A bastible is an iron pot, usually with three little legs underneath and a slightly domed lid, that was used as a pot oven to cook over an open fire. Everything from breads and tarts to stews and even a goose was cooked in a bastible. Bread and tarts that were cooked in a bastible always had more tender crusts because the steam was trapped inside the pot, softening the crust. You can recreate a similar tender crust effect by cooking the soda bread in a covered casserole in the oven.
Makes 1 loaf
- 225g brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)
- 225g plain white flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved
- 12-25g butter or 2 tablespoons of sour or even fresh cream
- 400-425ml sour milk or buttermilk
- wholemeal flour for the work top and baking sheet
- Preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.
- Line the base of the casserole with a disc of parchment paper. Heat the lined casserole in the oven. Make the dough as in the recipe for brown soda bread. Pat the dough into a loaf about 4cm thick and just large enough to fit the casserole.
- First preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips (if using cream, add to the buttermilk). Make a well in the centre and pour all of the sour milk or buttermilk.
- Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the centre of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky.
- When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well-floured board (use wholemeal flour). Do not knead the bread.
- Wash and dry your hands. Roll around gently with floury hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Flip over and flatten slightly to about 5cm. Sprinkle a little of the spare wholemeal flour from the worktop onto a baking tray. Lay the loaf on top of the flour.
- Mark the surface with a deep cross and prick in each quarter with the tip of the knife. Slide the bread into the parchment lined casserole, replace the lid and place in the oven.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F and cook for a further 30 minutes approximately. The bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.