I have a policy and it’s a good one – when a bottle of anything comes knocking on my door, I let it in. And so it was last week when the folks from La Motte wine estate sent over two gorgeous ribbon-festooned bottles of their specialist jams from the La Motte farm shop for me to try. Strawberry, lemongrass and ginger? Sounds good. Kumquat and mulled wine? Even better. (Note to self: start making jam with wine.)
What with having a fashion-forward jam on hand, a slice of warm bread fresh out the oven seemed like a good idea. The 7-day-old, pre-sliced store bread I had in the fridge didn’t exactly have me salivating. The French verdigris-green mold I spotted on one slice was the clincher – I needed to make bread. Making bread is obviously way less effort than driving to the shops. No, really, it is – IF you don’t muck around with yeast.
Now there are few things I consider finer than yeast. It’s responsible for wine after all. And for some of the most delicious carb-fests man has ever thought up – from ciabatta, to croissants, baguette to brioche. But yeast, like so may fine things in life, needs time. Enter soda bread. The Irish lay claim to it – as in Irish Soda Bread – but it’s been made all over the world in various forms for yonks. What is it? Bread made with bicarbonate of soda (the raising agent) and some sort of acid, mostly buttermilk, to activate the bicarb. Yoghurt will also do, even milk if you also add cream of tartar.
Made from scratch, soda bread is ready for you to tuck into in under and hour. Of course with there being no yeast, no proving and no strong gluten development through kneading, soda bread is very different from other breads. It has a light crumbly texture, not dissimilar to scones. It really is best straight out of the oven. Cut it into thick slices and slather is with indecent amounts of salted butter that will make your GP frown. If you keep it ‘til the next day, it’s best to toast it.
Being scone-like in texture, I love it for breakfast and prefer my soda bread toast with a sweet topping. Think bananas caramelised in butter and a dash of maple syrup, topped with just a touch of crème fraîche. Or give your soda bread toast a generous dollop of sweetened vanilla mascarpone and tumble over a huge spoonful of glistening macerated strawberries. Now we’re talking. Soda bread – so easy my cat can make it.