The no knead spelt bread that I mentioned last week was finally finished today. It was eaten for four days by me and Danny joined me for the last two days. So with six breakfasts and lunches the loaf achieved a good innings. I sliced it ultra fine (3mm) as this loaf could be aptly described as condensed bread.
The bag containing my packed lunch was easily slipped into a back pocket rather than filling a chunky lunch box. These slimline sandwiches were far more satisfying than their chubby forbears. And there was no yearning to lift the lid of someone else’s biscuit tin mid afternoon. Pamela has since written to tell me that she tried leaving the spelt loaf to rise naturally, it doesn’t take long – her loaf was going great guns after half an hour. So I’m going to try that method next time.
Although it tasted good and lasted well it had very little hanger appeal. It reminded me of a paler version of the rye bread that my mum used to buy in cellophane packs when we were growing up. Dense and nutty, but without the rye sourness. Great as an occasional treat but not as a staple for every meal.
This evening I examined The Daily Telegraph recipe for spelt soda bread and decided to play with the idea of using spelt flour in a soda bread recipe. The Telegraph recipe used all spelt flour and I reckoned that this would produce a very heavy loaf. Irish brown soda bread, always referred to as ‘brown bread’ in Ireland, uses a mix of white and brown flour.
I also had a brief look at Myrtle Allen’s The Ballymaloe Cookbook where she chats about her initial difficulty of producing really good soda bread when she first got married. She mentions that adding cream of tartar to a soda bread recipe had spectacular results. She suggests a 100:50 bicarbonate of soda/cream of tartar ratio (one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to half a teaspoon of cream of tartar). With the bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and a large egg, I hoped that my loaf would rise well. With the Irish contingent of our family tucked away down in Reading for the night, I had no one looking over my shoulder.
When the loaf was lifted from the oven I was sad that Danny was dining elsewhere. The loaf had risen well. It had a good crisp crust, crunchier than the traditional brown soda bread one. The bread inside was soft with a good texture and flavour. The bread was a triumph - much better than my traditional brown soda bread that we’ve enjoyed until now.
I’m keen to test the Daily Telegraph’s idea of supplementing buttermilk with milk and lemon juice or wine vinegar. Buttermilk is quite pricey unless you are making your own butter when it’s a natural by product of the process.
As Danny cut a second slice of my white soda bread he announced that adding an egg and a handful of medium oatmeal to a white loaf was a bit wild as these are traditionally just added to the brown version in Ireland. I was amazed until I remembered that soda breadmaking is taken very seriously indeed over the water. It is here too but I have the freedom to dive in and experiement. Despite bucking tradition we both loved my whiite soda bread and have used an egg in our soda bread mixture ever since. I think that this may be the secret to our recent success with soda bread. Perhaps this helps it keep better too as it’s still edible on the third day.
So here’s my recipe for Spelt soda bread. Much lighter than the no knead spelt loaf. Delicious sampled warm from the oven, spread with Guernsey butter. Hopefully, a tasty companion for breakfast and lunch over the next few days. It keeps best wrapped in a tea towel in a cool part of the kitchen.
Quick and delicious spelt soda bread recipe
- 280g of stone ground spelt flour
- 280g of plain white flour
- 1 rounded tsp of bicarbonate of soda
- 1 rounded tsp of salt
- Half a rounded tsp of cream of tartar
- 1 large egg
- 400ml of buttermilk and milk mix (I used a commercially produced one – 284ml and topped it up with semi skimmed milk)
Preheat your oven to 230c (200c fan)
- Put the flour into a large bowl and mix well. Sift in the soda, cream of tartar and salt. Mix very well.
- Pour your buttermilk and milk into a measuring jug. Crack the egg into the mixture and beat well.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour. Pour in the milk and egg mixture and quickly draw in the flour to make a soft dough. Don’t linger over the dough, speed is of the essence.
- Remove to a well floured baking sheet and form the dough into a flat ball about 2” high. Cut a cross on the top. Put in the centre of your preheated oven for twenty minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 200c (180c fan) for a further 25-30 minutes. If it sounds hollow when you knock the base it is ready.
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