The general consensus is that bread is difficult and fiddly to make – a task that only experienced bakers and professionals can master. This is a MYTH! Especially if you first try to tackle making soda bread, which is simple and absolutely delicious. You almost make it like a cake – no dry yeast, no proving, no kneading – you really can’t go wrong (unless you burn it, of course). Now, before you read the list of ingredients, I’ve got to point out two glaringly unusual inclusions, namely: Marmite and treacle, inspired by Adrian Chiles. Believe me, these two ingredients are what make this bread so spectacular and yummy, so don’t be fazed or tempted to be light-handed when it comes to the amount you choose to put into the mixture. If you use the quantities suggested, you won’t be disappointed! However, if you really can’t bring yourself to the idea of delving into this unlikely coupling of ingredients, I have provided alternatives of brown sugar and salt – it’s just not as good, ha!
Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Grease 1 x 900gm (2lb) non-stick loaf tin with sunflower oil, and line with a strip of greaseproof paper hanging over the sides – this makes it easy to lift the loaf out of the tin once baked.
- 175g wholemeal flour
- 175g plain flour
- 35g bran
- 25g wheatgerm
- 1 heaped tbsp treacle (or 25g brown sugar)
- 1 heaped tsp marmite (or 3/4 tsp salt)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 egg
- 500ml buttermilk
- Mixed seeds to sprinkle on top (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
Mix the flours together with the bran, wheatgerm, oatmeal, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. If you are using salt and sugar instead of treacle and marmite, put these in now.
Whisk the egg in a separate bowl and add the buttermilk, mixing them together.
If using treacle and marmite, melt them together very gently in a pan. This doesn’t take much time at all, so be careful not to overheat it.
Add the buttermilk and egg mixture, and the melted treacle and marmite, to the dry ingredients, mixing everything together with a large metal spoon or one hand. The dough is quite soft and sloppy.
Put the dough into the lined tin and level off with a palette knife. Sprinkle the mixed seeds over the top.
Bake in the oven on the lowest shelf, checking the colour after 40 minutes. As the bread needs to initially be cooked for around 50 minutes, you might want to cover the top with a piece of foil to prevent it from becoming too dark. The bread won’t sink like a cake does, so don’t worry about opening the oven door. After around 50 minutes, take the bread out of the oven, lift it out of the tin using the greaseproof paper, and put the bread back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes to dry out the bottom and until the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped. Again, you can put foil over the top of the bread to stop it from going too dark.
As this is a very moist (sorry, I used the M-word) loaf, there is flexibility with the timing. You don’t want the crust getting too dark, but you don’t want to under-bake the bread as it would be too sticky. So, really, foil is your best friend in the recipe.
Allow the bread to cool completely on a rack before eating, as otherwise it’s difficult to slice. It tastes amazingly by itself, with butter, as toast, with guacamole or jam. Enjoy!