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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.
Start with your flour-
9 oz wholemeal flour–I really recommend Bob’s Red mill Stone ground whole wheat flour
*Neither of these flours are needed to make decent brown bread, but when I use them the bread goes from decent to fantastic!
Add 1 tsp of salt
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.
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)
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!!!)
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.
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!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
My Perfect Irish Brown Bread
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.