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Soda Bread

Jul 16, 2020 5-minute read

Every time I make this bread for someone new they ask for the recipe, and I always forget to send it, so from now on it’s right here.

This is the quickest, easiest bread you’ll ever make. Once you’ve done it a few times you’ll never have to refer to this again. Seriously, I’ve made this bread in less than 5 minutes. No measuring required. You can totally wing it and it’s almost always great. It’s extremely forgiving, so you can vary pretty much everything in this recipe and be OK. It only really has three vital ingredients: flour, bicarb, some acidic liquid. If you are missing anything else, you can just leave it out. If you want to make it bigger or smaller just alter everything proportionally and bake it for a little longer/shorter.

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Core ingredients

I don’t bother measuring anything when I make this, but I did it for this one. If you don’t have them, you could leave any of these out except the flour, bicarb and an acidic liquid.

450g Flour - I usually use a 50:50 mix of wholemeal and plain. I have used 100% one or the other when I am out of one, and basically any other flour could be used.

50g Oats - I use whole rolled oats, rather than finer porridge oats, but they work too. Tesco organic whole oats is what I generally buy.

1 - 1.5 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda or Baking Soda - NOT baking powder.

1 - 1.5 tsp Salt - I use coarse kosher or sea salt. Use about half that if it is fine table salt.

1 - 2 tbsp Honey - to counteract the bicarb and acidic liquid which are both bitter. You can also use treacle or golden syrup.

Mix all these together.

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Other Stuff

Also add whatever else you want (or nothing else at all, it’s still delicious). Here I’m using sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and cheddar cheese. You can add just about anything - nuts, seeds, cheese, sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, olives, herbs, dried fruit (apricots and dates are amazing in it). Only thing I’ve ever tried that didn’t really work was feta cheese - the bread was fine, but the cheese just dried out into big empty holes.

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Liquid - around 300-400 ml

Bicarbonate of soda is alkaline, so you need something acidic to react with it. That’s the rising agent. I usually use sour milk. If I don’t have actual sour milk I make some by adding a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to some regular whole milk. Add and stir it until it looks a bit grainy and curdled, like this:

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You can also use buttermilk, and sometimes I use greek or natural yoghurt, or some combination of all of the above.

Get a strong wooden spoon (seriously, thin ones will snap) and start to mix in the liquid. Start with maybe half of it, then add it bit by bit. It’s easy to add too much, and you may not need it all - for this I had about 100ml left over. It will be hard to stir and really sticky. Keep mixing and adding liquid bit by bit until no dry flour remains. The dough should look wet and sticky but stand up on its own and not sink down or flow. If it does, you’ve added a bit too much liquid, so add more flour. If it’s still dry and you’ve run out of the liquid just add a little more milk or some water.

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For baking I use a cast-iron skillet, but you can put it on a regular baking tray or oven proof dish. Scrape it out of the bowl then shape it to roughly round. If you want to use your hands, wet them a little first or it will stick like crazy. Make a big cross in the top (wetting the knife helps).

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It should stay upright and not start to sink down, and look quite spiky and rough. Don’t worry if it doesn’t, you can still bake it and it will be fine, if a bit flatter. As I said, all of this is very forgiving.


This is based on my oven, which does not have a fan. I have it at 180C, but you might have to experiment - probably reduce a little it for a fan oven. Put in bottom or middle of the oven. Bake for 40 mins then check it. It should be getting dark brown. If it is getting too dark on the spiky parts your oven is probably too high. When it’s done it should sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom and have a bit of give when you poke the top, but not too much. Give it another 5-10mins if you think it needs it. For me, one this size usually ends up being in for 45 mins or so.

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Put on a rack or board and let cool. You can probably start eating it after 15mins or so, if you can wait that long.

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It’s best fresh with butter, jam, humous or just on its own. Keeps fine for a few days in a plastic bag (otherwise it dries out a bit), and is amazing toasted for several days after being made. You can also slice and freeze it.

If you end up making it let me know how it goes!