Meal Type: Breakfast, Accompaniment
Cook time: 40 mins
Servings: One large loaf
I love to make soda bread – it is quick and easy with no proving or kneading required. This fruity, lightly spiced version is sometimes known as ‘spotted dog’ in Ireland. It is delicious freshly baked and spread with butter or toasted on subsequent days for a special breakfast with a little marmalade if liked.
The inclusion of egg may not be traditional but gives a slightly softer crumb and more ‘cakey’ texture. Leave it out though if preferred!
- 500g/1lb. 1 oz. plain flour (use 50% wholemeal if wished)
- 1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. mixed spice
- 50g/2 oz. cold butter, diced
- 2 tbsp. caster sugar
- 150g/5 oz. mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, chopped dates, dried cranberries etc..)
- 300-450ml./10.5-15 fl. oz. buttermilk (see notes for substitutions)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and mixed spice into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you can barely feel it. Add the sugar and dried fruit and stir to combine.
2. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in 300ml. of the buttermilk, along with the beaten egg. Mix together with a spoon or your hands until the dough comes together, adding a little more buttermilk if necessary (or a little more flour if too sticky). Once the dough holds its shape, bring together with your hands, place onto lined baking tray and shape into a rough circle.
3. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the top of the dough. Using the cocktail stick, pierce each quarter a couple of times.
4. Slide the tin onto the bottom runners of the roasting oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Halfway through baking time, rotate the loaf to ensure an even bake. The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped underneath.
5. Cool on a wire rack, covering with a clean damp tea towel to prevent the crust becoming too hard.
Aga range cooker tips and notes:
• The roasting oven is hottest at the back and on the left hand side. Always rotate bakes halfway through cooking time to ensure even bronzing!
• The quantity of buttermilk required will depend on the flour used. Wholemeal flour is more ‘thirsty’ than plain white, for example.
• If you don’t have buttermilk, use milk soured with two teaspoons of lemon juice. Leave for five minutes until curdled. The acidity of the lemon juice reacts with the bicarbonate of soda to cause the bread to rise.
• For a dairy-free or vegan version, use vegetarian suet in place of butter and non-dairy milk soured with two teaspoons of lemon juice in place of the buttermilk. Omit the egg.
• Soda bread does not keep very well so enjoy whilst fresh. On days two and three, it toasts very well. It also freezes well – I usually cut a large loaf like this in half and freeze half for another occasion.