Walnut, porridge oats and spelt soda bread

“I bake wholemeal spelt bread because I enjoy the taste. It takes me 15 minutes to use 1 kg flour with 1 litre of water to make two loaves. I then wait 40 minutes for it to rise and then bake for 40 minutes. I am 85 and do this easy job every 7 to 10 days.”

Roger King, commenting on the The Baker blog

I agree with Roger King about the taste of spelt. It works surprisingly well in the no-knead bread we make in a Dutch oven.

The Baker, an experimental blog about breadmaking is the brainchild of a scientifically-minded gent called Adi – it’s packed with fascinating, useful, and painstakingly researched information. The comment from Mr King is made to a post about the pros and cons of wheat versus spelt. I was a bit disillusioned (bearing in mind it is wokely ancient) to discover that, in nutritional terms at least, spelt is no better for you than wheat. Rye is the thing apparently.

The problem with rye is that it can produce a loaf which could double as a murder weapon. Jamie Oliver solves this by cutting in wholemeal wheat flour as well as porridge oats into his rye soda bread – a method I have yet to try. But incorporating porridge oats (wheat flour has a much higher glycemic index than oat) can only be a good thing from a health perspective.

And, another fact I was bearing in mind was that one of the most successful additions to Frances McDonagh’s Loch Key soda bread, set out on this blog, is the walnuts.

So a soda bread which includes spelt for taste, porridge oats for texture and health, and walnuts for a flourish must surely be a thing of beauty and a joy forever!

And it is, especially since soda bread doesn’t need Mr King’s 15 minutes of kneading.

This version is based on one provided by Sarah Standing, and published in her friend, Skye McAlpine’s, A Table For Friends. They recommend serving “with lashings of butter embedded with salt flakes”.

The final great thing about this Saucy Dressings’ version is that you can mix all the dry ingredients together and keep them in a jar, waiting for the wet ingredients to be added at the last minute. The dry-ingredient-filled jar also makes a good present; all the giftee has to do is add the wet ingredients. Tie a big ribbon around the jar, and give it together with a selection of interesting cheeses.

Once made, you can slice and freeze this bread very successfully, but it’s crumbly so don’t put it in a toaster – instead warm on a griddle, or, if you are lucky enough to have an Aga, use the Aga toast rack.

But it’s best of all, like most bread, eaten warm, from the oven.

Additional note to encourage you – this must be one of the most robust recipes ever!

The last time I made this bread I managed to do everything completely wrong! I emptied all the dry ingredients (already in a jar) into a large bowl, and just added the milk…. then remembered it needed the lemon, so poured that over the already soaking in milk, but my hand slipped and a huge slosh went onto it.

I was in such a rush I didn’t bother with turning out onto a floured board…I just brought the dough together in the bowl.

I didn’t have the recipe with me so I used the method given in my Irish soda bread recipe, which starts off at a whopping 230ºC for the first quarter of an hour. But then I forgot about it and left it in that furnace for another ten minutes before remembering to turn down to 210ºC for just ten minutes. I had to pick off the odd slightly burnt flecks sticking out!

Incredibly, everyone thought it was wonderful!

This post is dedicated to Mandy Harrison.
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