Rosemary and Raisin Soda Bread

Bread of heaven: quick and easy to make soda bread freezes well and tastes divine

Bread of heaven: quick and easy to make soda bread freezes well and tastes divine

It seems one culinary consequence of the coronavirus lockdown is more people are at home baking. While supermarkets struggle to replenish their stocks, trying to buy flour and yeast has been like attempting to order a Bugatti Veyron.

Happily, if you do find some flour at the back of the pantry, you can quickly and easily make delicious yeast-free soda bread.

Soda bread is a type of quick bread in which baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is used as a raising agent instead of yeast. The traditional ingredients are flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. In these lockdown times, long-life skimmed milk and yoghurt have been used instead of buttermilk, while rosemary, raisins and a sprinkle of salt crystals have been added for a fabulous flavour.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Makes: one large loaf

500g “rustic” or plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves (preferably fresh)
150g raisins (or sultanas)
300ml plain full-fat yoghurt
200ml whole milk (or long-life skimmed milk)
Sunflower oil
Sea salt crystals

1. Boil a kettle to make a small pot of tea then allow to cool to room temperature
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6
3. Lightly grease a baking tin with the sunflower oil
4. Put the raisins in a small bowl and add the lukewarm tea. This will help keep the raisins plump and tasty during baking
5. Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda together into a mixing bowl
6. Chop the rosemary leaves with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, discarding the hard stalk
7. Drain the raisins, gently squeezing out excess tea
8. Stir the chopped rosemary and drained raisins into the mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle
9. In a separate bowl, mix the yoghurt and milk until smooth
10. Pour the mixture into the well of the dry ingredients and mix until the ingredients are even throughout, producing a very sticky dough
11. Using a spatula, scrape the sticky dough into the centre of the baking tray. Sprinkle a little flour onto the top of the dough and your hands, and pat the dough into the required shape
12. With a sharp knife, cut a line about a centimetre deep along the length of the loaf and insert a long sprig of rosemary. Lightly sprinkle flakes of sea salt crystals along the top and press lightly into the dough
13. Bake for 45 minutes until the loaf has risen and the top is golden brown
14. Remove from the oven and leave the loaf to cool on a wire rack
15. Eat within 24 hours, or slice and freeze as the bread freezes well. Slicing before freezing saves defrosting the entire loaf later. Delicious toasted with butter

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