Great British Bake Off Bread Week: Soda Bread

I really enjoyed watching all the bakers on GBBO last week baking Soda Bread. As a complete novice when it comes to baking bread and anything with yeast in, I thought soda bread would be an easier bake for me to start with. Last Saturday I was also baking for necessity as we’re currently self isolating. We were out of bread and don’t get our food delivery until Monday night. It’s times like these when I’m glad I had some baking ingredients in! The only thing I didn’t have was some buttermilk which a lot of soda bread recipes have.

I googled what you could use in place of buttermilk and one website suggested using normal milk mixed with lemon juice. I had a bottle of lemon juice concentrate so I used a couple of tablespoonfuls of the lemon juice in with the milk. Whether it did the trick, I don’t know!

I used Mary Berry’s Irish Soda Bread recipe from her latest book and TV series: Simple Comforts. Here is a link to the book:

I used strong white bread flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda mixed up first and then added the milk and lemon juice in. The recipe asks for two teaspoonfuls of bicarbonate of soda but when I got my measuring spoons out I used a half teaspoon measure without concentrating. This meant that I’d only used half the amount of bicarb! Oops! Not good when the bicarb is the raising agent in the bread. It might turn out like a flat brick.

The dough was shaped together into a ball and put onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. I marked the top of the loaf with a cross in the traditional way and then put it into the oven to bake for about 30 minutes.

My loaf got a little bit burnt on the top but every time I checked it (in 5 minute intervals) the base of the loaf wasn’t sounding hollow when I tapped it! It was still in the oven 10 minutes after the recommended cooking time. After it was finally ready, I let it cool down before we could actually use it for our lunch. Mr S and my daughter had bacon butties and I had Isle of Arran cheese melted on toast which was the last of the cheese we had brought back from our holiday.

I loved the soda bread and to get six slices nearly took up the whole loaf! There was just enough left for Mr S’s toast on Sunday morning! I’ll definitely make soda bread again and would love to add different flavours to it which made me think of the lovely things from Bake Off. As I needed a plain loaf for Saturday, that’s what I ended up making. Maybe I’ll try a sweet one next time!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Yeast Free Naan Bread

With a shortage of strong bread flour and yeast in the shops the other day, I’ve been making my own naan bread. I’ve always loved naan bread but the beauty with this recipe is that it doesn’t need yeast or strong bread flour to make it.

This naan recipe contains self raising flour and full fat natural yoghurt. This helps to leaven the bread slightly. The dough does not rise but instead ferments and you have to allow for this. Instead of cooking the naan in a traditional tandoor oven, these naans are cooked under a very hot grill.

Makes 8


250g self raising flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 rounded tbsp full fat natural yoghurt

115ml lukewarm water

40g unsalted butter

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp any spices or herbs

  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the yoghurt and the warm water to the bowl. Do this a little at a time and work the dough together first with a knife and then using your hands.
  3. The dough will be a little bit sticky and rough but this is to be expected. Leave it to ferment for an hour in the mixing bowl. It should be covered with cling film or a damp tea towel.
  4. After an hour take the dough out of your bowl. Remember it won’t have risen because it doesn’t have any yeast in it.
  5. Flour your fingers and the work top and divide the dough into eight equal portions. Make each portion into a ball. Flatten, then stretch out the dough into an oval either with your hands or using a rolling pin.
  6. Preheat your grill to the highest setting. When it is hot enough, grill the naans for roughly 1 1/2 minutes each side. They should be puffed up. I cook mine in two batches of four as they won’t all fit under my grill at the same time.
  7. While your naans are grilling, melt the butter in a small saucepan on the hob. Add the chopped garlic and any herbs or spices you may want to add.
  8. When the naan bread is ready, brush them with the melted butter mixture and serve straightaway.


In the baking aisle of my local supermarket, I found a sachet by Allinson’s called Baking Additions which had wild garlic and herbs in it. When I used it with the naan bread, I have had added half a sachet to for each batch of naan bread and it was really delicious.

We have really enjoyed these naan breads again tonight with a curry and I’ll definitely be making some again next week.

Stay safe everyone and happy baking.

Sam xx

Soda Bread

I’m not experienced at making bread and would love to learn more. Recently I’ve come to realise that if I eat bread bought from the supermarket I feel bloated. I’m not gluten free but I feel as if there’s a lot of unnecessary additives in bread. I just wish I could bake my own all the time. I don’t want to cut out bread completely from my diet but I don’t have much time when I’m at work to bake bread on top of everything I do. I have a bread maker but my husband hates it out on the work top so it has to be put away in a cupboard when I’m not using it. Because of this, sometimes I forget it’s there!

