Soda bread, energy and time. Musings on a Saturday morning.

March 27, 2021 By

It literally takes me less than five minutes to knock up a soda bread dough. This morning I had the bread ready to go into the oven before it had even time to heat up. And now I will have a loaf of delicious homemade bread which will take me through the weekend. In no time. A win-win, right?

But sometimes it’s not about the time.

Sometimes it’s the energy we don’t have. Some days even the thought of getting the ingredients out, getting the baking bowl out, kneading it all together is just too much. And at those times I don’t bake. Or feel that I should.

When I work with my clients in my signature “No-Guilt Solution to Managing it All” programme we always look at energy as well as time. Because they are not the same thing, and we need to pay heed to both, respect both. If something only takes five minutes, or ten, or an hour – or whatever it is, but requires energy that you don’t currently have, or will deplete you, the time aspect is of less importance. Sure, if something really needs done and you just have to get on with it, it helps if it’s a quick thing. But that doesn’t mean that you should ignore the fact that you might feel depleted afterwards and need some restorative actions to make up for it.  

The importance of energy vs time was a lesson most of us got a crash-course in at the start of the pandemic, when we suddenly had what seemed like all the time in the world to work on all those projects we had been wanting to get around to.  And realised it wasn’t as simple as that.

Yet, time remains the thing we fact-check with. It’s our get-out-of-jail card, one of the few socially acceptable excuses for not completing a task without feeling too bad about it. Oh, I would have loved to do it. I meant to. It was on my list. I just simply didn’t have the time. The day flew by. I’ve been up to ninety. Can’t argue with that, right?

Whereas I had all day off yesterday and I didn’t even manage to [insert task here] is a whole different ball game. How easy is it to say that without any sneaky feelings of guilt and shame creeping in?

But the only way to ensure that you have a balanced life is to take energy seriously. So look at what provides you with energy and what depletes you. Concentrate on the former and don’t feel bad about doing less of the latter. Because here’s the added bonus, and the advantage energy has over time: it gives back. If you focus on those things in life that you enjoy, that bring you joy, fulfilment and pleasure, well, that’s what you will get more of. And how can you feel bad about that?

Whether you bake bread or not matters less.

If you do feel like it, though, here’s my fool-proof recipe for soda bread, taken from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking.

  • 225g wholemeal flour
  • 225g wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 375-450ml buttermilk

Mix the flours, then add the salt and baking soda. Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk, use your hands to mix it all together in circular motions. Turn the dough out on your countertop and shape it into a slightly flattened ball, around 4cm thick. Cut a cross into the bread and prick the four sections – it helps it to bake more evenly, but to be honest I don’t do always bother with this and it works out fine. Bake at 230° for 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 200° for another 15. Turn the bread upside down and cook for another 5-10 minutes, leave to cool on a wire rack.

I also love the fact that Darina has helpfully added the tip to “Fill the bowl with cold water now so it will be easy to wash later” at the point where you tip the dough out of the bowl. Time AND energy saving advice!