Thursday, 4 July 2013

Soda Bread with Oats and Sunflower Seeds (Wheat Free)

Soda bread is ever so simple, and is the perfect bread for a beginner as it needs no yeast. This kind of bread recipe, known as a quick bread, relies on the very basic principle of acid + base = gas for leavening, and as this is an instant reaction it can be cooked straight after preparation. It has been a staple of Irish kitchens for many a year, and its stale crusts has teethed many an Irish country toddler.

However, as nice and easy as it is, it can be really boring if made with plain old flour (even if it is wholemeal, which is flavourful and complex), so to spice things up a bit it's nice to add seeds, herbs and spices, other grains, or even finely chopped nuts. My cousin visited recently and left behind a packet of sunflower seeds, which I found add such a delicious flavour, and bring life and colour to an otherwise visually boring.

Also, soda bread is traditionally made with buttermilk: the acidity of the buttermilk reacts with the bread soda causing lift, and it gives the bread richness. However, if you don't plan on making soda bread often, it would be impractical to keep buttermilk in he fridge, as it would go off before you used it all. If you want to make your own buttermilk, simply add 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) of lemon juice to every 8 fluid ounces (240 millilitres) of normal milk, stir and allow to rest for 10 minutes, stirring every little while.

Let's get onto the recipe itself.

This will yield one 8x4 inch (21x10 centimeter) loaf.

  • 1 pound (455 grammes) spelt flour, white or whole meal
  • 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) rolled oats
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) sunflower seeds 
  • 12 fluid ounces (340 millilitres) buttermilk
  • 2 or 3 fluid ounces (60 or 85 millilitres) water, if needed

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, Gas Mk.4, or moderate). Grease and flour a loaf tin.
  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, bread soda, salt, oats, and sunflower seeds until fully blended. Make a well in the middle.
  • Pour the buttermilk into the well, and using your hand (don't use any tools for this, soda bread needs a sensitive hand only) and gently mix together the wet and dry ingredients until just brought together. 
  • This mixture should not be like usual bread dough, or even like biscuit dough, it should be  sticky and make an absolute mess of your hand; imagine the texture of thick porridge. If you need to add the water to get the right consistency, add it an ounce (30 millilitres) at a time.
  • Pour into the tin and put into the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with one or two crumbs clinging to it, and the loaf sounds hollow underneath.
  • Once removed from the oven, wrap in a clean, damp tea towel.

Simple as that! Slice thick, slice thin, eat toasted, eat straight, with butter, jam peanut butter, whatever! This is perfect student food, as it is cheap, keeps well and freezes better. Store in an airtight container, and cut as needed to prolong the shelf-life.

Incidentally, the green bits are sunflower seeds, not mould, before you ask!

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