Wholemeal Spelt Soda Bread (with Ground Caraway and Seeds)
This wholemeal spelt soda bread is flavored with ground caraway and peppered with linseed and sesame seeds.
One of the things I like most about soda bread is how easy it is to make. There is no yeast, proofing or anything else to be faffing over. Simply throw the ingredients all together and bake, and in less than an hour, you will be stuffing your face with warm, fresh from the oven, bread.
Traditional ingredients of soda bread
When talking about the birth place of soda bread, it often ends up in a tussle between Scotland and Ireland. But, what if I told you it was really neither? The first people to make soda bread were in fact native Americans. Long before anyone else, they were making a leavened bread using something called pearl ash. The pearl ash helped to lighten and raise bread when baked, which is exactly the purpose of baking soda in the modern day version.
The bread appears to have popped up in Ireland back at the end of the 19th century, where they replaced the pearl ash with baking soda (or, as we refer to it in the UK, bicarbonate of soda). The recipe doesn’t appear to have changed much since then.
Soda bread can be both savoury, and slightly sweet. The basic recipe for soda bread includes only four ingredients:
- Baking soda
These simple, household staples make soda bread a popular choice these days just as much as it was way back in times where the choice of ingredients was more limited. However, as time has progressed, other ingredients, such as eggs, have found their way into some soda bread recipes.
Does soda bread need buttermilk?
Although a classic soda bread usually calls for buttermilk, I don’t use it in my house. In the past I’ve made my own with a squeeze of lemon in regular milk, but it feels like one unnecessary step that can be eliminated, especially as I invariably have Greek yoghurt in my fridge. Soda bread needs some kind of acid to react with the baking soda, but in my opinion, it really doesn’t matter where it comes from. I always use thick Greek yoghurt with some additional regular milk, and it works like a charm.
Can you make sweet soda bread?
I love a good old savoury, seeded bread like this one, but throw a few raisins in and a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, and I am equally happy (check out the YouTube video below where you will see me making my favourite, small batch cinnamon soda bread).
Due to the simplicity of soda bread, you can add pretty much anything you like to it. Instead of raisins, use fresh blueberries. And if you’re feeling fancy, why not drizzle over some sweet icing and serve it for afternoon tea (soda bread really reminds me of scones, so this would work like a dream).
Is caraway the same as cumin?
Caraway is a plant, and its dried fruit (which actually looks like seeds) offers a unique taste that is similar to anise and fennel. Caraway and cumin are often mistaken for each other. It was only very recently that I realised, after living in Sweden for a long time, that two of their popular spices, kummin (cumin) and spiskummin (caraway) were not the same thing at all. I just thought spiskummin was the name for cumin.
I used ground caraway because I thought a little sprinkling would work so well with the nutty wholemeal spelt flour and the seeds, and I wasn’t wrong. There is an unmistakable hint of caraway, but it is mild and gentle.
What flour do you use in soda bread?
Because the recipe is pretty much foolproof, I think you could use pretty much anything. Soda bread is dense, and certainly not light and fluffy, so you are not really dependent on the gluten in regular flour. Traditional soda bread usually has some wholemeal flour, and for this recipe, I went for half wholemeal and half regular spelt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my soda bread so dense?
Well, soda bread is never going to be light and fluffy. Plus, if your recipe includes wholemeal flour, the density is only going to increase. Although soda bread is not light, it should still rise, so if the density comes from not rising properly, then something might have gone amiss in the preparation.
Do not knead! Like scones, the less handling, the better. My soda bread is pretty sticky when I turn it out of the food processor, and using a sprinkling of flour, I just pat it into shape, as seen in my recipe for cinnamon and raisin soda bread:
One thing to consider is that some people choose to add an egg to their soda bread, and doing so will naturally make the bread a little fluffier. However, soda bread is supposed to be dense and crumbly. If you want a soft, airy crumb, make brioche instead.
What can you serve with soda bread?
When I whip up a loaf of soda bread, I usually eat the first slice warm, straight from the oven, with nothing more than a thick slathering of butter. The next slice will often have a little cheese or boiled egg, with a side of cucumber and tomato. I usually try to stop myself eating any more at that point, but fresh bread is my kryptonite.
Soda bread is best eaten warm, or if not warm, on the first day after baking. However, at the time of writing this post, I was still eating mine (four days after baking). Keep it as fresh as possible by storing in an airtight container.
When the freshness has gone a little, I pop mine in the toaster. Soda bread also freezes really well, so sometimes I will slice up what I haven’t eaten and take out a slice at a time whenever I fancy one.
Wholemeal Spelt Soda Bread (with Ground Caraway and Seeds)
- 220g (1¾ cups) wholegrain spelt flour (see note 1)
- 240g (2 cups) white spelt flour (see note 1)
- 50g linseeds (see note 2)
- 50g sesame seeds (see note 2)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground caraway
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 200g (¾ cup + 1 tbs) Greek yoghurt
- 250ml (1 cup) milk
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C / 400℉. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the milk and Greek yoghurt together.
- Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until combined (I used my food processor, but you could do this process by hand - just don't overwork the ingredients if using a food processor).
- The dough should be slightly tacky but not too wet or too dry. If you find it is too sticky, just add more flour, a little at a time.
- Mould (or pat) into a round shape, and then place on the baking tray, pushing the dough down a little with the palm of your hand.
- Taking a large knife, score a deep cross on top of the dough, almost down to the bottom of the dough.
- Sprinkle with the seeds, and then bake for 30 minutes, until nice and golden. The bottom should sound hollow when tapped.
- Allow to cool for a while, then serve warm, topped with a slathering of butter, scrambled eggs or jam.
- You can use any kind of flour in place of spelt (without any need to amend the specified amount). You can also choose to use all white flour, or to change the ratio of white/wholemeal flour however you like.
- Use any seeds you like, totalling 100g (3½ oz).