This morning I wanted to have some bread to go with lunch that wouldn’t take ages to make. Soda Bread fits the bill perfectly when you are pushed for time as there is no need for yeast as a raising agent in the dough. Instead, the bicarbonate of soda does the job. It can be adapted to add flavourings to turn the dough into a sweet one by adding dried fruits and spices like cinnamon. Or you can add nuts and seeds to a savoury loaf.

The latest Eat Well For Less book: Eat Well For Less Quick And Easy Meals has such a recipe and this is the recipe I used for my soda bread today.

The recipe suggested using wholemeal flour and natural yoghurt. I didn’t have these but I had some spelt flour and some Skyr. I wasn’t sure whether they would have the same effect but it was worth a try.

The flour, seeds, salt and bicarbonate of soda was weighed out and added to a large mixing bowl. I mixed them together evenly.

To the dry ingredients I then added the natural Skyr and some milk.

When making up the bread dough, you have to get your hands into the dough to work it up into a ball. The dough was quite sticky!

The dough was gathered up into a ball and put on a baking sheet covered in baking parchment.

Then, I got a sharp knife and scored the top of the bread into quarters. As well as doing this, I sprinkled the top of the loaf with some left over flour before baking.

I was disappointed with how the bread turned out. The oven was put on at the specified temperature and was even baked for longer than the 20 minutes that was required. I am not sure if my oven isn’t working effectively any more. It is nearly 13 years old and has been in constant use for all that time. I bought an oven thermometer but forget to put it in the oven sometimes. The bread appeared to be hollow when I tapped it after 30 minutes so I took it out of the oven. When I cut the bread in half it looked stodgy in places. It tasted better when I toasted a couple of slices which I ate with some Allioli (Spanish Garlic Mayonnaise) spread on it.

Having said that, even though the bread looked under done, it tasted lovely and both my husband and daughter enjoyed some at lunchtime. I will try and bake some more again and see if I can improve!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Let’s Bake (Cathryn Dresser)- Pitta Breads.

About a month ago I was really excited to buy the lovely Cathryn Dresser’s book “Let’s Bake”.  It is a fabulous book but then I always knew it would be as Cathryn has been one of my favourite contestants on The Great British Bake Off so far.  I think she owns the expression “Oh my giddy aunt!” now.  So when her book aimed at baking with children came out, I just had to have it.  Although my own kids are now teenagers  I knew they would enjoy using it just as much as younger children.  And as I work in a primary school we tend to do a bit of cooking now and again when it fits in around curriculum demands.

About two weeks ago I chose to make a chicken curry for tea but thought about having chapatis or naan bread with it instead of rice.  My hubby and son aren’t that keen on rice but love their bread so I thought I’d have a go at baking something to go with the tea.  I found Cathryn’s recipe for her perfect Pitta Pockets would go down well and they were much easier to bake than I thought they would be!

Here’s how I got on:

Flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl ready to be mixed in with some warm water.

Now combined to make a ball of dough. This was kneaded for about 10-15 minutes on my floured worktop.

The ball of dough was put into a mixing bowl which had been lightly oiled. I put it in my utility room and covered the bowl with some cling film.

After two hours the dough looked like this thankfully!

I split the dough into 8 equal pieces and rolled each one out thinly so that they were flat.

Here are two of the pittas after they had been baked in the oven. They were puffed up but soon deflated!

All ready to serve with our Chicken Curry.!

We absolutely loved the pitta breads and as they were so easy to make I know I will be making them time and time again.  They were so much better than shop bought ones.  My hubby would have eaten more if he could.    Cathryn says that “any homemade bread is best eaten fresh on the day but these will keep for 2-3 days wrapped in cling film”  No cling film needed here, they were so delicious it wasn’t needed.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

All Grain Nutty Seedy Soda Bread Loaf- A Lighter Way To Bake (Cooking The Books- January 2014.)

Sunday 26th January 2014.

It was Sunday teatime and I realised we’d run out of bread for the morning.  This is not good.  We’d been very busy all over the weekend and checking the bread bin was the last thing on my mind.  It was too late to nip out to the shops. I had to bake my own instead.  But when I opened my baking cupboard I realised I didn’t have any yeast.  Thankfully I could get out of that problem by baking soda bread instead as it needed bicarbonate of soda.  Fortunately I had that and plenty of it!

