It was my very first visit to Dublin that I tasted soda bread. Thick with Irish butter and a generous spoonful of marmalade. I will never forget that perfect combination of soft wheaten bread with creamy butter and the perfect balance of sweet and sharp preserve.
I love the nuttiness of spelt flour and its lower gluten content seems to work perfectly with a softer ‘quick’ bread such as this Irish style soda loaf. Enjoy it warm from the oven and make the most of it on the day you bake as it is not improved by keeping.
For my recipe, which is perfect to serve alongside a lunchtime bowl of soup…
For one large loaf that makes four greedy portions or six if you are being frugal, you will need
225 g (8 oz) light spelt flour
225 g (8 oz) plain white spelt flour
Or use the same quantity of wholemeal flour and plain flour
1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
50 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
275 ml ( 1/2 pint ) buttermilk ( or 200 ml natural yoghurt and 75 ml milk )
To bake in the AGA – slide the grid shelf on the floor of the roasting oven and check the plain, cold shelf is ready for use. Slide this over the loaf when you begin baking.
Preheat conventional ovens to 190 C or Gas Mark 5
Sift all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, rub in the butter until it looks a little like breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk or yoghurt and milk. Mix together to form a sticky dough using a spatula.
Turn out on a floured surface and knead gently using a little extra wholemeal or spelt flour and shape into a round.
Transfer to a non stick baking sheet and cut into the shaped loaf to score either four quarters or six portions.
Rest the dough for five minutes and then bake for 30 – 40 minutes until it is golden brown and the underneath sounds hollow when tapped.
If baking in the AGA you may need to remove the plain, cold shelf for the last ten minutes of cooking.
After baking, remove the loaf from the tray and wrap it in a clean tea towel to trap the steam whilst it cools.
This loaf is usually best the day it is made but it also makes great AGA toast if you slice it thickly and brown the bread on the floor of the AGA roasting oven.
Add a handful of sultanas or your favourite dried fruit to the dough before mixing to make a fruit bread to serve with a pot of tea.
Add 50 g (2 oz) grated hard cheese and a few snipped chives to serve alongside a bowl of vegetable soup.