Ahhh Bread! Why is there so much negative publicity around it? Is it not a staple food eaten by so many around the globe for over centuries? From a simple flat barley, corn-tortilla or roti bread, to an enriched Parisian delicacy such as croissants; it’s amazing how simple plain grains can be turned into these mouthwatering and irresistible inventions. Even people on a strict diet or ones with allergies are trying to re-invent something out of gluten-free grains/nuts/legumes to satisfy their craving and their need for bread. Why? Well, it’s simple, who doesn’t like bread? It’s easy convenient food, great for sandwiches, great for dipping and is an excellent food on the go. I love the look of it, and it’s inviting smell when freshly baked is something really hard to resist – with a good slathering of butter, admittedly, it’s my ultimate comfort food.
But! Not every bread is equal, and not every grain is equal, nor it should be consumed excessively. The problem is that bread has become so addictive and so readily available, that’s easy to understand why so many (including myself) fall off the wagon sometimes, and don’t know how much to consume? Not only that, most bread we know now is made of hybrid, possibly GM, distant relative of the ancient wheat that our ancestors used to consume. Strip the wheat off its natural outer-layer bran and minerals, add more gluten to it, then add tons of yeast, soya flour, preservative, anti-fungal agent, etc, and you’re left with something foreign that our poor digestive system finds hard to recognise. Eat that too often, then it will get under strain and possibly rebel against itself, causing wheat, gluten or yeast intolerance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting at anybody here, it’s just simply my personal experience that has taken me 10 years to discover. If you’re lucky enough to never have any problems with commercial bread and have the ability to eat just enough to satisfy your hunger, then you are very fortunate.
Since I started making my own bread at home (unfortunately my husband and children still don’t eat most of the ‘strange’ stuff, as they call it), I have come to have great respect for this staple food. I have invested in good quality ancient grain flours and find that I’m a lot happier eating and digesting yeast or yeast free bread I bake at home.
I can understand why so many people get put off by the lengthy process of kneading, proving, shaping and proving again; however, once it becomes part of your life, then it turns into an addictive a labour of love! Extremely satisfying and therapeutic in my case 🙂
One of my favourite breads is a traditional Irish soda bread made without yeast, using only bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk as a raising agent. The bicarbonate of soda instantly reacts with the acidity of the buttermilk creating CO2 bubbles, which frankly I find very exciting to watch! Soda bread takes about 40 minutes from start to finish, so its very much beginner friendly.
Spelt Soda Bread – Makes 1 large Loaf or 2 small ones
Note: I have tried making this bread with 100% wholemeal spelt and rye flours with great success, resulting in a bread that is slightly denser and nuttier in texture. The half-half mixture makes it lighter. You can also make it with 100% plain white flour too.
- 250 g/ 9 oz wholemeal spelt flour (or any other wholemeal)
- 250 g/ 9 oz white spelt flour (or plain unbleached flour)
- 1 heaped teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (or 4 teaspoons baking powder)
- 400 ml/ 16floz buttermilk ( or soured cream, slightly diluted yoghurt, crème fraiche, full-fat milk or any other milk of your choice make good alternative substitutions)
Preheat oven to 200°C/180° C fan assisted/400° F/ Gas Mark 6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Add the liquid to dry ingredients and roughly mix. Tip into a floured surface and bring the dough together into a neat ball. You don’t need to knead or mix it too much, just a minute or two is enough.
Place the dough onto the baking sheet. Gently flatten the ball with your hands and make the traditional cross scores on the bread, almost cutting it all the way down. Sprinkle with more wholemeal flour.
Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes until you get a nice golden crust and a hollow sounding loaf. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Soda bread is best eaten on day. Any leftover bread can be sliced and frozen up to a month in the freezer. Alternatively you can cut stale left-over bread into cubes and make excellent croutons for salads or soup toppings.