A Bit About Bread - A Variable Recipe!

If you're finding it hard to get bread in the shops, you could do worse than try a bit of home baking. And the good news is that if you're also finding it hard to get dried yeast, there are lots of bread substitutes that you can make without yeast. 

NB this is not a precise recipe. If things are in short supply, you'll just have to experiment!

If you can source plain or self raising flour or bread flour (in an emergency you can use any of these) and baking powder  - and some milk and /or natural yoghurt - then you're all set. You can add an egg or two, but you don't have to. Ditto a little butter or marge. If you can find dried raisins, sultanas or any mixture of them, so much the better. But again not essential.

My nana used to make something she called Irish teacake, and many years later, when I was working as a temporary nanny in West Cork, the farmer's wife from whom the family were renting their holiday accommodation made something similar that she called 'corny bread'. This is more or less the same thing - a simple variable recipe for hard times.

Put 500 grams of flour, plain, or self raising, into a bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and a good heaped teaspoon of baking powder. You can use self raising flour without baking powder, but if you have it, do still add a teaspoonful. The teacake will rise better.

Rub in a little butter or marge using the tips of your fingers. Not too much. Approximately 25 grams is plenty, and if you don't have it, don't worry. (About an ounce in old measurements.) Too much will make your bread too 'biscuity' and not soft enough.

If you have dried fruit, stir some in at this stage. Again, as much or as little as you like - or none at all! Chopped apple is good too. Or chopped dried apricot. Or blueberries. Experiment. If you like, you can add a tablespoon of sugar too.

Now - heat your oven to 200°C (gas mark 6) and grease a flat baking tray. The oven must be hot before you put your 'loaf' into it.

You are going to use sour milk, buttermilk or a mixture of milk and natural yoghurt to mix this: roughly 400 ml or 14 fluid ounces, but again, this is not precise. You can make sour milk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to fresh milk. Or you can add a good tablespoon of natural or Greek yoghurt to fresh milk. If you don't have much milk, you can mix milk and water. If you have one, add a beaten egg to your liquid as well. Again, not essential, but will lighten the mixture.

Put the liquid into the flour mixture and mix it together as quickly as you can. Don't knead it, don't be heavy handed and bear in mind that it should be very soft. Just this side of sticky!

Pat it into a circle, about 4 or 5 cm deep. (Use more flour to make it easier to handle.) Slide it onto your baking tray and bake it till risen and golden brown. About half an hour but check it out.

This is best eaten quite quickly, but it will keep for a day or two, and in my experience it freezes very well. Nice toasted too. Especially nice with cheese.

Another variation is to use half and half wholemeal and white flour, and use a good teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda instead of baking powder. Leave out the fruit and the butter, but add the egg and milk or sour milk in the same way. This will give you a loaf of proper plain Irish soda bread.

Finally - if you can lay your hands on some fresh yeast, and want to try your hand at yeast cookery, remember that it freezes well. I just experimented with some yeast I froze last year, and although it wasn't as active as it might have been, it worked very well. Just remember to unfreeze it well in advance and wake it up with a little sugar before trying to use it. You'll see it starting to bubble a bit - and then you can use it in any conventional bread recipe.


Rosie said…
I didn't know that you can freeze yeast. Thank you for that.
spabbygirl said…
what an excellent recipe Catherine, I never measure anything either if I can help it!