Each year for St. Patrick's Day, I like to make a loaf of Irish brown bread to share with friends in celebration of my Irish heritage. I learned this little tradition from my mother, who also makes a loaf each year. Every year when I make it, I can't help but revel in how simple this bread is to make and delicious it is to eat! It deserves a place on our tables all year round, so here it is - Irish brown bread in September!
Irish brown bread requires no yeast, and no waiting. It's a quick bread that relies heavily on the rising powers of baking soda, so you can have it on your table in about an hour! It is dense and wheaty, and will form an amazing crust if you bake it in a cast iron pan instead of on a baking sheet.
So please, take a little break from your busy life to make this beautiful bread, and enjoy it warm with a table of your favorite people. Or standing in the kitchen just as soon as it's cool enough to cut, as I've been known to do!
Now, for the biggest secret of all! My mother has long been lauded for her brown bread, rightfully so as it is quite phenomenal. Her secret? Bob's Red Mill Irish soda bread mix. It comes out so beautifully, there was never any reason to search for the best recipe to make from scratch. For a long time, I too swore by the "family recipe" whenever I was craving a loaf. But no longer do I rely on that trusty crutch!
This past March, I searched the stores of Traverse City high and low, but couldn't find the mix anywhere... leaving me to my own devices. I couldn't be more thankful for this problem of small town life, because now I can always rely on this amazing from scratch recipe any time the hankering comes - no frantic shopping required!
I recommend eating this bread warm, slathered generously with butter. It's perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack, and goes wonderfully with a bowl of hearty soup. Here's to the arrival of fall and the return to our ovens!
This recipe has been slightly adapted from The Cook's Illustrated (my bible of cooking).
1 1/2 cup all purpose white flour
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cake flour (use all purpose if you don't have cake flour)
1/2 cup wheat germ or oat bran
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
- Place flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until fully combined.
- Using fingers, rub softened butter into the flour mixture until completely incorporated.
- Create a well by pushing some of the flour to the sides of the bowl, and pour in 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk.
- Using a fork, stir the mixture gently to incorporate the buttermilk into the dry ingredients. The dough will come together in large clumps.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to bring it together to form a 6 inch round. It will be a little uneven, don't worry!
- Place the dough in a 12 inch cast iron, or on a baking sheet, and score a deep cross into the top of the bread, nearly reaching each edge, and about half an inch deep.
- Bake bread at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for about 20 minutes, then dig in!