For some reason, my grocery store has plenty of toilet paper but is completely out of instant yeast. What on earth is wrong with the supply chain? I’ve wanted to make bread for weeks but I keep getting held back by the lack of yeast. Finally, I decided enough was enough and wrote my own whole wheat soda bread recipe (though I prefer calling it wholemeal because it sounds nicer).
Soda bread is a traditional Irish bread made using baking soda as a leavening agent. Irish wheat is unusually soft, which inhibits the activity of yeast and prevents the dough from rising, so baking soda is a great alternative. The resulting bread is a little dense, but I don’t mind at all – it’s delicious, hearty bread that Irish people have eaten for centuries. I bet my Irish ancestors would be proud of me.
Of course, I chose not to stick entirely to the soda bread tradition and made a couple changes that make it even easier and more interesting. I studded the dough with chopped pecans and dates, a nod to the southern US and Middle Eastern flavors that I love, and replaced the traditional buttermilk with a mixture of water and full-fat Greek yogurt. I figure the average person is much more likely to have yogurt than buttermilk in their fridge.
This bread is refined-sugar free and sweetened only with the chopped dates. The whole wheat flour, nuts, and Greek yogurt make it a great option for breakfast, but it’s perfect to snack on anytime. Try it with nut butter, jam, or salted butter, and be sure to have it with a cup of tea on the side!
Wholemeal Soda Bread with Dates and Pecans
- 2 cups whole wheat flour spoon and leveled
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour spoon and leveled
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ¾ cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup water
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup chopped, pitted Medjool dates
- Milk for brushing
- Preheat the oven to 450º F.
- Whisk the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl until combined.
- Mix the yogurt and water together in a separate bowl. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the yogurt mixture. Use your hands to scrape from the outside in to combine the dough.
- Fold in the dates and pecans and turn out the dough onto a well-floured work surface. Knead lightly for a few seconds to bring the dough together, then pat into a smooth disk about 1.5" thick. If there are a lot of date pieces on top, poke them through the dough so they don't burn.
- Use a sharp knife to score the disk in quarters, cutting all the way to the edges. Brush the top with milk and set on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 400º F. Bake an additional 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
- Let cool until warm to the touch, then slice and serve with your choice of toppings.