If I were to name one of my absolute weaknesses. One thing I couldn’t live without… It would be bread.
It is in so many ways the essence of simplicity. It is often little more than flour and salt, but when done well, can be one of the most delicious foods. For me, a good loaf is one of the most satisfyingly things to make and eat. The smell of a baking loaf wafting from the oven is such a comfort. Whilst it cooks I await that moment when I pull apart the first bit, slather over some salted butter and eat it at its freshest.
So much of the time in the healthy food industry we are taught to think of it as a carby nemesis, or as little more than the squishy carrier for decadent fillings. This is such a shame because it is so much more. With good quality flour, a scattering of seeds, whether yeast leavened, or made simply from a little raising agent (as this one is) bread can be not only delicious, but also nutritious. Here I have used soley wholemeal spelt flour as the base for mine. High in fiber and easier to digest than its wheat relative, delicious paired with sunflower seeds, which I have added for additional texture and crunch.
Because soda bread is no made with yeast, it is a lot faster to make than most other loaves. So it is perfect for the busy, or non confidant cook! Being made with buttermilk and bicarb creates a wonderful, but rather crumbly texture, making it best for serving with soups and stews, or simply eating it fresh (as I do) slathered in your favourite spread. Salted butter and jam, maybe marmite and a few thin slices of cucumber or mashed avocado and sweet chilli sauce are all faves.
Super Seeded Soda Bread Recipe
If you want to mix it up, swap out the seeds and add 50g walnuts and 50g cranberries for a more festive jewelled loaf. Alternately a mixture of 75g mixed seeds and 25g rolled oats is also nice for a breakfast option.
Makes one loaf
- 500g wholemeal spelt flour
- 100g sunflower seeds, plus more for topping
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 500ml buttermilk (or 300ml plain yoghurt and 200ml milk)
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius, gas mark 6
Add the spelt flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda to a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk. Use a wooden spoon to begin the mixing, then it is best to use your hands, as it starts to come together into a dough.
Tip out the ball of dough on to a lightly floured work surface and knead to bring it together. You want to bring the mixture together but there is no knead for more than 5 minutes. This quick preparation time is what makes soda bread such a favourite of mine.
Smooth the round of dough so it looks even and then place it on a lightly floured baking sheet and dust generously with extra seeds and flour. Use a sharp knife to make a deep cross 2/3 rds of the way down the loaf. Put it in an oven to bake for 40-45 minutes. You know the loaf is cooked when the base sounds when you knock on it from underneath.
Leave the loaf to cool for 5-10 minutes on a wire rack and then it is ready to eat. Soda bread is best eaten fresh, ducked into soup, or simply spread with salty butter or mashed avocado. A loaf will last 2-3 days, if you keep it wrapped up in a tea towel.