A Royal Recipe for Soda Bread

Chef Carolyn Robb knows a thing or two about cooking for royalty. She was, after all, the Personal Chef to TRH Prince and Princess of Wales and their sons, Prince William and Prince Harry for an entire decade.

When asked which item she prepared most often for the royal family, Soda Bread comes on the top of Chef Carolyn’s list.

soda bread by Chef Carolyn Robb

“I made this bread almost every day during my years as a royal chef. It is very quick and simple to make and I don’t think you will find a more delicious loaf than this. It is best eaten freshly baked, but makes really good toast on day two. If it comes out of the oven just before you go on your picnic you can wrap it in baking parchment and a tea-towel to keep it warm!”

Having recently launched a cookbook entitled The Royal Touch: Simply Stunning Home Cooking from a Former Royal Chef (which can be bought on Amazon.com), Chef Carolyn Robb shares her simple, wholesome recipe for Soda Bread with us, the novice home-cooks.

Chef Carolyn Robb’s Soda Bread Recipe (from her book, ‘The Royal Touch’)

Makes 1 round loaf, approximately 23cm (9 inches) in diameter

Ingredients:

  • One flat baking sheet, at least 23cm (9 inches) wide
  • 225g / 8oz plain flour (2 cups)
  • 10ml / 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 5ml / 1 tsp salt
  • 225g / 8oz malted granary or whole wheat flour (2 cups)
  • 30g / 1oz so ft butter (2 Tbsp) and a little extra butter for greasing the baking sheet
  • 375ml / 1 ½ cups milk
  • 125ml / ½ cup plain yoghurt
  • 30ml / 2 Tbsp barley malt extract
  • 15ml / 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 15ml / 1 Tbsp linseed

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC / 400ºF.
  2. Rub a little butter onto the baking sheet.
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the largest mixing bowl that you have, tip in any whole grains that don’t go through the sieve.
  4. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients, using your fingertips.
  5. Whisk together the milk, yoghurt and malt extract. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in most of the milk mixture; reserving a little to add in later if needed.
  6. Working as quickly and lightly as possible with a round-bladed knife, mix the dough and then bring it together into one ball with your hands; it will be so ft and still slightly sticky. Tip it onto a lightly floured surface and, without kneading it, shape it into a round of about 20cm (8 inches) in diameter and about 3 – 4cm (1 ¼ – 1 ½ inches) thick. The less the dough is handled, the lighter the bread will be.
  7. Lift the bread onto the baking sheet, reshaping if necessary. Cut a deep cross in the top and sprinkle with seeds.
  8. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the bread is golden. To check if it is cooked, tap it on the bottom – it will sound hollow when ready. Cool on a wire rack.
  9. For a crisp crust, leave the bread uncovered. For a so ft crust, rub a little butter onto the crust as soon as the bread comes out of the oven then wrap the bread in some baking parchment paper and then in a slightly damp tea-towel.
  10. This is best served very fresh from the oven, while it is still warm. Traditionally, it is broken into quarters and then sliced. It also makes very good toast on day two!

Tips from the Chef: Be careful not to over-mix the dough. Unlike other breads, which require kneading to make them lighter, this dough requires as little handling as possible for a light texture. Don’t be alarmed if, a few hours a er baking, you notice that any of the pine nuts or sunflower seeds in the bread have turned bright green. This is caused by a reaction between the anti-oxidants in the seeds and the bicarbonate of soda, and is nothing to worry about.

Variations

  1. Add a handful of chopped fresh herbs of your choice: parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary and sage all work well.
  2. For a sweet bread, add a handful of chopped plump dried figs or dates and a few pecans. Sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon sugar instead of seeds.
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