A while back when I posted a recipe for cider bread a reader questioned why you'd bother with such things when you could be eating sourdough instead. It's a fair point, naturally leavened breads are by far my favourite when it comes to both texture and flavour, but there are also two very solid reasons why I like to keep soda bread in my baking repertoire.
The first and relatively obvious one is that, in a pinch, you can have a decent loaf on the table within the hour to satisfy any toast or soup-dipping needs when there's no sourdough establishment within reach and you refuse to eat anything that's not real bread.
The second and most relevant reason (to me at least), is that it's different. Sure, it doesn't have any of that classic crumb structure, and I'd almost go so far as to say it's more like a giant scone than a true bread, but there are just some days when that's exactly the thing that you're after.
Take, for instance, this lemon soda bread; a dense loaf dotted with soft, chewy oats and lightened by the fresh, citrus tang of lemon and delicate, sweet perfume of ground cardamom. It's a lovely start to the morning, freshly toasted and topped with vanilla mascarpone and warm fruit compote, or a great substitute for dumplings when the sharing of stew between friends is in order.
A warmly fragrant loaf, while it can comfortably go either way towards savoury or sweet this bread is particularly grand as breakfast, served with lashings of butter and marmalade, black coffee, something good to read and nowhere needing to be.
LEMON CARDAMOM SODA BREAD (Adapted from The Wednesday Chef)
- 210 g plain flour
- 210 g wholemeal flour
- 100 g rolled oats
- 8 g sea salt
- 13 g bicarbonate soda
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- a few sprigs of lemon thyme
- 70 g honey
- 420 g buttermilk
- zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients then add the leaves of lemon thyme. Whisk the honey, buttermilk and zest together in a separate bowl then add to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a floured surface, knead lightly to form a round loaf and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with oats and thyme, cut a shallow cross in the top of the loaf and then bake in an oven preheated to 190°C for around 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or toasted.