Beautiful Bread

Do you ever get a whim to do something? I’ve had one recently: baking bread.  Without going all strict about it, I’ve decided to bake most of our bread.

Ironically, we finally have a great source just down the road, something that’s been on my wish list for years. The Farmhouse Café and Bakery was awarded 2018 Café of the Year by John and Sally McKenna’s Guides and they sell their batches, cobs and sourdough fresh from the oven. And I admit, I have brought home brown paper bags wafting yeasty warmth.

But: homemade! The smell of fresh bread still takes me back to our acreage on Cedar Road when, as a teen, I’d walk from the school bus stop home, to a slice of warm bread and homemade jam paired with a glass of raw milk from Trudell’s farm in Yellowpoint. I still don’t resist cutting into still-warm loaf, and taste first without jam, then eat the rest slathered with it.

It’s as easy as a commercial mix to put a round of soda bread into the oven. With two main ingredients – whole wheat flour and buttermilk – plus a bit soda, salt and sugar, if you like, and no kneading or letting the dough prove, it’s a five minute job – faster than it takes the oven to heat up.

In saying that, there is nothing that compares with the slow rhythm of a yeasty bread: your day rotating around the proving, mixing, kneading, resting, like the earth’s tides and the moon.

There are some days with no firm commitments, and these are perfect for baking with yeast. Either that, or you need to synchronize your going out and coming in with the needs of your bread, which is possible.

Although I have a nice strong dough hook on my new mixer, I still prefer to work by hand. What has just been flour and water, the most basic of ingredients, a few minutes before becomes so much more, going from sticky and flabby to something smooth and full of promise. I feel it from my shoulders and back, down through my arms and into my hands. I can do this. And I get to see the rewards of my work.

Sourdough loaf from Rachel Allen’s Bake.

I’ve been making my usual sourdough from my trusty old starter, though I have tried a couple of other recipes, including one of Rachel Allen’s.

Other recipes I use are Daily Bread – an “everyday loaf” – and Milk Loaf from Ruby Tandoh’s Crumbas well as her soda bread, and Edna Staebler’s Buttermilk Scone Loaf (from More Food that Really Schmecks – an entertaining, chatty book that also has recipes): chewy, light and lovely. Tandoh’s book has lots of good instructions on the science and the art of working with dough.

I buy Matthews Cotswold Flour (from Aldi) a UK artisan flour miller. They have a good range of flours, some organic, reasonably priced. I mostly use their organic Cotswold Crunch, a blend of strong white and malt flours and malted wheat flakes with a nice taste and beautiful texture; a dark rye; and a wholemeal spelt, though I have just tried their Cotswold Maizebite (“a blend of plain flour and maize flour to give a crisp golden coloured pastry”) for fluffy pancakes.

If you are in Canada, you may want to use Robin Hood’s Multigrain flour for the North American equivalent of Irish soda bread. My friend Terry Boyle’s recipe is here – he says the multigrain is close to what we get in Ireland as wholemeal. Another soda recipe that takes a few more ingredients and thus a bit more effort – but is very yummily worth it – was featured in an earlier blog here.


The jam in the featured photo is Spiced Plum (from our Golden Gage tree) with a cinnamon stick in it, and the bread is Daily Bread from Crumb.

7 thoughts on “Beautiful Bread

    1. Hi Peter – Good question! I haven’t seen it in Aldi in ages either and have never seen it anywhere else. With the way the flour situation has been lately, I’d say it would be hard to find but there are a couple of options: order from their website (they ship to N Ireland – or you could probably use Parcel Motel or similar). If you order 15 kg it doesn’t seem to cost much more to ship than 7.5 kg. Strangely you can get the 7.5 kg amount but nothing smaller as it is currently ‘out of stock’. Or you might have some luck with seeing if a local food co-op or market would order in for you though that may be a long shot. I know many of them carry Doves Farm flour but not sure about Matthew’s Cotswold. I was just able to order 25 kg (yikes! but I will use it) of Davert organic strong bread flour from the Green Door Market in Dublin 12. The Dublin Food Co-op in Kilmainham also does organic flours and may also be able to help. There may be something similar near you and it can be worth asking even someone who’s selling bread and baked goods in a market. I miss those bags of flour in Aldi for sure — such great variety and a good price for a brilliant product. Maybe they’ll be back. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful.


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