Adventures in Bread Making: Soda Bread

1 loaf homemade soda bread: ~ CAD $1.86
Standard store sliced white loafs: CAD $3 – $4


When I first started my quest for cheaper grocery bills, bread was one of the first places my mind turned. Not because we eat a lot of bread in my household, but because when we do eat bread we eat the fancier stuff. It’s pretty rare that we buy a standard loaf of sliced white bread – a pretty common purchase is a bag of Montreal style bagels (which even on the day old special one of our local grocery stores is $3 pre tax for 5), and on special occasions we’ll often grab an outrageously good loaf from the local Italian bakery. Truly, we are spoiled, and I’m not really interested in eating tasteless white slices in the name of economy. If it’s a choice between that, and no bread, I’d rather go without.

Luckily, there is another option.

Making bread from scratch

This is one of those things that terrifies me, even as a pretty competent baker. Bread seems like one of those things that separates the hobbyists from the serious bakers, y’know? But, undeterred in my new journey, I pulled down one of my favourite budget cookbooks – A Girl Called Jack – where I quickly found a recipe for soda bread (there’s also a version available online here although the recipe in the book makes a slightly more substantial loaf). It looked suspiciously simple. Four ingredients, entirely consisting of things I already had in my stock cupboard. What was the catch?

Turns out: there is no catch. This recipe is quite possibly magic.

I’ve made this loaf three times in the past week, and the only reason it’s been so many times is that I literally cannot stop eating it.

Some notes for the novice bread baker:

  1. The milk curdling mostly makes it look like there are bubbles and slight skin on top. As you begin to pour the milk you’ll notice the lumps within. This is all to the good and what you’re looking for. (Oh, and if you don’t have lemons on hand apparently you can also use vinegar to sour the milk…)
  2. If you add too much liquid: never fear – just add more flour in as you’re kneading. The recipe calls for you to “use your judgement” on what the dough consistency should be like, which is a little tough if you’re new to baking, but essentially if it’s sticking heavily too your hands you need more flour, if it’s failing to come together in a ball you need more liquid.
  3. Kneading dough. Still a bit of a mystery to me. My mum was trying to show me the fold and roll method, (similar to what’s going on here). This recipe calls for you to “lightly” knead the dough but I’m not really sure what that means. So far I’ve done it for a few minutes and it seems to be coming out ok, although maybe a little dense. More experimentation required.
  4. For my taste, this recipe requires salt.
  5. Jack suggests that the bread goes off really quickly (i.e.: is stale the next day). This hasn’t been my experience so far, and seems to be going strong one to two days after baking. I’m wrapping it in clingfilm and that seems to be doing the trick.

For those who care, it’s a bit hard to estimate calorie counts on this as it obviously depends how thickly you cut your slices. Working on the assumption that you might get 10 slices from a loaf, the info would be as follows:

Calories 151
Total Fat 1 g  2 %
Total Carbohydrate 169 g 56 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g 6 %
Sugars 2 g
Protein 5 g 10 %

I’m wondering next if this can be jazzed up at all – for example, could I just throw some seeds in there for extra flavour?

Making this bread has been a huge confidence boost for me, and I’m seriously excited about exploring the world of bread making. Sourdoughs may be a little off my radar for now, but I might be making a prooved and rising loaf in the not too distant future.

Are you a bread novice? A seasoned loaf maker? What are your favourite bread recipes, tips and tricks?

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