I have written many times about the therapeutic nature of baking bread with my bare hands – the pounding, pummelling and stretching that kneading requires is an excellent workout for nervous energy, both mental and physical, as is the slow rise and the soft yeasty scent that permeates my home as the dough starts to rise. But sometimes there isn’t time, or energy, or there’s a soup on the back burner and I want something a little more instantaneous. Soda bread is a brilliant standby for these occasions, with no kneading nor rising time, it’s as close to instant gratification as breadmaking gets. This half-and-half version is a compromise between the goodness of wholemeal and the deliciousness of white bread; you can adjust the flours to suit your personal tastes or storecupboard, as long as they add up to 400g. Wholemeal is a little thirstier than white flour, as the husks absorb a considerable amount of liquid, so adjust your liquid quantities as required.
Measure your milk into a jug and add the lemon juice or vinegar. Stand it to one side for a moment to start to curdle.
Weigh the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt. Stir through briskly to evenly distribute the bicarb; this helps for an even rise and stops it congregating in a little bitter pile somewhere – which is deeply unpleasant to bite into!
Make a well in the centre – like a shallow wide hole – and pour the curdling milk into it. Mix well to form a thick sticky batter, not a pliable dough – not for this recipe.
Lightly grease and flour a
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 30 minutes before removing – the residual heat will continue to cook the centre a little more, and if you remove it too early, it could crumble, which would be a delicious shame.
© Jack Monroe, 2020