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Wholewheat Soda Bread

Asked by jolim18. Answered on 15th September 2015

Full question

Hi, why do you score a cross in the top of wholewheat or plain soda bread before baking? Secondly, do we need to wait for the dough to rise before baking?

Our answer

Cutting, or scoring, the top of a loaf of bread has a couple of functions. For soda bread (which does not contain yeast) the bread rises very quickly in the oven and scoring the top allows the bread to rise quickly without the top cracking. As the loaf is free-formed, rather than being baked in a tin, the scoring also helps the direction of expansion, meaning that the loaf rises upwards easily rather than spreading outward. It can also help the heat of the oven to penetrate to the centre of the loaf. You need a sharp knife to score the top, so that the dough is cut rather than dragged. The cut only needs to be a couple of millimetres (about 1/16 inch) deep.

The cross is a traditional marking, probably as the origins of soda bread are Irish. Some suggest it was to "bless" the bread, or to let the devil or fairies escape. However it may also have some practical use as it divides the loaf easily into 4 portions. Soda bread is a quick bread and does not need to be left to rise. In fact it should be baked as soon as it has been mixed and formed, as the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) acts very quickly and if the dough is left for too long then the bread can become heavy.

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