Baking Powder Bread

Similar to, but also different from Soda Bread, this loaf actually works out to be a little bit slower to make than Soda Bread, but the extra time is worth the wait because it is also lighter.

As a bonus, it doesn’t require buttermilk, using instead a 30 minute ‘lactic ferment’ of ordinary milk and plain flour to mix the ingredients together. Allowing the mixture to stand for 30 minutes stimulates the enzymes that help produce the lift in the finished loaf. And it has to be 30 minutes – no longer. And definitely don’t try and make it less because the results are immediately visible – and not that fun to eat!

One final tweak was to bake it under a pan. In a tin, but also under a pan. Much like the Overnight Bread and Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, an enclosed baking space keeps in the steam, helps the rise and protects the crust from becoming overly dark. The results can be seen below.

Side by side comparison
Side by side comparison of three different baking conditions. Left: Mixed without the 30 minute wait. Middle: 30 minute ferment, baked uncovered in a tin. Right: 30 minute ferment, baked in a tin covered by an inverted saucepan.

Here’s a closer look at the crumb of each loaf:

Loaf made without the 30 minute lactic ferment
Loaf mixed without the 30 minute ferment The loaf hasn’t risen much at all and consequently has retained a great deal of cragginess on the top. The dough did not expand to fill the tin, causing rough and uneven sides. The crumb is very dense and noticeably yellow in colour.
Loaf baked uncovered
Loaf mixed with 30 minute ferment, baked uncovered in a tin. A dark crust, but well-risen and most of the cragginess has been smoothed by the rise. Crumb fairly open, but loaf noticeably flat across the top.
Loaf cooked under pan
The most impressive result. Baked with the 30 minute ferment, in a tin, covered by an inverted saucepan. The crust isn’t overly dark and the crumb nice and open. The rise has allowed the top of the loaf to be pleasantly crusty and for the dough to fill the tin, as demonstrated by the smooth sides of the loaf.


Baking Powder Bread

Recipe adapted from MANNA by Walter T. Banfield, 1938.

For the ferment:

285ml cold whole milk
225g plain white flour

For the rest of the loaf
150g plain white flour + 40g (maybe)
12g cream of tartar + 6g of bicarbonate of soda OR 24g baking powder[1]
25g lard or butter
1/2 tsp salt
10g golden syrup, agave nectar or mild-flavoured honey

  • Whisk the milk and flour together and cover the bowl with plastic. I use the bowl of my stand mixer, so that I can use the machine to mix in the rest of the ingredients later.
  • Set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 210°C, 190°C Fan.
  • Grease a deep, 20cm, loose-bottom cake tin or similar.
  • Put the remaining ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine. Make sure the sugar syrup mixes in thoroughly and isn’t left stuck to the side of the bowl.
  • When the milk mixture has sat for 30 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. If the mixture seems a little too wet, add up to 40g more flour, until it is dry enough to handle.
  • Working quickly, knead the dough a few times to smooth it out, and shape it into a disk.
  • Drop the disk of dough into the prepared tin and put the tin onto a baking sheet.
  • Invert a large saucepan or casserole over the top of the tin to keep in the steam. Make sure the rim lies flat against the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pan covering the loaf and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until crisped and brown and sounding hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack before using.


You can use this basic method to make any number of different flavoured loaves, merely by mixing up the types of flour you use in both the ferment and the remaining ingredients: barley flour, oat flour, wholemeal, brown, etc.

Also consider adding interesting texture in the form of flax seeds, pinhead oatmeal, bran, wheatgerm etc.

The sugar syrup can also be varied by using treacle, maple syrup, malt, and so on.

Whatever changes you decide on, just make sure the overall quantity of flour remains constant.

Here are a couple of combinations to get you started. These loaves are slightly denser, so they have the enrichment of a little beaten egg to help lift the texture. I know half an egg is a ridiculous amount – sorry about that – the quantities for a whole egg were huge, and would require a huge oven to bake in. Use a small egg if you can find them, or double the recipe and make 2 loaves (as long as you’ve got 2 large pots to cover them as they bake) or one giant loaf.

  • Wholemeal/Granary Bread
    • 285ml cold milk
    • 150g brown flour
    • 75g plain white flour
    • ——
    • 150g wholemeal or granary flour
    • 12g cream of tartar + 6g of bicarbonate of soda OR 24g baking powder
    • 25g lard or butter
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 10g treacle or molasses
    • ½ large egg – whisked
  • Oat Bread
    • 285ml cold milk
    • 150g brown flour
    • 75g plain white flour
    • ——
    • 150g oat flour
    • 12g cream of tartar + 6g of bicarbonate of soda OR 24g baking powder
    • 25g lard or butter
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 10g treacle or molasses
    • ½ large egg – whisked

[1] Commercial baking powder is usually 25% rice flour or cornflour, to keep the active ingredients from clumping. The cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda are the actual active ingredients, and therefore all you need to add. If, however, you’re using commerical baking powder, you’ll need to add 24g in order to get the above quantities of active ingredients.


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