Carrot Cake Soda Bread

This week was Bread Week and we saw Hermine impress with her smoked salmon soda bread and all of the bakers got creative and colourful in the bread plague Showstopper and the rainbow bagel Technical. I took the safe option and went for the Signature Soda Bread challenge and decided to combine the flavours of a carrot cake with a soda bread and thus my Carrot Cake Soda Bread was born!

I took inspiration for this soda bread from Kate Hackworthy over at Her Cinnamon Carrot Soda Bread was the first recipe that I found when doing research for my own Carrot Cake Soda Bread. There are a few changes to the ingredients of Kate’s soda bread, the first of which is I used all plain flour, simply because it’s what I had at home. And for soda bread, you want to use plain flour instead of bread flour as the texture of soda bread is different to normal bread – it’s a bit denser and more crumbly than a light and airy white loaf. Other changes include the quantity of ingredients as well as the addition of mixed spice and some chopped walnuts, only 25g.

Kate’s recipe also uses buttermilk, an ingredient traditionally used in soda bread making. The acidic buttermilk reacts with the alkaline bicarbonate of soda, producing air bubbles that help the bread to rise. It is important to work quite quickly as the reaction happens as soon as the bicarbonate of soda comes into contact with the buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can replace this either with a combination of natural yoghurt mixed with milk or you can make a replacement by mixing milk with some lemon juice, the option that I usually go for.

Soda breads don’t need much kneading either, the idea is that they are meant to be quick to make and overkneading will create a dense and chewy loaf rather than the desired crumbly texture. Once the dough has come together, that is the time to stop mixing and begin shaping it into a round and placing it on the baking tray. The last step is the traditional cross cut into the bread, which actually helps the bread to cook in the centre and promote the rise too. The bread is baked for 30 minutes and the crust is insanely good, turning a light golden brown thanks to the maple syrup, which contrasts so wonderfully with the soft crumbly texture inside.

For the soda bread:

  • 325g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g raisins or sultanas
  • 100g carrot, coarsely grated
  • 25g walnuts, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 200ml whole milk mixed with 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, set aside for 15 minutes

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Place a small sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine together all of the dry ingredients, so the flour, bicarbonate of soda, the spices and salt. Mix them together with your hands. Add in the raisins, grated carrot and the chopped walnuts and toss in the flour to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the maple syrup and the milk mixture.

Either with your hands or a wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients together until it begins to form a ball of dough which looks rough and raggedy, but the ingredients have been mixed together, being careful not to overwork the dough too much which will make the soda bread dense and chewy. Sprinkle the ball of dough lightly with flour and press it into a round on the baking tray. Use a knife to cut a cross in the bread, going all the way down to the tray.

Bake the bread for around 30 to 35 minutes until the surface has turned an even golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when you give the base a firm tap. Immediately transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool down for around 20 minutes. The bread is best served on the day and warm, with lots of butter spread on top!

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