I often think about my trip to Dublin, Ireland these days. Out of all my trips over the last 4 or 5 years, I must say the Irish have proven to be the most friendly. No matter what happens during your trip to another country, if you encounter sweet people, you will always remember that. The Irish will always hold a lovely place in my heart. And so will the food of Dublin! Perhaps Dublin is not known for being a city of gourmands, but that has never been of importance to me. I search for good, hearty food that tastes good. That’s all I need. In Dublin, I found just that, so on this St. Patrick’s Day, here is a recipe for a traditional bread that stirs up fond memories of the Emerald Isle.
There was never a meal to be had in Dublin without brown bread. I ate it whenever the opportunity arose, and of course, each slice was slathered with local butter or topped with farm fresh cheese. It was a rainy, chilly time of year–late December into early January, in fact–so my friends and I spent a good bit of our time on the search for warm meals that would leave us satisfied. I ate my weight in seafood chowders swimming with tender cod, haddock, clams, fresh salmon and smoked salmon. Each bowl was always accompanied by a few slices of that cherished brown bread. Now that I’ve been without Irish brown bread for nearly 2 1/2 months, it seemed like the perfect time to whip up a batch.
Research had to be done of course. There are a plethora of Irish soda bread recipes out there, but it is not the same as brown soda bread. Via Twitter, the good folks behind Discover Ireland provided a bit of insight into the specific differences. The brown soda bread uses baking soda, of course, as well as a notable percentage of wheat or rye flour. The texture is soft, yet dense, occasionally crumbly. The outer crust is thick and crunchy, and each bite leaves a mild tang on the tongue from the baking soda and buttermilk. Irish soda bread tends to be on the sweeter side, studded with dried fruits–usually raisins or currants. My favorite step in the making of both types of bread is the deep “X” scored on top with a knife. Tradition says this is what “lets the fairies out”, ensuring luck during your baking session and a perfect loaf.
The recipe below is an adaptation from Discover Ireland, as well as Darina Allen’s recipe on the Kerrygold site. The former was a great resource for ingredients and proportions, whereas the latter included a genius two-temperature bake method and flipping the loaf during the last five minutes. A few differences between both recipes is the use of oat bran, wheat bran and just a wee bit ‘o sugar. You’ll notice there is no yeast, though, so this is indeed a quick bread ready for the oven in minutes. Serve it alongside your dinner, bake up a loaf for breakfast, or save a few slices for a midday snack. Don’t forget to pair it with lots of softened butter and cheese. A few pats of Kerrygold garlic and herb butter and Dubliner cheese are perfect.
- 9 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 7 ounces rye flour
- 2 ounces oat bran
- 1 ounce wheat bran
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1¼ cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, oat bran, wheat bran, salt, sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Add the buttermilk and egg, shaping the dough into a uniform ball.
- Dust a work surface with flour, and transfer the dough to the board. Knead lightly, and shape into a 6" x 1" round. Lightly spray a 10" skillet with cooking spray, then place the unbaked bread round in the skillet.
- Using a sharp knife, score the bread by making a deep "X" on top, cutting nearly halfway through the loaf. Slide the bread into the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees, and bake for another 20 minutes. Flip the loaf upside down, and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack.
- Serve warm with Irish butter, cheese and jams.
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