Bread and butter. Is there anything better? Well, add that lovely, little adjective ‘homemade’ at the start of those nouns and it becomes infinitely better!
Of course, the thought of hours of rising, proving and kneading may not suit everyone. Cue the Soda Bread. A quick bread originating from Ireland that requires no rising, proving or kneading but is instead a ‘chuck it all in the bowl and go’ kind of loaf. In fact, by the time you think, ‘We need some bread with breakfast/lunch/dinner’, and run down to the local bakery, your soda bread could be happily baking in the oven.
Naturally, as this is a quick bread there is no yeast involved. Instead, the combination of baking powder with acidic buttermilk does the trick and makes the bread puff up like nothing else during baking. This particular soda bread is made with wholemeal spelt flour, making it easier to digest, an important factor with a quick bread such as this.
What changed this loaf from being ‘delicious’ to ‘Oh my goodness I can’t stop eating this, Kristian, you’re going to have to hide it before I eat it all’, was the moment I paired it with homemade butter. Imagine taking your fresh bread out of the oven, breaking off a chunk, steam rising and aroma drifting throughout the room, then slathering on some freshly made butter and watching that creamy goodness melt in seconds. These are life’s precious moments, for sure!
Don’t freak out about making butter. It’s actually the easiest thing you will ever do. As I didn’t have the appropriate equipment and resorted to a hand mixer (my beloved KitchenAid is waiting for me in storage back home) my kitchen did get a good spattering of cream and butter, but by golly, the sweet result made the afternoon floor mopping worthwhile. It was the yellowest, sweetest butter we have ever eaten and is *highly* addictive!
The best part about making butter in partner with the soda bread is that the buttermilk that you are left with can be used in your bread. So you have no excuse, really. In order to get the required buttermilk for this recipe, you will need 700ml of double cream. This does yield quite a bit of butter. It will last for a few days in the fridge, but can also be divided into smaller portions and frozen. Then you can have homemade butter on your toast for ages!
700ml double cream (yields 230ml buttermilk)
Beat the cream (preferably using a stand mixer) until the sound changes and it separates into butter curds and watery buttermilk.
Gather the butter curds with your hands (or sieve them out over a large bowl) and squash them a little bit, squeezing out any excess buttermilk.
Place them into a cold bowl of water and squish the curds together under the water until you get a rough ball of butter.
Place it on a piece of greaseproof paper and wrap it up.
Butter will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. Or wrap tightly in cling film and freeze for several months.
Makes 1 loaf
300g wholemeal spelt flour
a big pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
230ml buttermilk (from your homemade butter, if desired)
extra flour for dusting
Preheat your oven to 230˚C. Place either a baking stone or large baking tray in the oven to heat up.
In a medium bowl, combine your dry ingredients and mix well.
Add the buttermilk and mix ingredients for about 2 minutes, making sure all the dry ingredients are well incorporated.
You should have a fairly sticky dough. Flour your work surface and tip the dough onto it. Shape it into a round and then place it directly onto your heated baking stone/baking tray.
Cut a deep cross into the dough using a sharp knife and then bake for 15-20 minutes.
You will know your bread is ready when it has a golden brown crust and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Allow it to cool ever so slightly and then cut it up and slather it with your homemade butter!
Adapted from Henry & Tom Herbert's The Fabulous Baker Brothers