Sunday, 16 January 2011

Katie's Spelt Soda Bread

...just back from Ireland, and amongst the tips I picked up on an isle far from famed for its culinary talents, was a lovely Spelt Soda Bread.  Nestled in Ballybeg at the foot of the Wicklow Hills, gazing out over the valleys we sat at the kitchen table in Katie's cottage, over cups of tea and slices of this soda bread, women rhythming out myriad thoughts, echoes of the matrilineacy into whose heritage we were bid.

I am not convinced I can recreate this in Norfolk.  But the recipe is as follows:

2 cups Wholemeal Spelt Flour
1 cup White Spelt Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 Egg
1 pt Milk

Mix the Flours.  (by a "cup"  I literally mean a small porcelain teacup, the sort you might find on show on a dresser in an Irish kitchen).  Sift the Bicarb into the Flour and combine.  Beat the Egg and add this followed by the Milk***.  Stir really well until thoroughly combined.  Add a handful of Seeds of your choice.  Pour into an oiled and floured loaf tin.  Bake for 45 minutes at 180C.  A knife should come out clean.

***On later recreations of thie bread, I have found 1 pint is too much milk.  Therefore, slowly add milk until you reach a good consistency (think cake mixture).  Likely no more than 3/4 pint.

This is a cakey bread, much like the cornbread (see previous blog).  The mixture should be very sloppy as the Spelt absorbs a lot, and the bread can be dense.  Spelt is an ancient grain, now readily available, with a lovely nutty flavour.  I tried this recipe with 3 cups of wholemeal spelt flour and sprinkled seeds on the top before baking, worked very well - see pic.  Although, I think on another occasion I would add a teaspoon of salt, this might alter the rising and baking - tbc.  Katie has replaced traditional Buttermilk with normal Milk, this increases the fat content and probably makes the bread rather more enticing.  (Buttermilk, a common ingredient in Ireland, is the liquid remaining once the milk has been churned into butter.)  The advantages to the bread, besides being utterly delicious, are that it does not contain wheat, yeast or (interestingly) salt; it takes no time to make and does not need to rise; and it offers a welcome and not too intrepid contrast to your staple bread.

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