We don’t often see buttermilk in our locality so I grabbed the chance to buy a bottle when I saw it on our travels recently. Then I wondered what to do with it. Irish soda bread seemed to be the most obvious answer. I went straight for my Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course cookbook, and sure enough there was a recipe in there. “2 or 3 minutes to make and 20-30 minutes to bake,” it said. That sounded pretty good to me so I followed the instructions.
Then I lost a few minutes because once you’ve got your dough ready to go on the chopping board, the recipe tells you ‘amusing’ nonsense, such as to “prick the corners to let the fairies out”, but it doesn’t tell you what sort of surface you’re supposed to be baking it on. Yeah, a baking sheet obviously, but greased? Floured? Greased and floured? Or what? Thus I had to go and dig a recipe out of another cookbook. Actually the answer is greased and floured. (I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with Darina Allen’s cookbook, not least because I’m forever correcting the page numbers in the index.)
I could hardly believe how easy it was to make soda bread. It was my first time making it and it took less than five minutes from start to oven (despite Darina’s lack of useful info). The bread then took nearly half an hour in the oven, but who’s counting? The result was delicious. Really, really good. It’s hard to believe you can make such delicious bread so easily and so quickly.
- 450 g (1 lb) plain white flour
- 1 level tsp salt
- 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 450 ml (14 fl oz) buttermilk
(I also added a sprinkling of dried thyme because I felt like it. C’mon, Not Delia never really follows instructions properly.)
Preheat the oven to 250°C.
Put the dried ingredients into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.
Slosh in the buttermilk all at once and, using your hand, stir in a circular motion into a nice soft dough.
Turn out onto a greased and floured baking tray (NOT the “well-floured board” Darina Allen suggests) and pat it into a nice round shape about 2.5 cm (1½ in) deep.
Cut a deep cross (I cut mine into eighths rather than quarters).
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200°C and bake until cooked. (This only took about 15 minutes for mine, so watch the time.)
This has got to be the quickest and easiest bread ever, and it was tasty! Now all we need to do is to try to source buttermilk from somewhere locally.
By the way, I used the remainder of the buttermilk to make some tiny scones. The original recipe calls for cream, but the buttermilk worked perfectly. I added some grated cheese and some herbs – I guess I had a lot of thyme on my hands today. (Groan)
Update: Warning! Lovely though it is, we’ve discovered that it can go off very quickly indeed – in as little as a day. So don’t be tempted to make a big loaf and expect it to last – next time round I think I’ll halve the quantities. (It’s at its nicest when it’s freshly made anyway.)