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Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Soda bread

I have written before on this blog about the fact that I am trying to avoid breakfast during the week.  I make a few Pret-a-Manger-based exceptions to this when I am either (a) a little hungover or (b) more tired than usual and feel a need to front-load the day with a sugar boost.  I'm a big fan of Pret's (nauseatingly titled) "Yoga bunny bowl", which is yoghurt and fruity/nutty bits; their porridge is also rather good, although I always find that the ratio of compote to porridge means that I can only manage half a tub.

I am acutely aware that I could easily make both of those things at home.  The shame.

Mr. F and I were regularly making the apple pancakes I posted about last year (the recipe for which can be found here) for weekend breakfasts.  I think we might have OD-ed on them though, because we have of late reverted to bread/egg combinations.  Mr. F is often heroic enough to make an early morning trip to Albion, a cafe and bakery located in the Boundary complex, a recent Conran addition to the London dining/hotel scene. 

Dinner on the roof terrace at Boundary.  That lobster's waving at you.

The bakery, which opens at 8am each day, makes truly excellent bread, cakes and pastries.  I had a croissant from there last weekend which got the balance between chewy interior and crisp exterior absolutely right.  Mr. F also brought home a cheesy Marmite swirl thing, the restorative quality of which to those who are feeling a little jaundiced cannot be overstated.  So give Albion a try.  The cafe is good too (although I note from the website that it calls itself a "caff".  It most definitely is not a caff - the interior is all cool milky colours, and there's elegant vintage cutlery and friendly waiters.).

I have started to make soda bread on days when Mr. F really can't be bothered to amble over to Albion .  The reward to effort ratio of making soda bread makes it a winner in my eyes - there's no proving to worry about, minimal kneading, and it bakes in the oven in about 30 minutes. You end up with a loaf that is dense, with an almost cake-like texture.  It's perfect with smoked salmon or trout, and with eggs, of course.

Makes one loaf

170g wholemeal flour (you can use wholemeal self-raising flour.  If you do, omit the baking powder)
170g plain flour
1/2 tspn of salt
1/2 tspn of bicarbonate of soda
2 tspn baking powder
290ml of buttermilk (or 175ml of plain youghurt let down with 115ml of milk or water)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Whisk dry ingredients together.  Add the buttermilk or yoghurt mixture.  The resulting mixture should be ever-so slightly sticky.  If it is too dry add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time.  Knead the dough lightly to ensure that it is smooth.  Shape it into a round and make a cross on top.  Scatter over some oats if you like.  Place on a floured baking tray and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes.  The loaf is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Allow it to cool a bit on a wire wrack.  Serve warm with lots of butter and a protein of your choice (bacon, smoked fish and eggs will all go really well, although having said that, this is delicious with butter and jam too).

Feel like a domestic goddess what with all your early-morning baking endeavours.


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