I used to bake soda bread about once a fortnight but we did buy a lot of sliced pans. My hubby was partial to a slice of batch and while I didn’t always eat it, we’d buy about 2 loaves of bread a week. The boys would have sandwiches, and then there was toast with melted butter, which is of course the stuff that food dreams are made of.
I was playing around with Mam’s brown bread recipe (it’s very reliable and you can find it in my cookbook which can be ordered here) and came up with a version which literally takes 5 minutes to throw into a bowl, and stir with a fork, before lashing into the oven. You’ve probably read that and sworn a bit, or even decided not to read any further because you don’t believe me. Honestly, once the ingredients are in the bowl my easy-stir homemade brown bread takes 5 minutes to make. My hands don’t get dirty. I mess up 1 large bowl making it and then I use some baking parchment in the tin so I don’t even have loads of washing up. Here’s the video instructions, and you’ll find the recipe below.
Now, on alternate days I bake a loaf of bread. Often in the mornings before we head to school I’ll leave it cooling on a rack wrapped in a damp tea towel to soften the crust and make the bread cool slower (this stops cracking in the crust).
It meets the 5-year-old’s ‘wholesome’ requirements and I always have fresh bread in the house.
When it’s toasted and slicked with a little bit of butter and a drizzle of our own honey, I can’t really put into words the magic that is created just with a little bit of heat and love.
Sure I’ll probably buy a slice pan every now and again, but not as often as I used to. Overall the price of baking my own soda bread is similar to what you’d pay for a decent loaf of bread so it’s not really a cost consideration.
That feeling when I take a piping hot loaf of bread from the tin and the smell wafts through the house. It’s a feeling of wholesome goodness, of nurturing my family, of striving to do my best and succeeding a few times a week. No matter what’s going on in the house, I’m managing to make the bread and put it on the table. I can’t put a price on that.
If you’re interested in the recipe I’ll stick it below. If you’re looking for a more traditional Irish Brown Soda Recipe you’ll find it here. The recipe instructions are for cups and spoons, simply because I don’t pull out the weighing scales, and find it easier to keep a cup in each of my flour boxes, so I just scoop out what I need.
Homemade Brown Bread
- 2 cups of strong white flour (plain flour is fine too)
- 3 cups of coarse wholemeal flour
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (plus more for the topping)
- 2 tablespoons wheatgerm
- 2 tablespoons pinhead oatmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 1 teaspoon of salt (this is optional but helps preserve the bread for longer than 2 days)
- 2 medium eggs
- 300ml fresh buttermilk
Preheat a fan oven to 210 degrees Celsius. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper. You could either grease it well and dust liberally with white flour.
Take a large mixing bowl and place all the dried ingredients inside. These are the 2 flours, seeds, wheatgerm, oatmeal, baking soda and salt if you’re using it. Using a fork, mix the dried ingredients together until they’re combined.
Make a well in the centre of the dried ingredients and crack in the 2 eggs, pour in half the buttermilk. Using the fork, stir everything together until it starts to clump. Pour in the rest of the buttermilk and stir once more. You will end up with a very thick batter. It doesn’t look one bit like bread dough!
Pour the batter into the lined loaf tin. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and put the loaf tin into the hot oven.
Bake at 210 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 200 degrees Celsius after this time and bake for a further 45 minutes.
After this time, check the bread is cooked by inserting a skewer into the deepest part of the loaf. If it comes out dry and clean then the bread is baked. If not, return it to the oven for another 10 minutes before testing again.
Once the bread is cooked, take the tin out of the oven, and lift the bread from the tin carefully (it’s very hot). Wrap in a damp teatowel and place it on a cooling rack. This will soften the crust to make it easier to slice. If you prefer a crispy crust, turn off the oven and put the bread back onto the rack in the oven while it cools.
Once completely cold the bread will keep for 3 days in a bread bin, you can freeze it for up to 3 months if well wrapped. You can also slice the loaf, then freeze individual slices which will keep for up to 1 month. If cooking for one or two people I recommend this method of baking, slicing, then freezing.