Irish Brown Bread. Do you have a great recipe?
March 9, 2018 3:52 PM   Subscribe

During my first trip to Ireland last year I fell in love with the brown bread. Unlike the Irish brown bread I've had in the US, it was not dry and sandy and crumbly. Instead, it was moist, nutty, and hearty and amazing with butter and marmalade. I've looked at lots of online recipes, but rather than try 50 different ones in search of a great one, I thought I'd ask if anyone has a great standby formula they can personally share. Thanks!
posted by Miko to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't tried it, but on the usually-reliable front, there's one in the March/April 2018 issue of Cook's Illustrated (subscription needed to see that recipe, of course). They found that they needed to combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, wheat bran, and wheat germ to approximate Irish wholemeal flour, which has distinct bits of bran and germ as compared to the uniformly fine grind of whole wheat flour available in the U.S.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:44 PM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

I haven't made it myself, but this recipe on Serious Eats by BraveTart was formulated specifically to avoid the problems you mention.
posted by Huck500 at 4:46 PM on March 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have used the brown bread recipe from the society for the preservation of Irish soda bread for years now. I use half white flour, half whole wheat flour, and bake it in a big heavy dutch oven thing. Lots of great info on this site to while your time away while you wait for the bread to bake. My son swears by apple butter as the best accompaniment for this bread.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 6:55 PM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've made the Cook's Illustrated one two or three times now. It's super-easy to make and we really liked the flavour and texture. I had to substitute oat bran for the wheat germ but otherwise followed it exactly (the buttermilk powder version). It's definitely best the first couple of days but after that we also enjoyed it toasted.
posted by Frenchy67 at 10:36 PM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Maybe it is the water or something else in Ireland? I have not tried to make it, but when we visited relatives in Ireland they made brown bread every few days and it was amazing. I have not had anything like it in the US. I may try some of these recipes.
posted by mermayd at 4:37 AM on March 10, 2018

In Ireland, soda bread, brown bread and brown soda bread are all different things. I think you want the "Irish Wholemeal Bread" as it is indeed nutty. Those links should clarify things for you and are instructive about the flour differences, gluten and butter fat issues you will face. That website is Irish, and those recipes are
posted by DarlingBri at 5:28 AM on March 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Water is different but flour is also different. A lot of our recipes are made for "weak flour", so with a lower protein content. You can look up recipes from The Irish Countrywoman's Association, Ireland's Eye magazine and Ballymaloe kitchen to see what you think of them. Your absolute best bet is just to buy yourself Odlum's brownbread mix, Amazon has a few versions.
posted by Iteki at 6:22 AM on March 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Interesting about the composition of the flour! I'm sure that is an enormous factor. These links are very informative, both historically and technically. Thanks for all the experiences and recipes.
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on March 10, 2018

I second Odlums. They are a very popular and beloved brand here in Ireland. It's the simplest way to get the real thing (although tastes always vary!).

I think all the Odlums stuff on Amazon is imported from Ireland. You can go for the pre-made mix, or get the individual ingredients and use the brown bread recipe on the website.

Here's a fun five minute video of Odlums' Catherine Leyden making brown bread.
posted by rollick at 8:00 AM on March 10, 2018

This is a good recipe for white soda bread
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 ish cups buttermilk

You need "cake flour" in the US to make proper white soda bread. I rarely make brown bread in the US as you it's hard to get the right kind of wholewheat flour for a reasonable price. Also it's critical to handle the dough as little as possible- resist the urge to do more than just lightly shape it for a second. You want a round about 2" deep for white bread.

If you want to try brown bread the ratios are
4 cups flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 rounded teaspoons baking soda
3ish cups buttermilk.
the round should be shallower, about 1" deep.
If it doesn't rise or is a total fail with your local flour, you can try a mix of white and wheat. Or add oats to the white bread above. Or buy expensive imported flour.
posted by fshgrl at 1:02 PM on March 10, 2018

And cook it at 450, not 350.
posted by fshgrl at 1:05 PM on March 10, 2018

Did you see the article in WaPo?
posted by theora55 at 8:31 PM on March 10, 2018

I've made brown bread in the US - could your experience with American / whole wheat have been with store-bought bread that was only 50-60% whole wheat? When I was making our bread (in a bread maker), I found 50% whole wheat dry, but 100% nutty and better textured.
posted by jb at 1:52 AM on March 11, 2018

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