I found a suitable recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s book “A Lighter Way To Bake” which uses wholemeal flour and semi skimmed milk to enrich it.  You had to add about 5 tablespoonfuls of mixed nuts and seeds.  I had some pumpkin seeds and a few hazelnuts which I threw in to the mixture.

So how did I make this delicious bread?

First of all you had to put the flour, seeds, nuts, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a mixing bowl and mix it all together.  Once that was done I made a well in the centre and poured in the semi skimmed milk.  Finally the mixture was combined to make a soft dough (but not too sticky!)  I found a loaf tin liner and put this in my loaf tin as I couldn’t be bothered to cut out the parchment.

The mixture was spooned into the tin carefully and then I sprinkled on a tablespoon of rolled oats.

The very impressive All Grain Nutty, Seedy Soda Bread Loaf.

The loaf was ready after I tapped the base of it to see if it made a hollow sound.  This took about 35 minutes baking time and the mouthwatering smell permeated the whole house.  We ended up having a slice of it for tea with a bowl of soup so there wasn’t much left over for the day after!  My son, who would happily eat white processed “plastic” bread all the time said he liked it.  I thought he must have something wrong with him, he normally poo-poos any sort of seeded bread, calling it “nit bread”!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Paul’s English Muffins , The Technical Bake From The Great British Bake Off Series 4

I was really excited to be watching episode 2 of The Great British Bake Off.  We’re beginning to get to know the faces of the contestants of this new series and what they are capable of.  As Week 2 was bread week and one area of baking I really struggle with, I was glued to the TV to see if I could pick up any tips or advice.  The breadsticks looked amazing and my mouth was watering at the thought of a pile of breadsticks washed down with a large glass of red wine. I had to make do with a cup of tea and I had already had my dinner.   I was totally gobsmacked by the over-the-top bakes of the showstopper bread.  It seems as if they are doing really taxing things this year and upping their game. I’m sorry to say this but I wasn’t impressed by the Octopus football bread . However I was amazed by all Kimberley’s bakes and was very surprised when she wasn’t made Star Baker.  Ruby though did extremely well and I was pleased to see her being recognised for all her efforts.  It was sad to see Lucy go, though. I thought she could have got further in the competition.

So, the technical bake for this week was English Muffins. As it was a bread bake it would be one of Paul Hollywood’s recipes.  I had to explain this to my children that I meant the sort of muffins you had at McDonalds with bacon and egg for breakfast, not ones with chocolate chips in!  I for one love English Muffins and my favourite dish on the menu at Betty’s in Harrogate is their delicious Eggs Benedict. So, I thought I would try it out on Saturday to see how I got on.  I was dreading it.

So on Saturday morning, my hubby was out working and the kids were still in bed (well they are teenagers!) I decided to get on with it so we could have the Eggs Benedict for lunch.  I always make a mess of Hollandaise sauce though, so I cheated and bought a jar of it from Tesco. I wish I hadn’t though, the list of additives on the label was shocking!  It was a Finest one but even that had glucose-fructose syrup in it? Why?  Totally not necessary but because I’d ordered it as part of an online shop I hadn’t checked the ingredients list first, yuck!

Strong white bread flour, yeast and salt are put into a large mixing bowl.
Strong white bread flour, yeast and salt are put into a large mixing bowl.

Sugar, small pieces of butter, a beaten egg and some mlik at room temperature are added to the bowl.
Sugar, small pieces of butter, a beaten egg and some mlik at room temperature are added to the bowl.

The dough is mixed together by working it with your hand.
The dough is mixed together by working it with your hand.

The dough is made into a big ball and kneaded for about 10 minutes.
The dough is made into a big ball and kneaded for about 10 minutes.

After kneading the dough is put in an oiled bowl, covered in cling film and left to rise on the worktop.
After kneading the dough is put in an oiled bowl, covered in cling film and left to rise on the worktop.

At this stage I thought I would get the kettle on and make myself a cuppa.  It was great to sit down for 5 minutes before the kids surfaced.  I didn’t get much time for sitting down as there was washing to hang out and some  ironing to get on with.  Why is it that on a day when I try out a Technical Bake, it ends up being a day where you have loads to do?

After about 1 1/2 hours the muffin dough was doubled in size.
After about 1 1/2 hours the muffin dough was doubled in size.

The dough is rolled out to a 1.5cm thickness and left on the worktop to relax for 1/4 hour.
The dough is rolled out to a 1.5cm thickness and left on the worktop to relax for 1/4 hour.

