A while ago I had very little patience for bread. Granted I was about 11, but I couldn’t even consider waiting for an initial prove then waiting again for a final prove. Back then I would feel obliged to sit and watch this process swinging my legs from the chair and becoming more and more angry as I willed the yeast to speed up its little magic properties. I would then fetch the packet, read “super quick” and then moan to mum on the brink of tears that the yeast was in fact broken and my life was not worth living. I feel – and still do – that it is important for drama in the kitchen. Since then I have been made aware that it is acceptable to leave the dough to prove on its own (it works far faster this way but I still don’t understand the magic properties) and get on with other slightly more riveting things. Saying this though there are days when my impatient and very demanding younger self takes charge and it is then that we say hello to soda bread.
Soda bread is the fastest way to an impressive lunch, and still allows for the small sense of smugness that homemade bread brings. It is also far more customisable than your standard dough and can be treated with far less care. This recipe is wetter due to the apple so I would recommend baking it in a tin. You can of course omit the fruit for a drier loaf but I think it adds a little sweetness and the result gives a lighter texture too.
Note: Please swap the dried fruit, nuts and seeds for your own personal favourites. You can also make a sweet loaf using chopped dark and milk chocolate and spindling the dough with demerara sugar before baking. The labneh will keep in the fridge in the fridge for 3-5 days and can be served as a side of dip with anything you fancy.
SUPER SEEDED SODA WITH LABNEH
For the bread:
150g rye flour
125g strong wholemeal flour
50g plain flour
75g mixed seeds, I used pumpkin, sesame, pine nuts and white poppy seeds
75g chopped dried fruit, I used figs and apricots
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g milk + extra for brushing the top with
1 large apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oats, for the topping
For the labneh:
700 ml whole milk
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lime
Olive oil, salt and pepper to season
To make the bread sieve the flours and bicarb into a bowl, then add all the other ingredients, bar the extra milk and oats, and mix until smooth. Transfer into a greased and lined 2lb or similar loaf tin. Brush with the extra milk and sprinkle some oats on top. You can add more seeds or nuts too. Bake at 190C for 20 minutes then turn down to 170C for a further 20-30 minutes or until hollow sounding. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning out of the tin and cool in completely.
To make the labneh heat the milk and citrus juice in a heavy based pan to 25C, stirring a little. Once you have reached the temperature take off the heat and allow to cool for an hour – or until you can see visible separation. Place a doubled piece of muslin in a bowl and pour the milk mixture on top. Bring the edges of the muslin together and tie with string. Suspend over the bowl using a chair or door handle and allow to drip for 1-2 hours or until the drips are no longer frequent and have long pauses in between. Bin the excess liquid and transfer the white curds into a bowl. Beat until very smooth and then season to taste, adding a little olive oil if you would like. Store in the fridge until required.
Serve slices of the bread with a little labneh, some olive oil, black pepper, cress and some green leaves. The bread is also fantastic toasted the next with some salted butter.