Learning How to Bake Traditional Irish Brown Bread
The Reason to Learn
Over the past year my husband has developed a new food obsession: Irish brown bread. Everywhere we eat he requests Irish brown bread to eat alongside his meal. Every time we grocery shop he will add a loaf to our cart. At one point our freezer was storing three loafs, just in case we ran out. Our weekly purchase of brown bread eventually progressed to him asking, “Do you think we can learn how to make Irish brown bread?”
Brown Bread History
A quick Google search for a recipe was overwhelming. There were so many. But while searching I learned that brown bread is the heart of a traditional Irish breakfast. The heartiness of the entire meal is meant to absorb any leftover Guinness from the night before. There are white versions generally called Irish soda bread but the brown, wheat-mealed, crumbly brown bread is what you will more commonly find around the country.
Good food facts, but I still needed a recipe. Enter Cathriona (remember? my friend from this post and this post), I shared with her my desire to learn a traditional Irish brown bread recipe, and she knew just the person to teach me, her mother (Cathriona’s mother has asked to remain anonymous so I will not use her name or share pictures of her). She has been making the same recipe for over two decades. We coordinated an afternoon in her kitchen, and it was an afternoon to remember, learning from a true Irish brown bread master! Pause to truly think about my experience. I was learning a traditional Irish recipe, with an Irish woman, in her Irish home. These experiences do not happen every day. And I am not taking it for granted.
The original recipe does not even have measurements. A true ‘old-world’ recipe, right?! Everything was added and combined by feel and visual appearance. For the purposes of transcribing the recipe we did portion things out so I could go home and practice using imperial measurement tools, and share the recipe with my followers.
Irish Brown Bread- Yields 2 Loaves
Preheat the oven to 375F/ 190C
- 4 cups Self Rising (All Purpose) Flour
- 3 cups Wheatmeal
- 1 cup Wheat Germ
- 2 Tablespoons Bread Soda
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 4 cups (1 Liter) Buttermilk
Add the first five ingredients into a large bowl. Mix to combined. Pour the buttermilk into the flour mixture. Mix with hands while rotating the bowl. Mixture will be sticky but if it is too sticky add more self rising flour.
Next section the dough in half so it is easier to handle. Knead each half on a floured surface until fully combined.
Take each half, pat into a 1-inch thick round circle. You now have options:
- Bake as is to yield 2 loaves
- Cut into quarters to make 8 quarter loaf sections (pictured below- left)
- Or use a round cookie cutter to make scone shaped bread rolls (pictured below- right)
With all three methods, pierce each loaf at the top to vent.
Place on a lightly floured baking tray and bake in the preheat oven for 18-20 minutes.
Bread is cooked when it is lightly golden brown. Or knock on a loaf (pictured below- left), when cooked the knock should sound hallow. Place on a cooling rack to cool.
Store bread at room temperture for up to 3 days. Or store in freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost, defrost overnight then warm in oven for 10 minutes. Reheats very well!
All that was left to do was tear the loaf in half (slicing does not allow for the butter and jam to pool in the nooks), spread the butter and homemade jam on top, and enjoy with a pot of tea in the garden!
In the comments below let me know if there are any other Irish recipes you would like to see featured on my blog.
Many of the photos featured in today's post were taken by Cathriona, as my hands were busy kneading bread dough!