From an effort point of view, there are three types of bread: flatbread, bread made with yeast, and bread made with baking soda. Flatbread types use no raising agent whatsoever and are consequently flat like roti. Then there is yeasted bread that uses some form of yeast to make it rise. To activate this yeast takes time and you need to knead the dough. Our third bread category uses baking soda to create bubbles in the dough to make it rise. Unlike yeast, baking soda does not need to be kneaded to do its work. In fact, many expert bakers agree that when using baking soda, not only should you knead the dough as little as possible, you should actually not knead it at all! I know what you’re thinking and yes, this is super fantastic news.
The baking soda needs something to react with and we will use buttermilk for that something, as it will also add some taste to the bread. Although you can quite successfully bake a lily-white soda bread, I prefer the taste and coarse texture of wholewheat and oats. When you’re travelling the backroads and get hold of a truly great jar of jam at a farm stall or market, this is the bread it deserves. Feeds 6-8.
- butter (for oiling the potjie)
- 3 cups Nutty Wheat flour (or wholewheat flour)
- 1 cup oats
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 bottle buttermilk (2 cups)
- Smear the inside of your no. 10 flat-bottomed baking potjie generously with butter.
- Put all the ingredients, except for the buttermilk, into a mixing bowl and mix well.
- Now add the buttermilk and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is combined. Remember, not only is it unnecessary to knead the dough, it is better not to. So as soon as everything is properly mixed you are good to go.
- Flop the dough into the prepared potjie, dust the top of the bread with some extra flour (this is purely for cosmetic purposes) and use your favourite and sharpest pocket knife to cut a cross in the top of the bread. As with the flour dusting, this cross is only for cosmetic purposes and makes no real contribution to the taste of the end product. (But we all know good-looking food tastes better.)
- Now close the lid and bake for about 45 minutes until done. You want some coals under the potjie and some coals on the lid. When any particular coal loses motivation, discard it and replace with a new one. There is no particular risk in baking the bread too slowly but if you rush it, it might burn so rather err on the side of caution.
- After 45 minutes, remove the lid taking care not to spill too much ash onto the bread. A bit of ash is fine, again, for cosmetic purposes. Insert the tip of a knife into the bread and if it comes out clean, the bread is ready.
- If the bread does not stick to the potjie at all and comes out whole, great. If it sticks to the bottom of the potjie a bit, don’t worry. Take a spatula, go in on the lines of the cross you cut earlier and take it out in quarters.
This recipe works with any combination of 4 cups of flour. You could drop the oats and go with just 4 cups of Nutty Wheat or wholewheat flour. Or use 2 cups of Nutty Wheat and 2 cups of normal white flour. You get my drift.
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