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Irish Brown Bread for a Wellies Kind of Day

October 24, 2010

It’s been raining in my neck of the woods all day today, Mother Nature’s declaration that summer is behind us.  It’s inevitable that on days like this, my mind wanders back to past visits to Ireland which claims part of my heritage, where some of our closest friends reside and where I feel at home away from home.

In Ireland I’ve met the sunniest people I’ve ever known, despite the fact that each back door I’ve ever stepped into has been lined with rows of Wellington boots, ever-prepared for unexpected wet weather.  Beyond the door, there would always be a pot of tea, just steeped, ready for company.  In the afternoon, tea would be accompanied by small cakes, cookies and/or Irish cocktail sausages.

But morning tea in the Duffy home (and perhaps most other Irish homes) would always be accompanied by brown bread, a slab of butter and homemade jam.  This is where I realized I had quite a thing for bread.  I’ve always enjoyed it but not like my mother or husband who can eat bread any time of day.

Irish brown bread awakened my love for things rustic, dense and hearty.  I couldn’t get enough of it, especially when it was warm from the toaster and either slathered in butter or topped with Irish cheddar (Dubliner Irish cheese is available in many U.S. stores).  I was obsessed.

With my first trip to Ireland drawing to a close, I decided to solicit the Duffy matriarch, Celia, for her recipe.  With a sly smile she told me the recipe was a secret.  As disappointed as I was, I certainly understood.  But I was determined to make brown bread at home.

For the next few months, I committed myself to various online recipes.  I tried several until I found one I liked.  While I came very close, I still couldn’t quite match the quality of the real thing; the texture wasn’t right.  That is, until I discovered my local British/Irish foods store where I found Odlums Wholemeal Flour.  This is what I was missing all along!  I was a happy girl.

But guess what?  On my second visit to Ireland,  Celia showed me what she has used for years–Odlums Brown Bread Mix.  A mix where all you have to do is add water!  At that moment, I understood her knowing smile when I originally asked for her recipe .  Here I spent all that time tinkering and I didn’t have to.  Oh well, now I have a backup plan for the days when my store doesn’t have wholemeal flour or when I want a quick Irish brown bread fix.  There’s nothing unhealthy about the mix–all the dry ingredients are just pre-mixed for convenience.  Since this is a soda bread, Irish wheat flour is mixed with baking soda (and the other ingredients).

This is what I used today since my store hasn’t carried wholemeal flour for some time.  It is available for purchase online, however, should you be inclined to have a taste of Ireland in your kitchen.

Irish Brown Bread (From Scratch)

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (You can also substitute some or all of this with whole wheat, your choice)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (or Odlums Coarse Wholemeal flour)
  • 3 tablespoons wheat bran
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 2 tablespoons oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 425ºF.  Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture has the texture of fine meal.  Stir in the buttermilk to form a soft dough.  Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface, form into a ball and score the top of the dough.

Transfer to a baking sheet or a round pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake for about 40 minutes or when a tester inserted into the bread comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack before serving (I can never wait that long).

37 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2010 8:41 PM

    You are one amazingly talented baker…I tried to make bread once and it was just a complete disaster. To say the least.

    More impressive though is the first photo in this post…I could easily see that in a fabulous magazine. The placement of everything – it is just stunning!

    • October 26, 2010 6:53 PM

      Thank you for your generous compliment! I’m a newbie baker and rely on the quality of the recipes I use. I’ve just gotten lucky. Thanks so much! 🙂

  2. October 24, 2010 10:26 PM

    There are just some foods that suit the weather – and this Irish brown bread looks so comforting on a ‘wellies’ day. Quite funny to discover your Irish relative was using a bread mixture. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best.

    Great photos too, by the way. 🙂

  3. October 24, 2010 10:28 PM

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. In one week, I’ll officially be 100% self-employed, meaning, most important, I can spend what used to be commuting time … cooking! And I love Irish soda bread, especially wheat, especially sans raisins, a variety I first had while living in Galway and working in a restaurant where it was a specialty of the owner. I’ve long since misplaced that recipe, so I’m thrilled to have come across yours. Thank you for the tip on the flour. Gorgeous photos, lovely story.

    • October 25, 2010 3:21 PM

      Erin, that’s great! More time to cook is always better. How awesome that you used to live in Galway–it’s a lovely town. I sent the Odlums recipe to your Twitter acct just in case you get a hold of the wholemeal flour–just another option.

      Thanks for your compliments on the photos. Love, love your work on your site. 🙂

  4. October 24, 2010 11:00 PM

    So that’s the secret! 🙂 I love both the super cute story and how crackly/crusty that bread looks. I sure wish I have some warm bread in the oven right now for this chilly, rainy weather. Cheers!

    • October 25, 2010 3:23 PM

      I know I thought it was funny! It took me a year to find out. My friend has an old recipe too but it was the mix I tasted and fell in love with. 🙂

  5. October 25, 2010 12:26 AM

    Gorgeous bread and photos!!

  6. October 25, 2010 4:39 AM

    I love the story behind this posts and your photos are fitting. I too love bread and this recipe sounds perfect (= Thanks for sharing.

  7. October 25, 2010 5:49 AM

    That sounds like such a hearty slice of bread! It’s funny how “secret” recipes often involve a little cheating!

