YEAST FREE SODA LOAF
The original idea for these recipes came from Nigel Slater, the inspirational cook, writer and food columnist. He still calls himself ‘an amateur cook’ which I think is lovely considering his amazing talent. I never cease to be amazed at the ideas he comes up with and how interesting he makes his recipes which are all about super simple home cooking with wonderful ingredients, nearly all of them affordable, available and generally very healthy. Unfussy. Food for sharing. Best of all, no prima donna chef stuff, not in his cooking programmes, or in his books. Magic.
I urge you to go to www.nigelslater.com and be inspired.
Here is his basic recipe for soda bread with my husband Richard’s additions of olives and sun-dried tomatoes for the savoury version and apricots, sultanas and walnuts for the sweet one. We think that the olive and sundried tomato option is great served with cheese (but of course avoid cheese with bread if you are food combining). This savoury bread is also a wonderful accompaniment to salads and soup, and delicious eaten by itself just drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. The dried fruit loaf reminds us of the old fashioned 'tea bread' that we both knew as children. Just cut a slice and spread with unsalted butter (yes, butter!). Or make toast and do the same.
Because this bread has no yeast, it's far closer in texture and won’t rise like an ordinary loaf. But it’s extremely filling and satisfying and one or two slices small slices are enough to sate the appetite.
The quantities given here make a medium-sized loaf. Cooking time is 25-35 minutes.
Ingredients and method are in the right hand column
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225g / 8 oz spelt flour plus
225g / 8 oz mix of any of these alternative flours: oat, soya, cornmeal, almond, coconut or buckwheat.
(If you are happy to use ordinary wheat flour then mix 225g of wholemeal with 225g of plain flour)
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda or baking powder
½ level teaspoon of ground sea salt
1 level teaspoon of caster sugar
350ml / just under 12 fluid ounces of buttermilk
If buttermilk is not available, we use a pot of kefir or plain live yoghurt made up to 350ml with unsweetened, calcium-enriched soya milk. If you’re not keen on the sharper natural taste of soda bread, this is a good option as it makes the loaf ‘smoother’ tasting, less tart.
For the Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato version:
150gm (a generous 5 oz) net weight of black olives, sliced in half
75 gm (2.5 oz) of chopped sun dried tomatoes (buy them in olive oil)
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and, if available, fresh rosemary leaves.
For the Apricot and Sultana Sweet Soda bread:
150gm (a generous 5 oz) of sultanas
75 gm (2.5oz) of dried apricots chopped into sultana size pieces75 gm (2.5oz) chopped walnuts (optional)
Notes before you begin:
1. The bicarbonate of soda/baking powder (which is what makes the loaf rise in the absence of yeast) will work as soon as it comes into contact with the yoghurt or buttermilk. The effect is short-lived so, once the ingredients are all combined, it’s important to shape the loaf quickly and get it pronto into the oven.
2. Your oven temperature needs to be 220C (gas mark 8).
3. The dish in which you cook the bread needs to go into that oven to be heated through before the bread mixture is added to it. Nigel Slater recommends a large pot with a lid such as a cast iron cooking pot or heat-proof glass casserole dish. We usually use a 7" (17½cm) round, enamelled casserole dish with a lid but sometimes choose an oblong oven proof dish (25cm x15cm) which makes for easier slicing. In the absence of a lid, you can cover the loaf with cooking foil but the top won't brown as well as it does if you use a lid. To stop the bread mixture sticking to the dish, dust the inside of the dish lightly with flour before adding the dough - but don't forget while you are doing this that the dish will be very hot.
4. This recipe does not have the keeping qualities of a regular loaf because it’s free from artificial additives. A plain loaf will keep for a few days but adding dried fruit or olives and sun-dried tomatoes extends the life. We find that ours lasts well for anything up to a week and even if the final few slices are drier from the keeping, then they still make great toast.
Using your fingers, mix the flour, sugar, sea salt and bicarb (or baking powder) together in a large bowl. Add the liquid and, working really quickly, bring the dough together. This can be a sticky business so if you find yourself getting glued to the mixture, add a little more flour and you’ll soon become ‘unstuck’.
If you’re making Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato bread: Before adding the liquid to the dry contents, add the black olives and chopped sun dried tomatoes. If your tomatoes came in a jar with oil, dry some of the oil off with kitchen paper before mixing them into the dough. When the dough is placed into the hot baking dish, drizzle the top with olive oil, smooth over the surface with the back of a spoon and sprinkle with fresh rosemary leaves.
For the Apricot and Sultana Sweet Soda Loaf: Before adding the liquid to the dry contents, add the sultanas and chopped dried apricots - and the walnuts if liked, although of course these would not be suitable for anyone with a nut allergy.
Use an oven glove or other suitable protection to take the hot container out of the oven (PLEASE don’t forget it will be very hot now). For both the sweet and savoury versions, you will need to dust the inside of the bowl or dish with a sprinkling of flour before adding the mixture. Then very gently tip the dough into your dish. Either cover with a lid or with foil and then put into the oven.
The bread should be ready in around half an hour (25-35 minutes depending on the oven). When it’s cooked, leave it to rest for 5 minutes before turning it out of the dish. Like all hot bread, it can be indigestible for some people if eaten straight away so it’s best left to cool.