If my twitter feed is anything to go by roughly half the country could be found baking bread in the days immediately following the broadcast of week 3 of the Great British Bake Off. Now in our house there is a pretty clear delineation between the things I am responsible for making – cakes, biscuits, chilli, the bed – and the things Mr Normal Kitchen takes charge of – seafood risotto, cottage pie and bread.
I’ve made bread several times in the past but since meeting Mr NK this has definitely become something I leave in his domain. He loves doing it and has gradually perfected his technique with his usual grim, unswaying determination. I sort of miss making it a bit though because I’d like to grow my skills here in the same way as any other baking I do. After watching Bake Off this week I was again reminded that I have bread experimentation bursting to get out so I decided I was just going to do it. Mr NK was just going to have to deal with it!
I’ve never made a soda bread before and this seemed a great place to start. It’s quick, I already have all the ingredients ready to go, it’s new to me AND….. Mr NK has never made one! I pondered for a bit on what flavours to add and decided on one of my favourite combinations – balsamic onions and cheese. This was loosely what Alvin did, although with a different cheese (I just used cheddar as there’s always some in the fridge) and without the prosciutto. His got high praise from the big scary bear (Paul Hollywood) so I decided to follow his recipe.
The recipe comes together very quickly, especially once you’ve got the balsamic onions prep out of the way. I also made my own buttermilk with milk and lemon juice as I haven’t found it very easy to source in the past and this substitute seems to work perfectly well.
I was pretty speedy adding the buttermilk as the dough seemed quite dry and I should have been a little more patient here. I found bringing it together with a knife and with my hands gave very different results in terms of how things would combine and therefore the texture of the dough. I recommend just getting stuck in with your hands and making a decision on adding the final bit of liquid after this. I didn’t wait and got a very, very sticky dough. A bit of flour on the work surface made it ok to handle but I’m pretty sure it was slightly wetter than it should have been.
That said, it came out beautifully so maybe this was just right! We started slicing into it when it was still pretty warm from the oven and ate it soaked in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was heavenly. The flavours were very subtle in mine though so I’d definitely add more next time. Probably some garlic and perhaps fresh basil. A stronger cheese like Alvin’s. Oooh the options are so motivating.
The texture of the bread was wonderful. Very moist and I did actually wonder briefly if it was underbaked. I think this was just the effect of the cheese as the dough appeared to be cooked through and I got that nice hollow sound when I knock knocked on the bottom of the loaf. Next time I need to make sure that when I slash the top of the loaf I cut deeper and down the sides. This will help ensure it’s completely baked in the middle and give it more space to expand. Mine is fine but there’s room for improvement here.
I’d call my first foray into soda bread a success and definitely something I plan to do again soon. Hurray for finally baking bread J