Soda bread

As a general rule, I'm the first person to say something is shit. The thing I like doing most is laughing at the creative failures of others, while never being brave enough to do anything really creative myself, in case people laugh at me.

So when I read a couple of mean reviews of The Great British Bake-Off, I watched the first episode with popcorn and a party hat, thinking "Oh wow, this is going to be really bad." But it wasn't - it was brilliant. And anyone who says it's not just isn't interested in baking. That's all. That's the only thing wrong with it - if you're not interested in baking, it's dull. If you are, it's like porn.

I sort of love and hate Paul Hollywood - one of the Great British Bake-Off's "experts" although I shouldn't have put that in quotation marks because he really is an expert. He looks and sounds like an old editor of mine, whom I liked and disliked in equal measure. Anyway, he's really bossy and says things like "you haven't used enough salt" or "this has got a soggy bottom".

His book, 100 Great Breads - or something like that, is out of print and is changing hands for upwards of £90 on Amazon. But, God bless the internet, a lot of his recipes are available online.

Like this one, for soda bread. Soda bread is the potato painting of bread making. It requires no skill or dicking about with yeast whatsoever - all you need is opposable thumbs, a hot oven and an okay recipe.

And this is a good recipe, although I should point out that Paul Hollywood is not someone who is afraid of salt. Neither am I, so I think this bread is nice, but anyone who isn't that crazy about it, might think about reducing the salt content here from 1tsp to 0.5 or 0.75 tsp.

Paul Hollywood's soda bread - makes one loaf.

250g strong wholemeal bread flour
10g baking powder
1tsp salt
35g butter at room temperature -  (you really do need to have it at room temperature, I know it's a pain but really it will only take about 20 mins out of the fridge to achieve this. Take it out and then read Grazia for a bit and before you know it, the butter will be ready)
75ml buttermilk (yes, you can get it in Waitrose - please see the comments section for instructions on how to make your own buttermilk from Hannah of Han Picked )
75ml milk
1 medium egg, beaten

1 Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and work in the butter, as if you're making pastry. If you've never made pastry, this means you sort of crumble it and squeeze it through the flour, rubbing it together in your fingers until it goes crumby and disappears.

2 Add the other ingredients and mix well to form a dough, which ought to be quite heavy but not sticky or wet. Knead briefly, once or twice, just to get it all together and so that there are no obvious huge cracks in it.

3 Shape into a flattish round on some baking parchment on a baking sheet, score a cross in the top with a knife and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Set your oven to 200C now so that when you come to put the bread in the oven, it's really properly hot, which will mean your bread will bake evenly.

4 Dust with flour and bake for 35 minutes

Eat with butter and jam OR with a boiled egg, is my advice.

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