Irish breads

If you’ve been to Ireland, one thing you would have discovered is the brown bread. It is served in every restaurant, grocery store and convenience stop. And each loaf is different. We had it for breakfast, made sandwiches out of it for lunch and had it as an accompaniment to dinners. At one place we stayed, Oughterard in County Galway, a loaf was left for us by a local pub, Powers. Yum. We fell in love with the Irish brown bread. I regret not asking for recipes while there, though I’m not sure it would have been given. After some trial and error I’ve recreated one of my favorites, from a pub in Dingle, County Kerry. I’m going to share it with you:

1 1/2 tsp baking soda – 1/2 C bran or wheat germ – 2 C bread flour – 1/4 C sugar – 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour – 2 C buttermilk – 1/4 C oil – 1/4 C unsalted sunflower seeds – 1/4 C pumpkin seeds – 1/4 C craisins

Mix flours, bran, sugar, and soda in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in buttermilk (you may need more if you live in a dry area) and oil. Stir until moistened. (Over stirring will make for a tough dough) Gently add seeds and craisins. Pour into a greased loaf pan. (Batter will look like waffle batter, not like bread dough.) Bake 1 hour at 350. If you really want to Irish it up, serve with Kerrygold butter. (We did a blind taste test at our house it won, hands down.) Honey is also good on it. We like it with cream cheese, but we didn’t see it served that way in Ireland.

Irish Soda Bread – not to be confused with Irish brown bread. When looking online for recipes I found a lot of confusion. This is a recipe I’ve had for many years. We make this all the time. It is very easy, quick and delicious. Great with soups and stews – or anytime you’d normally use yeast bread. I generally have to make two loaves if everyone is here. The outside is crusty and the inside firm, but soft. Give this a try on St. Patrick’s Day:

4 C flour – 1 T butter – 1 t salt – 1 t baking soda (don’t over do this or your entire loaf will taste like baking soda; trust me on this one.) – 1 1/2 C buttermilk.

In a large mixing bowl, rub butter into flour. This is best using your fingers to get the butter mixed really well into the flour. Add salt and soda; mix well. Add buttermilk and stir. I start with a wooden spoon, but always end up using my hands. It’s quicker and mixes better. Form into a ball. I like to use parchment paper, but it’s not required. Place ball on a lightly greased baking sheet and flatten to about 1/2″ thickness. Make a deep cross in the center with a floured knife. Bake about 30 minutes at 425. Depending on your oven, you may need to reduce the heat. Bread should be a deep golden brown, the cross fairly well split open. Brush with melted butter. I love salt, so I often sprinkle some course salt on top. You can also use poppy or sesame seeds, or leave it plain. Pile on the butter and/or drizzle with honey.

Let me know if you try either or both of these and how it turned out for you.

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