Pumpernickel and Polenta Soda Bread

“This dense dark loaf has a rich caraway flavour and just the faintest earthy hint of molasses. I love that it tastes and looks just like a loaf of ‘real’ rye bread but is remarkably quick to make (it takes less than 20 minutes from when you first think about it until it’s in the oven).”


Makes 1

Cook Time

30-35 minutes


Fine polenta, for dusting
3/4 cup (120g) stone-ground wholemeal plain flour, plus a little extra, for dusting
1/2 cup (75g) unbleached plain flour
1/2 cup (60g) rye flour
1/4 cup (40g) fine stone-ground yellow polenta (cornmeal)
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon sea salt, crushed
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/3 cups (330ml) buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses (from health-food shops)


1. Preheat your oven to 210°C. Lay a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and dust the paper with a little polenta.

2. Tip all three flours, the polenta, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sea salt and caraway seeds into a large bowl. Whisk them together for a minute or so with a balloon whisk.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, honey and molasses. (If you gently warm the honey and molasses they will mix into the buttermilk more easily.)

4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. I usually start mixing this with a wooden spoon and then resort to using my hands when it gets too sticky. The one thing you don’t want is to overdo the mixing as this toughens the bread (which, to be confusing, is the opposite to yeast breads, which require lots of kneading). Bring the dough together so it’s soft and sticky, then tip it onto a floured bench. (It’s a good idea to have the bench floured before you start – I sometimes forget and end up with dabs of dough on everything I touch as I try to flour the bench after the event!) If the dough seems a bit too sticky when you bring it together, add a little extra plain or rye flour to it, but no more than 2 tablespoons.

5. With floured hands, knead the dough very gently so it just comes together, then shape it into a little football. Sit the ‘football’ on the prepared baking tray and, with a serrated knife, make four or five very shallow slashes diagonally across the top of the dough (if they’re too deep the loaf opens out a bit too much while it bakes and is drier than it should be). Sieve a fine dusting of flour over the top and sprinkle with extra caraway seeds.

6. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it with your knuckles. Leave the loaf on a wire rack to cool for about an hour before slicing. Unlike many soda breads, leftovers keep well for 1-2 days in a sealed plastic bag.

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