Afraid of baking with yeast? Never fear, soda bread is here! Okay, so that was a totally lame – and not to mention corny – statement. I’m sorry. What I was trying to do is get you to get excited about the concept of soda bread. Why? Anyone can master it, even the most novice of bakers. I promise. Less finicky than scone-dough and certainly less stressful than yeast based breads (because, well, it doesn’t contain yeast), this is definitely one to add to your baking repertoire, no matter how small (or non-existent) it may be. So it may not be quite as easy as a melt-and-mix chocolate cake, however the result is just as pleasing, if not more so. And sure, you can convince yourself that chocolate cake is acceptable for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, but whilst that’s nice in theory, in reality it’s not. On the other hand, this Rosemary & Sultana Soda Bread is actually suitable for all three. And is oodles healthier than a slab of cake. Did I mention that it’s scrum-diddly-umptious too? No? Well there you go. It’s ‘rustic’ baking at it’s best.
This Rosemary & Sultana Bread has a crunchy top that gives way to a moist, dense yet light crumb (that sounds very contradictory doesn’t it?) that melts away in your mouth. How it arrives at this combination is beyond me. I didn’t think it was possible. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the protein in the yoghurt? I really should research the ‘sciency’ stuff more…anyway, it’s there and it works a treat so why question it? The rosemary provides a subtle hint of its trademark flavour (don’t ask me to explain what that is exactly – it just is), and plump, juicy sultanas pepper the bread, however it’s not a fruit loaf. It certainly can be served sweet with a smear of honey or jam, albeit the bread’s slight saltiness also lends itself to savoury toppings such as cheese or a smidge of creamy butter.
Like all soda breads this loaf is best served the day it’s baked (which shouldn’t be a problem as the rosemary laced aroma will have everyone hovering near the oven.) If you don’t manage to finish it, simply pop in an airtight container and toast the following day. Alternatively, slice, bag and freeze. Easy-peasy.
A final ‘technical’ note – if you don’t have spelt flour at your disposal or want a lighter, less ‘nutty’ loaf, simply substitute with more plain flour. I’ve tried both ways, as well as with 100% spelt and this flour combination is my personal favourite, however all work absolutely fine!
If you’re yet to make a foray into the world of bread baking, this is as good a place as ever to start.
Rosemary & Sultana Soda Bread
Makes one small loaf.
125g plain flour
125g spelt flour
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
150ml natural yoghurt
Preheat oven to 200C. Line a small baking tray with baking paper.
Sift together the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl. Stir through the sultanas and chopped rosemary. Make a small well in the centre of the dry mixture.
In a small bowl whisk together the yoghurt and milk until no lumps remain. Tip into the well and use a butter knife to combine with the dry ingredients. ‘Chop’ and mix until the dough just comes together in a sticky-scone-like consistency.
Use a spatula to scrape the dough onto the centre of the baking sheet. Use floured hands to gently shape it into a fat log or circle. If it’s a little rough, that’s ok – you don’t want to over work the mixture. In this case ‘rustic’ is what we are aiming for!
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the loaf has risen and is golden brown on top. Insert a skewer to check that the middle has cooked through. If it comes out clean, then the bread is done.
Transfer the bread to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Best eaten slightly warm the day it is made. However, it also toasts well on the following day and freezes very well.
Source: Barely adapted from River Cottage.