Cheese & Pesto Soda Bread

Cheese & Pesto (right) and White Chocolate & Cranberry (left) Soda Breads
Cheese & Pesto (right) and White Chocolate & Cranberry (left) Soda Breads

So the Great British Bake Off is underway again in earnest, but this year we’ve had a little wager at work.  A sweepstake where we randomly select a contestant, and if they are eliminated you have to bake for the team following the theme of that week’s programme.  The last 3 left in the sweepstake compete head to head.

Well, I didn’t get too far.  My contestant was finally eliminated in Week 3 after a couple of flaky performances and a frankly inexcusable showstopper which hadn’t been practised.  At least I can now watch the rest of the series without screaming at the TV!

And so my forfeit – Quick Bread.  It’s been years since I made Soda Bread and I never really liked it too much, it was always just too bitter from the Bicarb.  But according the great Mary Berry this is a common issue so with a bit of practice I’ve cracked that problem and probably cooked more Soda Bread in the last week than ever before.

This basic recipe can be adapted to produce sweet or savoury versions – I baked a White Chocolate & Cranberry version, and later in the week a Caramelised Onion and Rosemary version.  Just replace the  cheese and basil with whatever you fancy, or leave it plain. If your flavouring is particularly wet, keep the liquid towards the lower end of the recommended amount

Soda Bread is really quick to make, especially compared with yeasted breads – if you’re prepared you could have something ready in an hour so is a great accompaniment to bake fresh alongside soups and stews. One thing to appreciate is that it doesn’t keep.  It tends to go quite stale after a day, but at that point is teriffic when toasted

Points to note:

  • Too much Bicarb will make the bread bitter
  • The Bicarb needs an acid to make the bread rise.  That’s why we use buttermilk.  As an alternative you could use ordinary milk plus 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • The mixture needs to be quite wet or else the bread will be too dense when cooked
  • Don’t knead the dough – minimal handling is needed. Unlike yeasted breads you don’t want to develop the gluten as the bicarb won’t be strong enough to make the bread rise
  • Alternative flours (particularly whole grain) would work really well
  • If you make a sweet alternative, don’t be tempted to cut back on the salt

Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves


  • 500g Plain White Flour
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 400-450ml Buttermilk
  • A little semolina flour

Ingredients to create your flavours/filling of choice, for example…

  • 150g Cheddar Cheese, broken into cubes
  • 50g Parmesan, grated
  • a Large Handful of Basil leaves (set a few aside)
  • 2 tsbp Olive Oil
  • 8 cloves Garlic


  • Start by preparing the filling.  Make a basil paste by blitzing most of the leaves with the oil and garlic until quite smooth
  • Stir the paste through the buttermilk and set aside
  • In a large bowl mix the flour, bicarb, salt and parmesan then roughly mix in the cheddar and the spare basil leaves
  • Create a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk mixture
  • Using a palette knife combine the ingredients into a rough dough
  • Get in with your hands for the last bit ensuring everything is well combined without overworking or kneading the dough or breaking up the lumps of cheese
  • Form into a large neat round (or 2 small ones) and transfer to a baking sheet which has been sprinkled with a little semolina flour
  • Dust the top of the dough with a little more semolina flour and cut a cross into the top with a sharp knife
  • Place in a pre-heated oven, 190oC Fan and bake for 45-55 minutes until the base sounds hollow when tapped
  • Remove to a wire rack to cool before eating

One Comment Add yours

  1. Thanks for the tips! These look great!

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