Sunday, 27 November 2011

Our Daily Bread

The humble loaf indeed. I've been told and have read frequently about how bad for you the modern loaf is. Obviously we're talking here about your average supermarket white bread in all its shapes and forms. In France we consume the very addictive and delicious French baguette and there is nothing like it. It's all so easy to buy, bread is cheap and tastes great toasted and teamed with ones favourite jam or melted cheese smeared all over, possibly sliding off one little crusty edge with some excess of oozing melted butter...

Modern wheat has very little in common with the wheat of even a hundred years ago. We have manipulated it so that it makes bread more light and fluffy. It is stripped of its fibre and most of its nutrients. White bread sends our blood sugar soaring because the missing fibre is not there to regulate its uptake into our systems and surprise-surprise we become somewhat addicted to it.

Oh, but it is so delicious! And I'm not writing this to preach or put you off, I can’t imagine you haven't heard any of this before. But I was feeling its effects and not in a good way. I love bread, I love toast and I needed an alternative to the yeasty, white soft doughy-ness that I probably consume in larger quantities then is good for me. After 8 regattas worth of baguette sandwiches this year, my waistline and my health is having a little suffer.

And hoorah! I have found the king of breads. It’s my version of an Irish soda loaf. It is yeast free and made with Spelt flour with a small amount of wholemeal flour to lighten it up a little. I adore Irish soda bread. It’s quicker to make then a cake. It’s certainly healthier than a cake and it tastes absolutely brilliant warmed or toasted with cheese, jam or simply melted butter. And it makes the best bacon butty you will ever have in your life. No empty nutrients or empty promises there at all.

Spelt has more in common with the wheat of old. It is a cereal grain of the wheat family but the large numbers of folk with wheat intolerances usually fair a whole lot better with spelt. Because of its gluten content it can easily be substituted in baking and breads and imparts a moreish sweetness and nuttiness. It is a loaf so full of flavour and goodness it has changed my entire attitude to eating and making bread.

And here it is. Start living the good life and push aside the humble loaf for bread with attitude; the king of breads. Bread for forever;

For one large loaf you will need;

400g wholemeal spelt flour
50g plain wholemeal wheat flour
50g porridge oats
150g mixed seeds (I use sunflower, pumpkin, sesame an poppy seeds)
2 carrots peeled and finely grated
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
3 pots of natural, unsweetened yoghurt or 450 ml


  • Heat the oven to gas mark 6, 200Âșc. Grease and flour a good quality baking sheet with sunflower oil and plain flour.

  • In a large bowl sift in the flours and baking powder. This helps to aerate the flour which in turn lightens the bread.  Add the bicarb of soda, salt, seeds and porridge oats.

  • Grate in the carrots and then add the yoghurt. Now with a table knife use a cutting motion to mix the ingredients to a point where a dough starts to form and you can get your hands in to give it a quick and gentle knead into a nice round shape. Spelt doesn’t need long kneading to release the gluten so don’t over-knead it or your bread will be too crumbly.

  • On a floured surface shape into a flattened round shape and cut the traditional Irish soda bread cross into the top.

  • Pop into your hot oven for 30-35 minutes till nicely browned. Leave to cool on a cooling rack but before it is cooled, slice off a little bit and smear with butter and honey and pop into your mouth. That’s living.

Because it is preservative free it is best to slice this bread and put into a freezer bag and into the freezer so that it keeps. All you have to do is take out slices when needed to toast or heat in the oven. And this way you can do large batches as it freezes very well.

I implore you to make this bread and learn to love real bread again. It is filling and tastes fabulous and now my only dilemma with it is whether I can make enough for an entire regatta crew for an entire regatta…?  At least I have at least 4 months to figure that one out!

Thanks for reading,

P.S If you'd like this bread to be completely wheat free then simply use all spelt flour or substitute the whole meal flour with extra porridge oats.