Keep calm and carry on baking bread

By Corrie Heale

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have noticed that baking has become a massive lock down trend.

My social media feed is clogged up with freshly baked loaves, sough dough starters, trays of biscuits and even cakes. But why? All feels a bit random, especially as baked goods aren’t exactly hard to come by after the initial panic buying wave. The supermarket shelves are almost back to their former glory, that is, except the baking isle – which remains stripped bare. Sure, you can buy a freshly baked sourdough loaf, but you’ll be lucky to find a sachet of yeast or a bag of strong white bread flour.

So where has this baking mania come from? I guess the most obvious answer is that baking is an excellent way of killing time and effectively sees off boredom. However, the more complicated answer, is that the simple act of baking, can give us a feeling of control and self-reliance, that perhaps we crave in uncertain times. This almost primal compulsion to prove (pardon the pun) to ourselves, that we are capable of survival. Even the smells associated with baking, evoke warm homely memories that prompt subconscious feelings of safety and comfort in times of helplessness.

Or you could just like baking. In which case, if you’re all out of yeast and strong bread flour, you may want to opt for a soda bread recipe. I use a mixture of plain and wholemeal flour, but you can just use plain if that’s all you have. I also like to add treacle, honey and a squeeze of lemon to mine but leave these ingredients out too if they’re hard to come by. So let’s all keep calm and carry on baking!

Corrie’s easy treacle soda bread

Makes 1 loaf / Hands on time 10 mins / Total time 40 mins + cooling/ V

200g plain flour 250g wholemeal flour 55g rolled oats + extra for topping 1 tsp sea salt flakes 2 tbs treacle 1 tbs runny honey 350m semi-skimmed milk 1 tbs lemon juice (optional) 1. Preheat an oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7 and line with a layer of baking paper. Dust with wholemeal flour and put to one side. 2. In a large mixing bowl, measure out the dry ingredients, mix together and make a well in the centre. Put to one side. 3. Measure out 350ml of semi-skimmed milk in a jug and add the honey and treacle straight into it. Beat with a hand whisk until the honey and treacle have been incorporated (it will clump together on the whisk and it will seem impossible but trust me, 2 minutes of elbow grease and it will have almost fully incorporated, persevere). 3. Quickly whisk the lemon juice into the milk and quickly pour into the flour well – doing this quickly prevents the milk from curdling. Using a metal butter knife, stir the mixture until just combined (you’ll want to work quickly, as soon as the wet mixture hits the dry the bicarbonate of soda will be activated). 4. Pour the mixture out into the centre of your lined baking tray – the mixture will be quite wet but don’t worry, this is normal. Wet a large knife and mark into quarters (wetting the knife prevents the dough sticking to it), cutting deeply through the loaf. Dust the top with a small handful of oats. 5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Once baked, leave to cool on the baking tray for 20 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Once fully cooled, slice and enjoy with lashings of butter. Soda bread doesn’t last very long so I recommend freezing as soon as possible or consuming within 24 hours.

Want to learn more about bread baking? Then why not enrol on An Introduction to Bread Making with Richard Bertinet and master everything from focaccia to bread sticks.

Corrie Heale

Freelance food writer / vegetarian food blogger and recipe writer. @corrieheale

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