- Easy to prepare, whole grain, traditional Irish brown bread
- Good source of fiber and protein
- 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving
I grew up in a family that strongly identifies as Irish-American. I am pretty sure my maternal grandfather, born and raised in Seattle, spent his free time imagining life as a character in The Quiet Man. When he talked about thatched roofs and stone walls I hung on his every word. From a very young age, I was aware that my mom spent part of the summer after her high school graduation in Ireland and there was no doubt in my mind that I would follow her example.
I first arrived in Dublin right before my twentieth birthday. Before leaving Seattle, a close friend of my grandparents set me up with the name and contact details of her cousin Marilyn, who lived just south of Dublin.
Marilyn turned out to be a lovely woman. Originally from Seattle, she had relocated to Ireland in her youth. Now, in her 40’s, she was tickled to play tour guide and offer me a bit of support. She lived in County Wicklow just south of Dublin. Wicklow is a stunning area that rises from pebbled beaches, up wild flower carpeted hillsides, and into the rolling ridges that Ireland affectionately calls mountains.
Spend a day with Marilyn meant seeing the countryside. She drove and chatted while I sat in the passenger seat of her tiny car with my nose to the glass as giddy as a spaniel. One day Marilyn planned a day trip for us beyond Wicklow down to Waterford County, where you can find Waterford City, home of the famed crystal factory.
We were off to visit her friend who lived in a charming cottage perched on the south side of a rocky hill (all the hills in Ireland are rocky). If one stood along the driveway, it was possible to peer all the way out to the sea on a nice day. We visited on an absolutely stunning day and the view was sparkling.
The modern cottage featured windows quite large by Irish building standards. The sunlight streamed in from all directions. Upon arrival we were immediately offered the customary steaming mugs of tea. I sipped mine while attempting to catalog every detail of the day while the two friends caught up. After the gossip was sorted we were invited to move to the kitchen table which was lit by another enormous window framing the sweeping view like a fine masterpiece. I had not yet dinned in a private home, at least not the home of an adult. I did not know what to expect but I was in for a real treat.
Though it was Saturday our host had prepared a full roast dinner. We were served slices of tender roast beef with the most decadent crisp on the outside pillowy on the inside roasted potatoes. There must have been both hot and cold vegetables but what really made my mouth water were the thick slices of homemade dark brown bread – the quintessential accompaniment to any savory meal in Ireland.
Irish Brown Bread
Brown bread is rich with a bit of sweetness and a dense texture. Similar to the soda bread you can find in American bakeries around St. Patrick’s Day, brown bread is made with no yeast. In theory you could use slices of brown bread to make a sandwich but I have not seen it done. What you really want to do is take a thick slice of warm (it must be warm) brown bread and smear it with a bit of real Irish butter.
After my introduction to homemade Irish brown bread I looked forward to future opportunities to repeat the experience. It didn’t occur to me that I could find a recipe to make the bread myself until just a few years ago. Fortunately the internet came to my rescue and I was able to find a recipe published in the Avoca Cafe Cookbook the cafe partner to one of my favorite places to shop (and eat) in Dublin.
Recommended for this Recipe:
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- 1½ cup (6 oz) all purpose flour
- 2½ cups (11 oz) whole wheat flour
- 3 TB wheat bran
- 2 TB flax meal
- 2 heaping tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1½ tsp molasses
- 2- 21/2 cups low fat buttermilk
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat an 8" x 5" loaf pan with butter or non-stick spray. Dust the inside of the pan with additional flax meal or bran.
- Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the molasses and stir in enough milk to give the batter a "moist but not sloppy" texture. Start with 2 cups and add more if needed. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and shake to level. Sprinkle a bit of bran on the top to make it pretty.
- The loaf bakes in three stages: Begin by baking until the loaf has risen - somewhere between 6 to 20 minutes. When the loaf is nice and round, reduce the heat to 325 and continue to bake for another hour. At this point remove the bread from the oven. Carefully loosen the bread from its pan and ease it out.
- Tap on the bottom of the loaf, if it sounds hollow, it is done. If your tap thuds, place the loaf back in the oven just on the rack without its pan. Continue baking until it passes the "hollow test", could be as many as 30 additional minutes.
- Cool the loaf completely before using a sharp serrated knife to cut the loaf into 12 even slices.