Quick White Soda Focaccia with Cheddar

This was a test to determine if I could mix-up a batch of soda bread dough in the morning, wrap it tightly in cling film, and then refrigerate it until an hour before dinner was ready to serve. There was mixed opinion on whether the bicarbonate of soda would have any get-up-and-go left in it after sitting about for so long — many of my baking friends thought that it should be baked immediately after mixing. That’s what I was taught also, but for me time and timing is an issue. Dinner needs to be on the table within a short time of my husband arriving home. The reason is medical rather than my being an anything-you-want-dear type person. There was one differing opinion from a friend with a great deal of experience in such matters, Chef Gregoire Michaud at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. I am so fortunate to have a friend who’s so generous with his knowledge. His beautiful blog is at http://gregoiremichaud.com and it’s well worth a visit.

Gregoire said that his pastry team at the hotel often make up huge batches of scones in advance, and that a few hours in the fridge would do no harm whatsoever. And as always, he was right. The bread had good ovenrise and excellent crumb for a soda bread pretending to be a focaccia (flatbread).

This is a modified version of Rachel Allen’s recipe on UK Good Food http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/595352

Quick White Soda Focaccia with Cheddar


olive oil
450 g plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
125 g cheddar, grated
400 ml buttermilk (not low-fat)


First thing to do is preheat the oven to at least 230C/gas 8. The initial blast of heat should be very high. Don’t be concerned as the temperature is lowered after 10-minutes. Brush a baking tray generously with olive oil, or line with non-stick parchment paper. I use the parchment paper method to reduce calories and keep the bread’s GI number lower. Although olive oil is a “good fat”, it is very high in calories, which a diabetic needs to keep controlled.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, and then add the salt and approx. 1/4 of the grated cheese. Toss and mix with your hands. Make a well in the centre and pour into it 3/4 of the buttermilk. With your fingers stiff and separated apart like a rake, start mixing the flour into the buttermilk using a quick circular motion, working the flour into the liquid. Add the remaining buttermilk and keep mixing like this until you have soft, sticky dough. Just mix, do not knead, until all the ingredients are combined. Wait for 10-minutes for the dough to relax, and then transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Lightly pat into a ball, sprinkle a touch of flour over the top, and then (using a rolling pin) roll out to about 2-3cm thick. Transfer the dough to the parchment paper/baking tray, make dimples in the dough with your fingers, and then lightly brush the top with olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Cook in the oven for 18-25 minutes, depending on how thick it is. Turn the oven down to 200C/gas 6 after 10 minutes. When cooked it should feel firm in the centre and be golden brown.

Transfer it to a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Again, thanks to my friend, Gregoire, for his wise guidance on this recipe.



16 Comments Add yours

  1. Fabulous bread! Thank you so much for the mention, but you are the one who deserve all the credits! πŸ™‚

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      The next time I make this I’ll try using a moister cheese that’s a creamy colour. The mature cheddar left a slight scorched colour in the crumb … even though the flavour was good. πŸ™‚

  2. Joanna says:

    It looks just wonderful and we’ve all learnt something in the process too πŸ™‚

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Sainsburys was out of buttermilk today. Is there some cookery show on telly that’s promoting buttermilk?

  3. Misk, I had no idea you could make focaccia using a soda dough! That’s amazing!

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      I saw it on telly, so thought heck why not! I wanted something quicker than a yeast based focaccia in my repertoire. πŸ˜€

  4. C says:

    Looks great! I hadn’t thought of doing a foccacia with cheese. Good to know it can be mixed in the morning and not come to any harm later on.

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Hi C! This was a revelation to me, too, and it sure makes life easier! πŸ™‚

  5. That focaccia looks delightful and is a very useful addition to the repertoire. As a matter of interest, which baking powder did you use? (Long related explanation below.)

