Soda Bread

Soda Bread

This bread is the quickest of quick breads, and also a white canvas for any flavouring and add-on you want to experiment with: from herbs and spices like rosemary or tumeric, to nuts like hazlenuts and walnuts.

“Quick bread” is any bread that does not use eggs or yeast to give it rise. Instead it uses baking soda (SODA, not powder!!) and a soured liquid to create a chemical reaction to produce CO2 and create the crumb.

Instead of kefir you can use buttermilk, or make your own “soured milk” by adding the milk quantity it calls for in the recipe into a bowl, stirring in 2 tbsp of vinegar and letting it curdle for 5min or so.

Not only does soda bread not require kneading, but actually you haven’t got time to do so! As soon as the liquid comes into contact with the baking soda the chemical reaction starts to happen, so you want to quickly get it into the oven.

Don’t stress either, but make sure all the dry ingredients are well mixed together first before you incorporate the wet. Then use a spatula to quickly mix the wet into the dry. Just make sure the oven is hot to so you can pop the bread in there as soon as the dough is shaped.

I bake mine in a heavy cast iron pot with a lid, lined with parchment paper. The oven, and the cast iron pot, should be hot to start with. The cast iron helps retain heat, and the lid helps steam the bread during baking.

An 18-20cm diameter pot is the perfect size to help contain the dough to help it rise. Mine is slightly larger and oval, hence the slightly oblong shape of my bread, but as long as it’s not significantly larger it should be fine.

If you haven’t got a cast iron pot you can still use a baking tin, but keep an eye on the timings and heat as it will affect browning and drying out.

In total you’re baking this bread for around 1h 30min, which isn’t uncommon for almond flour breads with high moisture content…. be patient, and let it cool before eating!

Ingredients

  • 275ml kefir*
  • 275g almond flour
  • 25g coconut flour
  • 15 psyllium
  • 1tsp xanthan gum
  • 2tsp baking SODA 
  • 1tsp salt

Method

* If you haven’t got any kefir or buttermilk, make your “soured milk” by mixing 2 tbsp of vinegar with the right quantity of milk in a bowl, stir and let it curdle for a few minutes.

Turn on the oven to 200ºC, and place the cast iron pot with the lid on in the oven to heat up. You should (almost) always preheat the oven before baking, but in this case it’s paramount!

Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and use a fork to blend them well into each other.

If you’re using any nuts, herbs, or spices, add these in now and distribute them well amongst the rest of the dry ingredients

Pour the kefir/buttermilk/soured milk over the dry ingredients, and use spatula or wooden spoon to quickly mix everything together. You want to make sure all the ingredients are combined and there are no dry “floury” bits that have not come into touch with the liquid.

Over a sheet of baking parchment, quickly use your hands to shape the dough into a “boule” (sphere), of the approximate size and shape of your cast iron pot.

Score a couple of shallow cuts on the top of the loaf to help release some of the internal steam during baking, but not too deep as otherwise your bread will fall apart along the lines once baked (unlike traditional soda bread, which holds its own).

Now take the very hot cast iron pot from the oven (close the oven door to retain the heat), place the parchment paper with the dough in the pot, put the lid on, and pop it back in the oven.

As soon as the dough is in, drop the oven temperature to 180ºC.

Bake for 40min. After this time, take off the lid to check on the bread – it should be browning and have developed a bit of a crush, but will feel squishy internally.

Place the lid back on, but this time don’t put the lid on fully, and leave a 2-3cm gap to allow some of the steam to escape.

Drop the temperature to 150ºC, and bake for another 30min or so like this.

After this time, the bread should have a solid dark golden brown crust, and feel solid (not wobbly) in the centre. Check by inserting a skewer, which should come out fully or almost clean.

Take the cast iron pot out of the oven, and use the parchment paper to lift the bread out of the pot. You’re done with the pot now.

Place the parchment paper and bread back in the oven, directly onto the metal grille tray, and bake it for a further 15min. This helps to finish the baking process and finish drying it out any residual moisture left in the bread.

After this time, take the bread out of the oven, and let it cool COMPLETELY on a cooling rack, before cutting into it.

The crumb will retain some moisture, and the crust will be thick and crispy. It keeps well in an airtight container outside the fridge, but after the first day it benefits from a few seconds in the toaster to regain the crunch.

We usually eat it within 5-7 days and it lasts that long.

Particularly good smothered in hibiscus jam and homemade cultured butter.

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