Borrowed from Fine Cooking, it’s virtually impossible to mess this bread up. Your first loaf might be a little lumpy looking but if it’s cooked through, it will taste fabulous. Please get your hands dirty and give it a try – the most difficult instruction is to wait for a couple of hours before you slice it!
1 lb. flour (about 3 1/2 cups), plus more as needed
3/4 t. baking soda AND 1/2 t. table salt
~1 1/2 c. + buttermilk – the amount will depend on the feel of the mix
Preheat the oven to 450, line a baking sheet with parchment, or alternatively, lightly flour a baking sheet.
In a large shallow bowl, sift or whisk together the 3 dry ingredients, and make sure that the oven is at temperature before proceeding. Make a well in the center and pour in 1 1/4 cups of the buttermilk. Stir with one hand, fingers apart, moving in circles to incorporate the buttermilk into the dry ingredients. If necessary, add more buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just barely comes together. (The absorption rate varies depending on the brand of flour.) The dough should be soft—don’t overwork it. My ‘dough’ looked like a lumpy mess, but trust the process and you’ll get a lovely loaf of bread!
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat into a round about 6 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches high in the center. Flip over the round so the floured side is on top and use a thin, sharp knife, score a cross on the dough about 1/4 inch deep and extending fully from one side to the other.
Transfer the dough to your prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 400 and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the bread is a lovely brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cooking time will vary depending on your loaf shape.
Leave the loaf to cool on a rack for about 2 hours before attempting to slice it and serve it…and don’t worry, it will still be a little warm inside – enjoy!