Irish Brown Bread

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Instead of baking Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day, I wanted to try something a little different. I first heard of Irish brown bread while watching one of the very many behind-the-scenes series The Saturdays have done over the years. In one particular episode, Una Healy, the sole Irish member of The Saturdays, went on and on about how great her mother's brown bread was and how much she missed it. In the end, she wound up calling her mother for the recipe and baking it for the rest of the girls.

I Googled Irish brown bread and discovered that it has something of a cult following, which only motivated me more to try it out for myself. According to my "research," Irish brown bread is becoming more and more difficult to find even in Ireland, and most of it is homemade today.

I used this recipe from Sunset magazine, which had reviews claiming it was the closest thing to Irish brown bread they'd ever tried outside of Ireland.

Irish Brown Bread
Yields one loaf weighing about 1.75 pounds

1 cup of all-purpose flour
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of oats
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
1 1/2 cup of non-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix the all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together. Cut the butter into the mixture and mix with fingers until the flour mixture achieves a fine crumb texture. Stir in the whole wheat flour and oats.

Add the yogurt to the mixture and stir gently. If mixture is so dry that it won't come together, add a teaspoon of milk at a time until it does hold together, making sure that the dough doesn't become sticky.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 times to form a ball with a diameter of about 7 inches.

Move onto baking sheet and bake for anywhere from 45 minutes to about 75 minutes, when the crust achieves a deep golden brown color. The recipe advises a baking time of 40 minutes, but I (and others) have found that to be not enough time. Cool on a rack and serve either warm or cool.

The flour ate the butter

I loved the color and texture of the whole wheat flour

A love a little bit of oats

I used non-fat Greek yogurt instead of regular because it was on sale ...

I didn't quite know what to expect of this bread, but I loved the nuttiness of the whole wheat flour, and the color and texture of the flours and dough. What this bread turned out to be, at least in my experience, was a rustic, crusty yet chewy bread with a very nutty and slightly sweet flavor. If you are a fan of hearty, homemade breads, you've got to give this one a try. I love the fact that it doesn't require yeast or rising time, and it really is easy as 1-2-3 to make. It's one of the things I love about Irish food -- its simplicity, and the history, culture, legacy, heritage that comes with these recipes. Most likely, this recipe came from a time when things were rough, and the minimal ingredient list reflects that. In a way, that only works in the favor of us home bakers who don't have a large variety of ingredients to work with!

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