Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

Walnut and Honey Soda Bread

Baking soda, or bread soda as the Irish call it, came into kitchens in Ireland in the 1800s. It was relatively cheap and quite a magical ingredient for it meant that people without ovens, and that was most people, could bake their own bread. They combined wheat from their fields and buttermilk from their cows with baking soda in a cast-iron pot and nestled it into hot coals to make bread. The baking soda replaced yeast and kneading to leven the bread, which meant it wasn’t only more accessible, but much faster than baking normal bread. Which is why I like it.

Walnut and Honey Soda Bread

I was watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his enviable River Cottage on the telly the other night and sat transfixed through a whole hour dedicated to bread. Although delighted by the crusty white loaves and wood-fired sourdoughs, it was the soda bread and its promise of ease and taste that sent me to the kitchen to turn on the oven.

Walnut and Honey Soda Bread

A traditional soda bread is made with wholemeal flour and buttermilk. In America you can find a version of soda bread made with white flour, eggs, butter, caraway seeds and raisins. Although tasty, it is not what the Irish consider soda bread. This recipe is a riff on the traditional base, adding nuts and honey, but replacing buttermilk with water, which makes it even more accessible. The bread is blessed with a deep cross scored into the dough before cooking. This helps the heat penetrate the middle of the dense bread to cook it evenly, and also means that the final product breaks open beautifully, ready to serve to hungry mouths.

Walnut and Honey Soda Bread

This loaf is a cross between bread and a scone. Its dense yet pleasingly crumbly and the flavour is a happy union of sweet and savoury. It is best eaten directly from the oven with a generous smear of soft, golden butter. But it is also an excellent base for a slice of crisp pear and thick chunk of stiff cheddar. It would also accompany a hot bowl of cauliflower soup nicely. It’s the perfect thing to pop in the oven on a cold winter’s afternoon for a treat, or simply when the bread bin is bare.

Walnut and Honey Soda Bread

Serves 4

  • 100g / 3 1/2 oz walnuts
  • 100g / 3 1/2 oz honey
  • 250g / 9oz wholemeal flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F and lightly oil a baking sheet.

Divide the walnuts into two roughly equal piles. Put one half into a food processor or a mortar, then crush to a coarse powder. Using your hands, break the other pile of walnuts into large, rough chunks. Put the honey in a pan with 150ml / 5 fl oz water and heat gently until the honey dissolves.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt and all the walnuts in a large bowl and combine. Pour in the honey water and mix to a soft, loosely held together dough – don’t knead or overwork it.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface, shape it into a rough, round loaf and place on the oiled baking tray. Slice a deep cross into the top, going almost right the way through to the baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Remove, set aside to cool and serve immediately – at the very latest, eat within 24 hours.

From Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, The Guardian, 2007

30 thoughts on “Walnut and Honey Soda Bread

  1. aliradloff says:

    I thought you said you couldn’t bake. This looks scrumptious! It looks like it’d be perfect with some cheese melted on top (or even better, with some fondue).

  2. This looks amazing! I adore your blog a little too much!

  3. Ginger G says:

    … how much water?

    1. Ginger G says:

      … oops! just saw it in making honey water – didn’t see it in ingredients list!

  4. Looks wonderful and inspiring for a March Cooking With Kids for me :) Thank you!

  5. alisonsye says:

    My daughter is going to give this a try to go with our stilton soup. Thank you

  6. bubblytee says:

    the recipe doesnt add baking soda (it is called soda bread)…but baking POWDER…I am confused… sorry :)

  7. Erinn @ says:

    Wow… this bread looks gourmet!

  8. annmahnet says:

    I love bread and I love scones, and a cross between the two sounds scrumptious! An Australian friend of mine was telling me about “damper” the other day. Is this similar?

    1. Amelia says:

      Hi Ann! How’s the book coming along? This is a bit more “bready” than damper, and dare I say, a little more tasty? I wrote a post on Martha Stewart about damper, which is best eaten around a campfire

      1. annmahnet says:

        This is fascinating! Thanks for sharing — I had no idea damper could be a campfire treat. Book revisions are finished (!) (for now!) and I am happily catching up on blogs. Thanks for asking!

  9. Nutmeg says:

    Great post, looks great! I’m pinning this for later :)

  10. joanneemily says:

    this looks beautiful!

  11. wow! this is such a unique bread. i love it!

    1. Amelia says:

      I made it again this week and it really is good!

  12. Lena says:

    I love soda bread, especially because it is so easy to make. Your walnut and honey bread sounds really lovely. And I love that it does not require buttermilk, because I rarely have it on hand, and always end up with leftover buttermilk if I do buy it.

  13. Kirk says:

    This looks great, but a lot of soda bread recipes that I have tried have produced a rather dry bread. Is this one that way?

    1. Amelia says:

      It is a bit dry compared to yeasted breads. I found it more like a scone than bread in texture. But if it’s eaten hot out of the oven, the melted butter makes it all better :)

  14. fran says:

    Hi there. I would love to make this. But I’m curious: Soda bread is supposed to be made with baking soda, not powder (hence the name), is this an oversight/typo? Please let me. Thanks!

    1. Amelia says:

      Hi Fran. It’s a cross-continental, lost in translation type thing. In Australia (and the UK) baking powder contains baking soda, but comes with the acidic ingredient needed for baking soda to do its rising magic. When using baking soda you need an acidic ingredient, like buttermilk, in the mix to help it rise.

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