A little while ago I was talking to one of the older ladies who had been a member of the Queensland Country Women’s Association for eons. She had lived on the land her entire life and was adept at making do and improvising. I think we must have been talking about scones (not surprising for the QCWA). Her philosophy was that if you could make scones, damper or soda bread it would never matter if you ran out of bread while the shops were closed or they were too far away, or if you had people drop in unexpectedly, because as long as you had some flour in the pantry you could whip up a pretty good substitute. And it really is true. With some basic ingredients and some basic skills you can make a bread like product that works with sandwiches, afternoon teas or served with soup or casserole.
These quick breads don’t require the time and patience that is needed for breads made with yeast but rather they can be made and baked immediately using self raising flour or in the case of soda bread, bicarbonate of soda as the raising agent. While you won’t end up with a light fluffy loaf, you will end up with something that is tasty and filling and that you have made yourself.
My recent enthusiasm for making butter has left me with quite a bit of buttermilk so making a loaf of soda bread was the ideal way to use a lot of it up. I have used half rye flour and half white but you could substitute the rye for wholemeal flour. For soda bread I prefer not to use all wholemeal or all rye flour as the finished product can be a bit dense. You can make a variation of soda bread by adding a handful of sultanas and a spoonful or sugar to the dough for a sweet version or alternatively a few caraway seeds would go really well with the rye flour.
Rye and Oat Soda Bread
- 2 cups rye flour
- 2 cups white plain flour
- 1 cup rolled oats (I prefer to use traditional oats rather than quick oats), plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups buttermilk (and perhaps a little more)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add all of the dry ingredients to a bowl. Mix in the buttermilk. You may need a little more than the two cups, you need enough to make a slightly sticky dough. Take care not to over mix or the bread will be tough. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly until the dough comes together. Shape into a round, about 20cm diameter and place on the baking tray. Cut a 1cm deep cross on the surface of the bread. Brush with milk and scatter over a few oats. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.