This week I’d like to talk about bread. Bread is considered as a staple and is viewed as important all around the world. Bread has even been used to stop wars, (The Dampfnudel, Germany. I Learned that thanks to Mel on the Great British Bake Off, bread week). Bread is still important today, why? It’s simple, wholesome and it fill a hole.
The ancient Greeks were baking more than 80 types of bread in 2500 B.C. There was serious rivalry between bakers about who baked the best bread. The Greeks ate Barley bread, griddle cakes, Pitta, and honey and oil bread.
There are also traditions. Scandinavian traditions hold that if a boy or girl eat from the same loaf they are bound to fall in love. In Ukraine It is forbidden to throw bread away as bread is considered a gift from God. Even if a slice of bread fell on the floor by accident, it should be picked up, kissed by the one who picked it, and put back on the table. This tradition is rarely followed nowadays, despite the 5 second rule!
Even with all of these traditions and rivalry, no one knows specifically when the first loaf was baked, however, it is thought round about 10,000 years ago that the first loaf was made. The first bread produced was probably cooked versions of a grain paste, made from roasted ground cereal grains and water.
Victorian poor families’ week’s money was mostly spent on bread, leaving little for any other daily essentials such as milk, cheese and potatoes. The bread they ate would be have been Honey and Wheat bread. They only ate this bread because it was what they would have afforded at the time or available. Bread was not as processed as today.
In 1918, (during WW1) ration books were introduced for butter, margarine, lard, meat and sugars especially for bread as Britain’s supply of wheat decreased to just 6 weeks’ worth of grain. British people love bread, especially sliced bread. Otto Rohwedder of Davenport, United states, invented the first loaf-at-a-time bread slicing machine. He built a prototype in 1912, then in 1928, he had a fully working machine ready to feed the nations with sliced bread!
Although pre-sliced bread is popular. Simpler and purer loaves have become popular again. I dabbled with some traditional soda bread. It is so nice to eat and, it works very nice with soup, maybe even with the Cod and tomato chowder soup recipe I posted.
History of Irish Soda bread
Soda bread was introduced in the 1800s and it meant that you could make bread without an oven. Instead, they cooked the bread in what’s called a bastible—a big cast-iron pot with a lid on it, that would have been put right onto the coals or onto the turf fire. And it was another plus because soda back then was relatively inexpensive. They would also have used the buttermilk from the cows on the farm, and flour from the wheat. Butter was not put into the bread in the making, however when it’s come out of the oven and it’s cooled, you would slather the butter on then.
I have a lovely recipe for a tried and tested Soda bread that is delicious and, in my experience, will disappear in seconds.
Wholemeal Irish Soda Bread
Makes 1 loaf.
- 275g Wholemeal bread flour
- 275g Plain white flour
- 1tsp Bicarbonate of soda
- 450ml buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 230c/450f/Gas mark 8. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, pour in the buttermilk. I suggest pouring the buttermilk in slowly and gradually. You don’t want to swamp your dry ingredients. However, if it is the complete opposite of swamping and it appears to be too dry, add a little more. Mix it all together to make a soft dough. Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface and knead LIGHTLY and very BRIEFLY into a round. Flip the dough over, and keep in a round shape.
- Lightly dust a large baking sheet with flour, place the dough on it and then using a large knife, cut a large X on the top, cutting almost all the way through. Put the bread, that’s on the baking sheet onto a baking tray.
- Bake the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 200c/400f/gas mark 6 and bake for a further 40-50 minutes/ until it sounds hollow when you tap its bottom.
- Remove from the oven and enjoy when cooled.
I had a baking day the day I made the Soda bread and decided to make also some sweet potato buns. These are just some of the best buns you’ll ever taste, and you can have so many variations with the seeds on top. Just delicious! Use them for sandwiches, or maybe even with a slathering of butter and a cup of tea!
Sweet potato buns
Makes 10 healthy sized buns (Read paragraph below)
I said that when I started this blog, that I would include in my blog post any mistakes I made, and unfortunately, I made a mistake when I first made them these balms. For the 1st batch of balms I made, I used 450g plain flour, and as you’ll read, the recipe states that you should use strong white BREAD flour. Fortunately, it didn’t ruin the bread itself, but actually made it better!! When I made the 2nd batch, (which contained bread flour), I compared both of the batches and saw that the balms with plain four had a much better rise than the ones with the bread flour. You can, if you choose to, use plain flour instead of the bread flour if you’d like to or have no bread flour in. It makes no difference in the colour or taste, but it gives a better rise.
- 8 ounces’ sweet potato, (I put it into ounces because it was easier to calculate better than 225g.)
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 tsp grated nutmeg
- 100ml milk
- 450g strong white bread flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 7g yeast
- 1 egg beaten, until it cries for mercy, and beat one more egg at the end to wipe over the buns before they go into the oven.
- 1 tbs Oatmeal
- Preheat the oven to 200c/ 400f/Gas mark 6, 15 minutes before baking. Peel the sweet potato and cut into small chunks. Cook in a big saucepan of boiling water until tender.
- Drain and mash with the butter and nutmeg. Stir in the milk slowly, being careful not to swamp the mash. Leave until barely walk.
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast. Make a well in the centre.
Add the mash and beaten egg and mix to a soft t dough. Add a little bit more mil if needed.
- Turn out he dough onto a lightly floured surface and for about 10 minutes, knead until smooth and elastic.
- Put into an oiled bowl, cover with Clingfilm or a food bag, place in a warm place to rise for an hour.
- Turn out he dough and knead again until soft.
- Divide into 10 or 16 equal pieces, shape into rolls and place onto a large baking sheet. Cover with oiled cling film or food bag and leave for 15 minutes, to rise in a warm place.
- Brush the balms with beaten egg, then sprinkle half with Oatmeal and the other with whatever seed of your choice.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until well risen, lightly browned and sound hollow when their bottoms have been tapped. Transfer to a wire rack an immediately cover with a clean tea towel to keep the crusts soft.