    I baked Gregoire Michaud’s light scones in which he advises leaving the scone mix in the fridge and I know that Azelia did. I was surprised that the mix was so light after baking but noticed that I had little oven spring. The scones were delightful and served to lead me on a hunt for information about single-action (most leavening occurs after mixing of liquid and solids) and double-action baking powders (as before, plus there’s a temperature-stimulated rising action that occurs in the oven).

    To cut a long story short – I’d used a single-action baking powder when baking the scone recipe and Azelia had used a baking powder that while not officially double-action (in the sense that it’s used in the US) was more double-action than mine. I asked Gregoire Michaud about the baking powder he’d used and he confirmed that his was double-action. I’m presently dithering about importing some double-action powder or contriving my own out of various ingredients. However, that’s not because there’s anything amiss with the delightfully light scone mix, it’s just for completeness of the experimentation.

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      You gave me a bit of a fright, and I had to quickly look at the ingredient list. I’m okay: I didn’t use baking powder EV — I used *bicarbonate of soda*. That’s an entirely, although related, different animal.

      There must be a recipe out there to make your own double-action baking powder, somewhere on the internet, don’t you think?

  6. Not my day for reading things properly – apologies – I’m intrigued and frustrated by leavening/dough maturation at present, particularly after experimenting with several versions of Gregoire Michaud’s fabulously light scones.

    I do think it’s fascinating that some of the received wisdom on bicarbonate of soda having a reaction that is over quickly seems to be somewhat misleading – eg, the reaction may happen quickly but it obviously doesn’t complete all at one and the leavening action is maintained for some time afterwards, it doesn’t collapse as one might expect in a much more liquid dough.

    I know what some of the ingredients for double-action are, it’s hunting them down in quantities suited to a home kitchen that may be the challenge.

    Sorry for the fright πŸ™‚

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      The bicarbonate of soda might work well in this instance because the dough (soda bread) is not a high hydration. Same goes for most scone recipes, at least those that I’ve tried. Perhaps the clue is in that — a relatively stiff, low-hydration dough?

  7. vivinfrance says:

    Phew! I came over here after reading Marie Elena’s lovely interview with you at Poetic Bloomings, and found myself deep in a highly technical debate. Firstly: the idea of leaving a dough in the fridge all day (or in my case, all night) is not new to me – a French friend’s brioche recipe (yeast) requires just that process, and it works a treat.

    I don’t use much proprietary baking powder as you can only buy minute quantities here – no Sainsburys! But for scones, I use bi-carb together with cream of tartar. My best scones arrive when I’ve used milk that’s ‘on the turn’. Again, buttermilk is not something I’ve found here, but semi-skimmed slightly sour milk works beautifully.

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Hi, Viv! Thank you so much for stopping by for a read, and for posting your thoughts. I often chuck yeasted dough in the fridge overnight, creating a pre-ferment for a bit of flavour, but this is the first time that I’ve stretched bi-carb to this point. It makes me wonder if the dough could be frozen and baked later.

      What properties does cream of tartar lend to the scones dough? I find that combination of bi-card and cream of tartar very interesting!

      Viv, if you ever want a ‘care package’ of things like baking powder, etc., just shout and I’ll post it to you. πŸ™‚

  8. vivinfrance says:

    How very kind. We have friends with a holiday home in the village, who bring things for me like baking powder, Camp coffee (for icing) etc as a matter of course.

    I went back to my 1950s Good Housekeeping Cookery Book to see what properties C of T brings, but nothing, except reduce the amount if using very sour milk, which I did remember. I don’t know why I use it, I just always have, and people seem to like my scones. While browsing the cookery book, which doesn’t see the light of day much these days, I came across what looks like a good recipe for Malt loaf, so I think that will be my next experiment.

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      I think I have the answer on the cream of tartar. It’s an acid, which is required by the bi-carb to function as an leaven. Chemical reactions and lift-off. I remember as a kid my mother adding cream of tartar and bi-carb in a toy submarine that was a bath-time toy. With those two substances in a small chamber, the little engine would come alive and the boat would propel itself around the bathtub … until my little sister sat on it and sent it to the murky depths of our foamy bath.

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