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My Perfect Irish Brown Bread

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When I first went to Ireland almost 20 years ago all the meals I ate out were really mediocre. We ate a lot of under-seasoned meat and potatoes, and I thought Irish food was not something I would miss, until . . . . . I tasted Irish brown bread! This beautiful, rustic, nutty, crusty, hearty slice of deliciousness is one of my gastronomic true loves. It is ideal for dunking into soup, for turning into perfect sandwiches, and slathered with butter. (Now that I have maligned Irish cookery, I will say, Ireland has really upped its food game. The last few visits to Ireland have been stellar in the eating department.)

My very favorite loaf of brown bread was found at a local grocery store in Fermoy. This loaf had the addition of rolled oats which upped the flavor significantly. I think I personally ate 4-5 loafs in a 3 day period. (Check out that trip here) After we left Ireland–and I repeatedly dreamed of that bread–I began my quest to recreate it. I probably made 20 different recipes until I narrowed it down to this one. I changed it slightly by adding oatmeal and cutting the flour.

We then ended up stuck in Ireland a year later due to a snowstorm on the East coast, and we drove back to Fermoy so I could get some more of my favorite brown bread! I ate a few more loafs and brought one home with me to try it against my recipe. I tweaked the amount of honey, the buttermilk amounts, the whole wheat vs. bread flour, and eventually . . . . . I made my perfect brown bread loaf.

The equipment you will need for this recipe is very limited. You will need measuring cups & spoons or a kitchen scale, a wooden spoon, and a baking tray with parchment paper or a silpat. I am using the bowl to my Bosch mixer, but you really don’t need an electric mixer for this.

Irish bread baking

Start with your flour-

9 oz wholemeal flour–I really recommend Bob’s Red mill Stone ground whole wheat flour

5 oz of King Arthur unbleached flour

*Neither of these flours are needed to make decent brown bread, but when I use them the bread goes from decent to fantastic!

Irish bread baking-2Add 1 tsp of salt

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Add 1 1/4 tsp baking soda

Mix to combine

Add 1 1/2 oz of butter and mix to combine by rubbing with your hands.

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Rather than using commercially produced buttermilk, I found that this buttermilk hack worked better to rise the bread: combine 400 ml of whole milk with 2 Tablespoons of plain vinegar and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes. After allowing the mixture to sit, mix 2 Tablespoons of honey, 2 teaspoons of molasses, and 1 egg into the homemade buttermilk. (Your mixture will look darker than mine as the molasses is a new addition)

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Irish bread baking6Irish bread baking7

Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Lastly add 3.25 oz or 1 heaping cup of rolled oats. (not quick oats!!!)

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Shape mixture into a round loaf on top of a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Cut down halfway into the loaf with a knife. (This allows the loaf to cook evenly.) Place in a preheated 400 degree oven for 35-45 minutes.

Irish bread baking9Irish bread baking10

Cool for 5 minutes on the tray, and then remove to a baking rack to cool for 20 minutes. Slice and enjoy your delicious Irish brown bread!

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I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

My Perfect Irish Brown Bread


9 oz Bob’s Red Mill wholemeal flour

6 oz King Arthur unbleaached all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 ¼ baking soda

1 ½ oz of butter

400 ml (1.7 cups) whole milk

2 Tablespoons vinegar


2 Tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons molasses

3.2 oz (1 heaping cup) rolled oats


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix flours, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl. Rub butter into dry ingredients.

Add vinegar to milk and allow to sit for 3 minutes. Add egg, honey, and molasses to milk mixture, and mix into dry ingredients until just combined.

Add rolled oats and mix gently into dough.

Shape a round loaf on a baking sheet lined in parchment. Make a cut halfway through the loaf to allow for even cooking.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until baked through.

Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack for 20 minutes.



  1. September 8, 2018 / 5:50 pm

    Great! This is called soda bread in Ireland, and you’re right…. it’s great fresh out of the oven with butter 🙂

    • travelswiththecrew
      September 8, 2018 / 6:02 pm

      Everywhere we went it was called brown bread to differentiate from its white cousin the soda bread. I even ate brown bread ice cream in Ireland!

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