We’re a nation of bread lovers here in the UK, it’s almost a national obsession. We can quite honestly base any meal around it, including of some of our biggest pleasures… from bacon butties, bread & butter pudding, thick buttery slices of toast & of course, the humble sandwich (the ultimate in bread based meals as it can be breakfast, lunch or dinner!) . Apparently us Brits eat on average 11.5 billion sandwiched a year, so clearly I’m not alone in my sandwich obsession.
Over recent years though, there’s been a big steer away from the ready thick & thin sliced loaves from the supermarket in favour of more “artisanal” breads (I hate that word!). Hipster terminology aside, what that means is that we’re all enjoying a bit of slow-fermented proper bread, the way it used to be made before ready-to-use yeasts became available, using a cultured yeast developed over a long period, aka sourdough.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you just how popular the sourdough has become post COVID-19. These round, fermented doughs have almost become an emblem of COVID, with banana bread coming in at a close second. It seems that with a lot more time on our hands right now, we’re definitely filling that void with cooking & baking ventures.
Whilst I am definitely a sourdough fan, even with all of this extra time to kill, I don’t always want to spend hours upon hours waiting around for something to rise & prove let alone be prepared enough the day before I have a fancy for bread! Sometimes (most of the time) I just want my bread & I want it now, not in 8 hours, not tomorrow but when my craving calls.
Luckily, there’s another age old bread recipe that’s much quicker to make, soda bread. A type of quick bread, it doesn’t require any of the fuss & faff of its counterparts, there’s no kneading, no proving & no yeast in sight. Quick breads replace yeast for bicarbonate of soda as its leavening agent, this reacts with the acidity found in buttermilk or soured milk to product tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide within the dough, giving it a rise.
Soda bread became popular out of necessity more than anything else, in a very poor Ireland with a lack of access to ingredients. In order to make the most of those basic, inexpensive ingredients, soda bread found its way into the kitchens of many & became a staple alongside meals. Whilst it may have been born out of requirement as opposed to desire, this ever so simple little loaf shouldn’t be knocked (it’s bread in under 30 minutes, it’s saviour!). Just like any other bread, soda bread can be tweaked & adapted however you like it, from savoury to sweet.
For mine, I’ve gone somewhere in-between… this treacle & seed soda bread has all of the savoury characteristics of bread but with a subtle sweetness from the treacle. The crispy crust is given an extra crunch from a coating of sunflower seeds, which also make it quite an attractive loaf as its distinctive opens up in the oven. This little loaf is very satisfying when lightly toasted & topped with jam or dunked into a steaming bowl of soup. Either way, your bread cravings shall not go unfulfilled anymore.
TREACLE & SEED SODA BREAD
- 400g self-raising flour
- 50g porridge oats
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 284 ml buttermilk
- 4 tbsp treacle
- 30-40 ml water
- Preheat the oven to 200C & place a baking tray inside to heat up
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, porridge, salt & bicarbonate of soda
- In a jug, combine the buttermilk & treacle
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients & pour in the buttermilk mixture
- Mix together, using just enough of the water to help the dough come together, try not to overwork it
- Shape the dough into a round, press it down to flatten a little & use a sharp knife to score a cross into the top of the bread
- Use your hand to wet the surface of the dough & sprinkle over the sunflower seeds
- Carefully place the dough onto the hot baking tray & bake in the oven for 20 minutes until browned & the bread sounds hollow when tapped underneath
- Remove & leave to cool fully on a cooling rack