Some semolina was tipped onto a baking sheet and the muffins were dipped in this.
Some semolina was tipped onto a baking sheet and the muffins were dipped in this.

At this stage my hubby got in from work. He had been out to get a few jobs done that he needed to catch up with and came in absolutely starving.   I said if he wanted the dinner a bit quicker he could poach the eggs for me while I did the muffins.  He agreed to this thankfully as his poached eggs are sublime! This is the bit where I wanted it all to go right as when you make something for the first time, especially when you are making it for your family, you want it to go right.

The muffins are cooked in a griddle pan for about 6 or so minutes.
The muffins are cooked in a griddle pan for about 6 or so minutes.

Cooking the muffins on the other side.
Cooking the muffins on the other side.

Eight Muffins all ready to be split in half, toasted and eaten.
Eight Muffins all ready to be split in half, toasted and eaten.]

Fortunately, the muffins turned out really well. I’m not sure if they would be Great British Bake Off standard but I was pleased with them. If my family eat the lot, then that to me speaks volumes!

Two halves of a muffin to make one of my all time favourite meals- Eggs Benedict!
Two halves of a muffin to make one of my all time favourite meals- Eggs Benedict!

This is a Technical Bake I would definitely try again for a winter Sunday teatime if I have enough time to make them.

If you bake English Muffins, it would be great to know how you get on with them.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Crunchy Bacon Soda Bread- The Great British Bake Off Everyday.

So who tuned into last night’s Great British Bake Off then? I heard it was very popular and the viewing figures were high. I can’t remember the actual figure off the top of my head but I know I am not alone in my addiction to all things baking. I was glued to the screen last night and thankfully tea was a quick salad so I could be cleaned up and ready to watch it, phone in hand to join in with the live tweeting!

When the Great British Bake Off is on, I DEMAND to be in charge of the remote control. My hubby is usually the one who has it superglued to his side, especially when Top Gear or other motor racing programmes are on. I don’t mind them now and again but I get fed up with the constant repeats on the Dave Channel! So when GBBO is on, then it’s MY time to be glued to the telly. If the phone goes then it gets ignored, sorry!

Later on this week I will be talking about Episode One- Cake week as I attempt to bake the Technical Challenge “Mary’s Angel Cake” so watch this space. I’m not sure how I’m going to get on as I don’t have a special angel cake tin and I have never made it before.

Last Saturday I baked the Crunchy Bacon Soda Bread from the new Great British Bake Off Recipe Book- The Great British Bake Off Everyday. I was keen to try another soda bread recipe as I’m not that experienced with breadmaking. Anything involving yeast sets me into panic mode. So last Saturday I had time to devote to baking the bread without constant interruptions all around. Here’s how it was made:

First of all, my oven was heated up to 200oC (fan temperature) and I lined a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment.

Fry four rashers of chopped bacon.
Fry four rashers of chopped bacon in a frying pan without extra fat.

Finely chop a small onion or shallot.
Finely chop a small onion or shallot.

Once the bacon has started cooling, add in the onion and some chopped thyme.  I didn't have fresh thyme so I used dried instead.
Once the bacon has started cooling, add in the onion and some chopped thyme. I didn’t have fresh thyme so I used dried instead.

Sift plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a mixing bowl.

You then add cubes of cold butter which then needs to be rubbed into the floury mixture. This is done until it becomes like breadcrumbs.

Make a well in the centre of the bowl. Then you add in buttermilk to bind the mixture together into a dough.

I made a mistake here and forgot to add the bacon and onion before the buttermilk binding stage! It’s meant to go in first before it is formed into the dough. I hoped the pieces of crunchy bacon wouldn’t fall out all over the place!

The dough is now ready to go in the oven. It was formed into a round about 3-4cm high.

The finished loaf! It took slightly longer in the oven than mentioned in the recipe. The recipe says about 35 minutes but it was nearer 45 minutes. I tested it to see if it was cooked by tapping it underneath to see if it made a hollow sound.

The bread went down very well with a bowl of tomato soup and with butter added. It needed to be eaten on the same day! We had a little bit left the next day but it was a bit stale so I toasted it and ate it with butter.

I will definitely bake this again in the future. It went down well with my husband and son. My son was disappointed when I explained soda bread didn’t have fizzy drinks in it like lemonade but was called that because it has bicarbonate of soda as the raising agent in it! He wasn’t impressed with the baking technical talk though!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx