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I love The Great British Bake Off (who doesn’t?). So I was very excited to be one of the production guests in this week’s An Extra Slice. Week three is bread week, so I had to bake a loaf – not just a normal one, one good enough to be on TV!

Despite the pressure, however, this girl is not for novelty shapes and bright colours, no matter what. I went for simple, elegant rosemary soda bread, decorated with a sunflower carving.

Soda bread is a quick bread. Unlike other types of bread, it does not include yeast and does not need proving. It does not need kneading either; in fact, kneading can make the final loaf quite heavy, so try handling it as little as possible. Without yeast and without proving, soda bread rises in the oven, thanks to the reaction between bicarbonate of soda (which is alkaline) and buttermilk (which is acidic).

The traditional deep cuts help the heat to get to the middle and the loaf to bake evenly. Carving a stylised flower shape on the top, rather than the usual cross, is a way to make the final result prettier and more personal.

As a homage to The Great British Bake Off, this recipe is based on Paul Hollywood’s. This version includes rosemary, but you can try other flavours (mint, feta cheese and beetroot is Ben’s favourite).

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Ingredients (for one loaf)

400ml buttermilk
250g wholemeal flour
250g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
20g fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt

How to make it

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 ºC. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Mix 250g wholemeal flour, 250g plain white flour, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add 20g fresh rosemary, finely chopped, and mix again.
  3. Stir in 400ml buttermilk to form a sticky dough. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it quickly into a loaf. Do not knead it, or the bread will be heavy.
  4. Put the dough on the baking tray. With deep cuts through the dough, carve a flower or your favourite shape on the top. Dust with a little white plain flour.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf is cooked through – it should be golden and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Leave it to cool on a wire rack.


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