Thursday, 1 March 2012

Handmade Bread In Less Than An Hour

Have you become acquainted with buttermilk as a useful cooking ingredient yet? In England, it is still quite difficult to find buttermilk in some supermarkets. The sort that you will find is cultured buttermilk - not the byproduct of butter making (as was produced when I made some butter myself just this week) - but manufactured by adding lactic cultures to cow's milk. Either way, buttermilk has a pleasantly clean, tangy flavour and is a wonderful leavener to add lightness to baked products.

I like to add it to mayonnaise dressings to lighten them and add an extra depth to the flavour which all the family seems to appreciate, and I also use it in many of the foodstuffs that I bake, especially pancakes and scones (biscuits). I also use it in this wonderfully easy bread recipe, which I'm going to share with you today.

This is such a simple loaf to make, and extremely speedy too. You can have it baked and ready to eat, warm from the oven, from scratch in about 45 minutes! There is no kneading required, and because there is no yeast, no rising either, so it is a really useful recipe to have as a standby if you suddenly find yourself without any bread and need some in a hurry. The original recipe can be found here but I will repeat it again for you if you prefer not to navigate away halfway through reading! I've added a couple of tweaks which are in the recipe below, based on what I've learned from baking this before.

Start off by turning on your oven to 220 C (425 F or Gas Mark 8). Grease a 2 lb loaf tin.

You need ...

8 oz (about 2 cups) wholegrain flour
8 oz all purpose flour (I use all wholegrain usually - i.e. 4 cups).
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (I use golden caster sugar)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (not baking soda)
350 mls buttermilk (I use 400 mls as this is 2 whole cartons).

Put the flour, salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda in a very large bowl.

Add the buttermilk and draw together with a fork. It will be quite wet (but not liquid). If it is too wet, add more flour, a little at a time, until it is dry enough to draw into a ball with the fork. If it is too dry, loosen with a little milk.

The original recipe tells you to knead the dough but I never bother to do this as it saves time (and sticky hands!) and I honestly don't find it necessary - the buttermilk will make it light without you having to do anything! If you do want to knead, do so very briefly without removing from the bowl and work quickly so that the bicarbonate of soda is still active when you put the dough into the oven. Just work the dough long enough to shape into a loose ball.

As I say, I don't knead. I just turn the dough straight from the bowl to the loaf tin, where it gets a quick sprinkle of mixed seeds before I put it right into the oven on the middle shelf . In our fan assisted oven it takes exactly 25 minutes to bake this loaf to perfection.

The buttermilk helps to give it a beautifully light and tender texture, not at all as you might expect. It's described as "soda bread" but in my experience (one of my grandmothers was Irish) this is not traditional soda bread - which whenever I have eaten it, has been made with white flour and more sugar, so that it is almost cakey, rather than bread like. Soda bread is also lovely though, as are soda farls - I'll share the recipe for them another time.

If you've never had a go at making bread, why not try this delicious loaf? It's so easy to make, and so satisfying when you take it out of the oven. We ate it warm with the last of my home made butter. Yum!