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Brown bread sconesIn these days of clampdowns, closed shops and quarantines, here’s a quick store-cupboard recipe for brown soda bread.

And unlike a standard “plain” Irish traditional soda bread, it has also plenty of nuts and seeds – for extra nuttiness and nutrition.

As bread recipes go, it’s quick and easy. The method and measurements are surprisingly forgiving, and there’s no kneading or proving.

In fact, you should avoid the very kind of kneading that’s involved in making yeast bread. Sure, you’ll want to mix all the ingredients together, but try to minimise any handling with warm hands.

Before doing anything, though, crank up your oven to 180C.

1: Get together your dry ingredients…

Assemble all the following dry ingredients. Mix them together – very roughly and quickly – in a large bowl:

  • 100g plain white flour (and have a little extra for dusting)
  • 100g wholemeal (brown) flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch brown sugar

(As I am a lazy cook, I couldn’t be arsed sifting the flours.)

Add the following dry extras (all optional, so do pick and choose):

  • 30g walnuts, roughly crushed
  • 30g sunflower seeds, again roughly crushed
  • 10g mix of fine seeds (e.g. about a teaspoon each of quinoa, chia and sesame)
  • a pinch of caraway seeds (don’t overdo it, because the caraway can overpower the other flavours)

You might also keep a large pinch of rolled oats (as in good old porridge oats) to hand, for sprinkling on the finished dough later.

2: And now for the wet ingredients…

In a measuring jug (let’s save on the washing up), measure and mix your wet ingredients:

  • 200ml sour milk
  • a drizzle of rapeseed oil if you have it (and preferably of the bright golden cold-pressed organic variety)

Traditional soda bread uses buttermilk, but nowadays this can be hard to find at the best of times. Sour milk is a great substitute, its acidity working well with the rising agent. Even if you don’t have sour milk, you can mix together the following alternative:

150 ml milk (fresh rather than sour this time)
50g plain natural yoghurt
a good squeeze of lemon juice

3. The mixing and shaping…

So your oven is on, and you’ve all your dry and wet ingredients assembled.

Get a baking tray. Sprinkle it liberally with plain flour. Sprinkle a work surface too.

Pour the wet ingredients from the measuring jug into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir everything together with a table knife or palette knife, briskly, for a minute or so.

The lump of dough will end up quite “wet”. Judge this by eye and how it handles. If it feels not-quite-wet-enough, add a quick splash of milk. If it’s too wet, add a teaspoon or so of flour.

Give the lump of dough a light sprinkling with plain flour, so that it becomes more like a coated ball. Pour or roll the ball gently onto a floured work surface. Cut into four or six roughly equal portions, and quickly shape them into scones or buns. Again, minimise the handling.

Put the scones on the baking tray – try to avoid them touching each other.

Optional: using a pastry brush, brush the tops of each scone with any leftover milk from the sides of the measuring jug, and sprinkle rolled oats on top of each scone.

4: The baking…

Bake for 25 minutes at 180C, then check that they are golden brown and done (the “hollow bottoms” thing in Bake Off). If necessary, turn them upside down and give them a further five minutes in the oven, but take care that they don’t burn.

Brown bread with topping of oats