  8. October 25, 2010 7:30 AM

    I got you late night tweet last night! I hope you got some sleep, but it came just as I was heading to bed. So I pulled this post up and let it sit on my desktop all night. Now it’s here warming my (rainy) morning. I only wish someone had left me some of this heart fare waiting all night as well. GREG

    • October 25, 2010 8:12 AM

      That’s so nice of you, Greg, thanks! I finally fell asleep at midnight and now I’m having black tea and toasted brown bread. I would happily share if you were closer. 🙂

  9. October 25, 2010 8:38 AM

    I left my heart in Ireland. It was my first “alone” trip. It’s true that Irish people are super warm. I bet you got that from your Irish heritage. Now, coming to this bread…I wish I had a slice to have breakfast this morning! You are a great baker! We should consider making something together so you could teach me your tricks!

    • October 25, 2010 3:25 PM

      Sara, you can come over and bake with me anytime, but I think I’ll be taking all the notes and learning something, not you. It would be an unfair exchange for you (Ms. Expert!) but it would be fun anyway! 🙂

  10. October 25, 2010 10:21 AM

    I just love it when bread “opens” that way in baking!!! 😀

  11. October 25, 2010 11:52 AM

    I love all kinds of bread. This Irish brown bread looks so crusty and delicious. Your pictures have great composition!

  12. October 25, 2010 1:05 PM

    I’m just like your mother and husband..I could live on bread, so I must try this one you made. I t looks gorgeous!

  13. trissalicious permalink
    October 25, 2010 1:27 PM

    Visiting Ireland is one my one of my to do lists – I’ll eventually get to it but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy your Irish bread… it looks beautiful – the Irish might want to adopt you after this!

    • October 25, 2010 3:26 PM

      Trissa, Whether they wanted to or not, I’ve made myself an honorary member of their family and vice versa. They’re great friends. 🙂

  14. October 25, 2010 1:34 PM

    your photos are stunning, I loveeee the first one! Gorgeous, wow.

    I am always scared to make bread at home, but this looks too comforting to pass up. I love the smears of butter and jam.

    • October 25, 2010 3:28 PM

      Thanks Nadia. I couldn’t resist using the painting as a backdrop. I see it everyday and it seemed fitting for the rainy day. 🙂

  15. October 25, 2010 6:05 PM

    that bread looks amazing….wow…..there is just something so special about rustic country bread..perfect with just about anything!

  16. October 25, 2010 6:30 PM

    I love rustic breads and I love wellies 🙂 I have black and white polka dots ones that I love wearing on rainy days

  17. October 25, 2010 8:37 PM

    Your photographs are always stunning…but you have really blown me away today! That first photograph should be on the cover of a magazine. So beautiful! I just love that painting (and of course, I always swoon over bread). Thank you for sharing. I love Irish Brown Bread, and I’m eager to give the recipe a try!

    • October 26, 2010 6:55 PM

      Monet, thanks so much! Lucky shot, literally! We’ve had that painting for a long time and it just worked with the theme. 🙂

  18. October 25, 2010 8:52 PM

    A wonderful bread accompanied by lovely photos… nicely done!

  19. October 25, 2010 8:58 PM

    well, then. for those of us who cannot get the mix!! I adore bread and there is something uniquely pedestal worthy of the morning toast with butter and jam. It IS better than any other time of day;).

  20. October 25, 2010 11:44 PM

    Your photography is stunning. I especially liked the very first picture which was constructed with the eye of an artist.

    I love the rustic recipe for Irish soda bread as well. My grandmother used to love it but I grumbled about it as a kid. It wasn’t until I was older and really started to appreciate good bread that I wanted to know more about some of the baked goods that she loved.

  21. October 26, 2010 8:13 AM

    love your space. Creative dishes and wonderful pictures. wow!

  22. October 26, 2010 10:03 AM

    What a lovely photo! I appreciate the time and effort you take to present your food. 🙂 I don’t like bread much – – – unless it resembles muffins or banana bread (to me these are more like cake and therefore more palatable, haha) but I’ve watched my mom make countless types of breads as a child, and I know it takes talent. Kudos – your bread looks amazing! And Ireland – looks amazing. I hope to visit one day!

    • October 26, 2010 6:57 PM

      Judy, you and I are the same way. However, the more I attempt bread baking, the greater my appreciation grows. There’s something oddly satisfying about making your own bread–I’m totally into it now. Thanks! 🙂

  23. October 26, 2010 6:43 PM

    I just heard the weather forecast for the weekend-rain, just the right kind of weather to enjoy a loaf of Irish brown bread slathered with Irish butter and jam, yum, I can taste it right now:)

  24. October 26, 2010 7:41 PM

    Your bread looks perfect! I am glad that you tracked down the right ingredients to make it. We are planning a trip to Ireland next Spring. I might like to chat with you about where you were, suggestions, etc.

  25. October 26, 2010 8:23 PM

    Jean – It has been a while since I have been to Ireland, but I loved it. I love that you conquered Celia’s secret recipe. Irish soda bread was one of the many treasures from that beautiful country. I agree that slathering with butter is the best! Great for a rainy day!

  26. October 27, 2010 9:04 PM

    I think I would be obsessed with that bread too. I would love to have it for breakfast with butter and jam, hmmm. Never been to Ireland but I certainly would love to visit.

  27. October 31, 2010 10:37 AM

    I was introduced to the goodness of wholesome Irish Soda Bread while visiting Ireland a few years ago. Last St. Patrick’s Day I decided that’s what I wanted to post, so I baked a batch and was surprised at how easy it was actually. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous!

  28. November 3, 2010 7:00 PM

    Jean, I didn’t know you had some Irish blood. I’m Irish and I have a soft spot for all things Irish. Soda bread has been on my recipe queue for some time now. Eventually when I get around to making it I will consult your delicious bread here. Thanks for sharing. Lovely photos (love your painting of boots – so cute).

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