapaks on hand for emergency bread/scone . But in the UK it’s more of an illusive dairy product.

I used to go to Waitrose for it, who presumably stocked buttermilk because their clientele have exceptionally refined tastes when it comes to scones. Nowhere else had it. But now, thanks to the magic of closer ties with Eastern Europe, you can find buttermilk in some supermarket chiller cabinets, either near the creams or in the Polish Section or, confusingly, both.

But not everywhere has been enriched by immigration and there are still parts of this land where buttermilk is unheard of. In such dark, unenlighted places, you can replace buttermilk with sour milk, but deliberately letting milk go off to make a quick bread seems madly wasteful.

A better solution is to mix milk and yogurt. In the recipe below I used a mix of skimmed milk and fat free yogurt as buttermilk tends to be low in fat, but you could use whole milk and normal yogurt – the higher fat content will just give a richer bread.

When you’re measuring out the soda, make sure it’s level or your bread will have a green tinge (this was drummed into us by Darina). Level in a normal teaspoon means the soda should be completely flat – I smooth it out so I can see the rim. If you’re using measuring spoons I think you’ll need to use the 1/2 tsp measure and level that off.

Be warned that my friend and I polished off half a loaf for breakfast when this came out of the oven. It’s particularly good if you use 1/2 tsp fine table salt and 1/2 tsp coarse salt, so you get little gritty burst of saltiness in every bite.

Standby soda bread
Makes 1 loaf

450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml milk
150ml plain yogurt

1 Preheat the oven to 230°C/Fan 210°C/Gas 8. Dust a baking tray with a little flour.

2 Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a very large bowl. Mix the milk and yogurt together and pour most of it into the flour, leaving about 100ml fluid in the jug. Shape your hand into a stiff claw and stir it around the bowl, mixing the flour and milk and bringing it together to make a soft, light dough. If it’s not coming together, add more milk until it does.

3 Turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour. Wash and dry your hands and then gently pat the bread into a round. Flip over and pat into a neat round. Lift onto the baking tray. Slash a deep cross into the bread and stab it in each corner with your knife.

4 Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven down to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 and bake for a further 20 minutes. Turn the bread over and continue baking for 10–20 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped. Best eaten on the day it’s made.

Tagged with: BakingBreadIrish

16 Responses to Standby soda bread

  1. That picture is making me yearn for fresh hot bread. I’m going to make this on Sunday morning for breakfast. Is it any good with jam?

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Very good with jam – we ate it with butter and rhubarb and ginger jam and polished off half a loaf in half an hour.

  2. Oh I love Irish soda bread – usually I prefer the traditional brown but this looks great as well. Slathered with butter it is perfect with a cup of tea!

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Almost as good as biscuits with tea! You could switch wholemeal flour for the plain flour here and make brown soda bread. I’m just a girl who can’t get enough refined white flour in her diet.

  3. Matthew says:

    If you have problems finding buttermilk, just add a little lemon juice or cider/wine vinegar to some regular milk. Leave to stand for a few mins until curdled. I’ve done this many times and it makes really lovely soda bread.

  4. miss south says:

    Thanks for the Polish shop tip. I spend half my life looking for buttermilk here in London. Its easy availability may be one of the few things I miss about Belfast!

    I’m off to make lettuce soup and sodie bread for lunch! Thanks!

  5. Morrisons always have buttermilk – I think they are slowly getting supermarkets down south now.

  6. ginandcrumpets says:

    @Matthew Often use that trick for making scones. always get a lovely result that way.

    @miss south Hope lunch was good 🙂

    @Craftilicious Morrisons have made there way south, even south of the river. I do like wandering along Market Street and admiring the fresh fish counter!

  7. Jo Bell says:

    Just discovered your blog – great writing, great recipes, great photos and a sense of humour. Long may you reign.

  8. Barb Waycott says:

    Egads, I wrote a really neat posting and it deleted when I didn’t fill out the form right…dumb! My grandma Karpinski from Canada, baked bread every other day …BUT once a week she would make BUTTERMILK BREAD… She’d take ONE POUND of white flour, a teaspoon of salt, and ONE QUART OF BUTTERMILK….NO soda, no baking powder, NO YEAST…She’d mix the ingredients in a bowl and turn it onto her breadboard and then KNEAD THE MIXTURE for 20 to 25 minutes until it was shiny like satin and then she’d bake this ONE LOAF just like regular bread and when done would pop it out of the pan and let it cool on top. THEN WE’D CUT THE LOAF VERY THIN and toast the slices and spread with butter and jam! Oh, it was wonderful! Anyone hear of other recipes like this? This was one heavy loaf of buttermilk-tasting bread!

  9. ginandcrumpets says:

    @Jo Bell *blush* Thanks for the kind words.

    @Barb No soda or yeast or anything? I’ve never heard of anything like it, but I’d love to give it a go to see if I can make it work.

  10. Zoë says:

    Just made this for supper with a cidery pea and potato soup… great instructions and totally addictive result. Only regret: not having a vat of raspberry jam in which to dunk the crusts.

  11. […] almost immediately though. Buttermilk is quite hard to come by here in England, even with Gin and Crumpets’ handy tip about Polish shops often stocking it and I had only ordered three small cartons online […]

  12. […] of the month: Back to London and nostalgic for Ireland, I was soon baking loaves of Standby soda bread. I’d been sick to death of it at Ballymaloe, but back in the UK it was suddenly a very […]

  13. […] up chunky, curdled milk in soda bread is a trick I learned at Ballymaloe and one I’ve been grateful for in the past couple of […]

  14. the.under.rabbit says:

    Found you and the site via OSM Being 53. Just made a loaf. The best soda bread I have ever made. I had to use yoghurt as had no buttermilk. Top tip on taking care with quantity of soda. I’ve had problems with it going a bit green before and wondered whether it was the flour.

    thank you.

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