We discovered Brown Bread on our trip to Ireland and had it everywhere we stopped. Now that we’re home and missing those hearty slices, it’s time to make some brown bread in my own kitchen.
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In my Delectable Destinations posts about my trip to Ireland with my mother and sister, you may have noticed several mentions of “brown bread”. When we arrived we saw this on menus everywhere: in cafés, restaurants, and with breakfasts at our B&Bs. And we weren’t sure at first what that was – perhaps a plain slice of wheat bread. Actually the brown bread we got was cut from a small loaf, a deep wheaty brown, soft and with a rustic texture. It was hearty, simple, and quite flavorful especially when spread with Irish butter. It was perfect with breakfast, as a mid-afternoon snack or to whet our appetites for dinner.
We had some with veggie soup at Tigh Nan Phaidi Café on Inishmore, and purchased slices at Caífé na Trá, a little spot perched on a sloping hillside above the sea, to bring with us on our scenic drive around Slea Head in Dingle. Once home we found that we really missed this brown bread!
When I recently put together traditional Irish recipes share for St. Patrick’s Day, I researched to find authentic Irish foods and somehow did not come across this brown soda bread. I found plenty of entries for white soda bread – usually studded with raisins and caraway seed like my Great-Great Aunt Lizzie’s recipe.
This “brown bread” is a soda bread made with wholemeal flour, which is a coarse wheat flour with visible specks of bran – not as fine as a typical whole wheat flour.
Brown bread relies on buttermilk and baking soda for the rise, and buttermilk also contributes moisture and flavor to the bread.
Once home I ordered some Odlums Irish wholemeal flour to experiment with. (Wish I had though to buy a bag there and stick it in my suitcase!)
I bought a bag of King Arthur Flour’s Irish Style Flour to try as well. Comparing the two side by side it is easy to see that the wholemeal flour is coarser, and I could feel this difference as well. Using the white Irish soda bread recipe as a starting point I experimented with both flours to come up with a brown bread recipe.
I had more luck with the less-coarse King Arthur Irish Style Flour, combining it with all-purpose flour to lighten the texture and get a better rise. (But I am not giving up on the wholemeal flour, experiments will continue!)
My brown bread is shaped as a round loaf, and I baked it in a enameled cast-iron pot lined with parchment paper.
You could also bake this loaf free-form on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. And remember to slather the slices with butter, Irish butter preferably! (Here’s an article I wrote for Taste Of Home about Kerrygold butter!)
The recipe is below, and here are posts about our trip to Ireland where we found all this Brown Bread!
Irish Brown Bread
- 2 cups Irish Style (wholemeal) flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, unbleached
- 4-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Have ready an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or a baking sheet. Line the pot or the baking sheet with parchment paper. Have a floured surface ready for a quick knead on the dough, and a bench scraper if you have one.
- Stir together in a large bowl the Irish whole meal flour, all-purpose flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour in most of the buttermilk and stir it into the dry ingredients. If the mixture still seems very dry, stir in the rest of the buttermilk.
- Turn out the contents of the bowl onto the floured surface - the dough will still have some dry flour visible. Give the dough just a few quick kneads to pull it together. (You don't want to over-knead this bread as it will make it tough once baked.) Quickly shape it into a ball and place the dough into the pot or on the baking sheet.
- Place the pot or baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375° F and bake the bread for another 40-45 minutes. The bread should be risen and browned, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Remove the bread to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing it. Serve slices of the bread with butter and jam. Tightly wrap leftover bread and use it within 2-3 days.
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My Ireland posts are dedicated to my mom Kathy and sister Melissa. I loved our time together in Ireland and I love you both!
Have you tried this Irish Brown Bread? Please click the stars at the top of the recipe to rate it and leave a comment for me below!