Subtly Sweet Sultana Soda Bread

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Phew! After a week of half term, then the week following containing two unexpected snow days off school, I haven’t touched the website for about three weeks, although I’ve been doing plenty of Instagram and keeping up my Facebook page. I’ve actually started posting quite a lot of simple, light meals on my Instagram stories, mainly on a Tuesday, using the hashtag #tastytuesday so if you’re looking for some meal inspiration on a Tuesday, check out my Instagram! I’ve also been really enjoying connecting with fellow foodies on Instagram and I’ve been trying to save lots of other bloggers’ recipes, particularly healthy treats, to try out. There are some incredibly inspiring and imaginative people out there, and when you’re a blogger, your audience tends to comprise a lot of people you haven’t actually met. I remember when I was at art school and we frequently had crits of one another’s work. It was a fantastic forum in which to bounce ideas around and be inspired, or to look at things from a different perspective: to view one’s own work through another’s eyes. When you are a blogger it’s like that too, except it’s online rather than in real life.

So if you are visiting from Instagram or Facebook after seeing one of my posts and linking here, thank you so much and a big welcome! The website is very much a work in progress. There’s so much I still need to do, pages which aren’t yet fully populated, and so many tutorials and videos I want to post. When you’re a full-time mum, for some reason, even when the children are at school from 9am ‘til 3.15pm, there still isn’t time to fit everything in.

I suppose that’s a pretty appropriate, if unintentional, segue into this recipe… I frequently make a big loaf of bread for lunch on a Saturday; it’s a highlight of my weekend, preparing the dough, placing it in the airing cupboard to prove, manipulating it into whatever shape I want it to be, then finally baking it, taking it out of the oven and putting it straight on the table with just butter to slather it with. My family of four take great pleasure from this very simple, almost primitive, meal. Bread has been at the centre of the meal for millennia, records of it being shared between people in Bible times abound, and in every culture it is a staple food. To eat bread with somebody is significant, a representation of friendship and love. To bake bread for somebody is a show of generosity and an invitation to them to join in sharing the comfort which comes from that loaf. My boys immensely enjoy the little ritual of being handed their slices then buttering them themselves; seeing how much is left for everyone to have another helping; saving the crust for last and chewing it until their jaws ache because they put too much in their mouths.

But sometimes there are jobs to do and things happen and the other week I forgot we might like to eat bread for lunch (that sentence is reminiscent of a line from Mog the Forgetful Cat!). Around 11.30am on a Saturday I realised I hadn’t even thought about lunch and it was nearly upon us. A very unusual occurrence since I am always thinking about the next meal!  I think we were engrossed in decorating… I thought quickly and looked up some soda bread recipes, but I wasn’t entirely happy with any of them. I considered what I would like the ingredients to be, that it would be nice to have something with a sweet and also nourishing element, and this is what I came up with. We were all delighted because it was absolutely perfect: perfect texture, not too dense as soda bread has a tendency to be, and generally delightful in every way. Even my husband, who is the self-styled house bread critic, really enjoyed this bread, and we shall certainly be enjoying it here many more times! I’ll also show you a brilliant trick for making your own buttermilk so you don’t need to worry about buying it. All you need is milk and a lemon… Enjoy the recipe!

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g wholewheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 40g butter, chopped into cubes
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 50g sultanas
  • 50g mixed seeds with goji berries

For the homemade buttermilk

  • 250ml milk
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C fan and flour a large baking sheet.

Make the buttermilk by pouring the milk into a jug and adding the lemon juice. Stir briefly then set aside.

Meanwhile, put the plain flour in a large bowl and sift the wholewheat flour over the top, adding the bran at the end. Stir together then add the salt and bicarb, stirring again to mix well.

Add the cubed butter and rub fully into the flour with your fingertips.

Add the seeds and sultanas and stir in.

Make a shallow well in the centre and add the honey, followed by most of the buttermilk, but leave about 50ml in the jug.

Using a wooden spoon, mix the flour into the buttermilk, incorporating it from the sides of the bowl, until a soft dough forms. If you need to, slowly add more milk but don’t make the dough too wet.  

Once the dough has formed, put it on a floured surface and divide into four. Shape each quarter into a round then flatten a little before putting on the prepared baking sheet.

Press a cross about 1” deep into the top of each roll using the handle of a wooden spoon.

Bake for 18 minutes in the pre-heated oven.

Butter and enjoy!

To make a simple loaf rather than rolls, place the dough on the floured surface and form into a round, flattening a little, and using a wooden spoon handle to create the cross in the top, as with the rolls. Bake for about 30 minutes.

A note on flour: wholewheat flour will also be called wholemeal plain flour; I tend to use Allinson’s wholemeal plain as I can easily buy it in the supermarket, but a lovely artisan flour from a farm shop would be perfect.

I love this recipe! It contains the perfect amount of sweetness, yet it is very subtle, and the seeds and goji berries, and wholewheat flour are a fantastic source of nutrients for the body. In fact, homemade bread is an excellent source of carbohydrates and slow release energy if wholewheat flour is used. It’s only when one consumes too much, as with anything, that something good can have an adverse effect. I also love that it’s possible to make buttermilk so easily, with items everyone has in their kitchen. Before I knew of this trick, I used to have to go out to buy buttermilk. No longer!

I do hope you love it too and can share the experience of enjoying the simplest form of made food – bread – with your family and create your own memories around it.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read, especially if you’ve got all the way to here. Your time is so valuable and I greatly appreciate it.

 

Xxx Sam

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