Soda bread gets the rise from baking soda (a kind of salt, also known as bicarbonate of soda (UK), sodium bicarbonate, or 蘇打粉[苏] sū dá fěn, in both the US and the UK the name is shortened to the hideous abbreviation ‘bicarb’)*. The baking soda reacts with the lactic acid in yogurt or buttermilk to create carbon dioxide – making the ‘bubbles’ in the bread.
You can use any flour, from plain, to wholemeal, oatmeal, rye, whatever. It can be sweet or savoury, you can add nuts, cocoa, again it’s very versatile.
Plain flour, 500g
Baking soda (US), bicarbonate of soda (UK), 2 tsp
Sea salt, fine, 1 tsp
Yogurt or buttermilk, 400ml
Milk, a little if necessary
- Sift the flour and baking soda into a bowl, add the salt, stir. Make a well in the middle, pour in the yogurt (or buttermilk), stirring all the time. If too dry, add a splash of milk. It should form a soft play dough, not quite sticky.
- Tip onto a lightly floured surface. Kneed (for about 1 minute) into a ball, don’t leave it to rise – you need to put it in the oven while the soda and yogurt is still reacting.
- Place on a sheet, cut a cross in the top, put in a preheated 200 C oven for 45 minutes until it’s hollow when tapped underneath.
- When done, cool on a rack for a crunchy crust or wrap in a towel for a soft crust. Best eaten warm with melted butter and / or jam. If any left over, it’s best toasted.
Source: River Cottage
*Note that ‘sodium bicarbonate’ is an obsolete scientific name, the proper modern chemical name is ‘sodium hydrogen carbonate.’