From Carlene O’Connor’s Murder at an Irish Christmas

Irish Brown Bread

A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a gift certificate to Audible.com and since then I have become addicted to audio books. One of the series I have been listening to is the Irish Village Mystery Series by Carlene O’Connor.

In every book, Carlene writes about Siobhan O’Sullivan’s Brown Bread and how it is the best Brown Bread in Ireland, so I kept telling myself that I needed to find a recipe for Irish Brown Bread. I was pleasantly surprised when at the end of Murder at an Irish Christmas, the narrator began to read the recipe for Siobhan’s Irish Brown Bread. I hurriedly wrote down the recipe and decided that this was going to be my next attempt at baking bread.

One positive of making Irish Brown Bread or Irish Soda Bread, is that these are unyeasted breads. They both use baking soda and buttermilk as the leavening agents. If you are a novice in breadmaking, this is a good place to start. Buttermilk also makes a softer bread, but one reason I shy away from recipes with buttermilk is the fact that most of the quart of milk goes to waste. You can freeze the extra buttermilk, if you have the room in your freezer, but you can also use Buttermilk Powder and water as a replacement for the 14 ounces buttermilk in a recipe. This can You can order this from King Arthur Flour or Amazon and I find that it works just as well. Simply combine 6 tablespoons of buttermilk powder and 15 ounces of water, which can be made ahead of time and chilled.

Buttermilk Powder

This recipe also calls for Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour. Living in Los Angeles, I figured that whole wheat flour would be readily available in all stores, but was only able to find organic whole wheat flour at Whole Foods. If you are so inclined to you can order Irish Style Flour also from King Arthur Flour, which is ground from red whole wheat and designed specifically for Irish Soda Breads.

Siobhan O’Sullivan says that she also “adds a drop of Guinness for good luck;” however, I was left to wonder how much a “drop” is. I looked at several brown bread recipes and either buttermilk was used or Guinness and melted butter, so I decided to decrease the amount of buttermilk from 1-3/4 cups to 1-1/2 cups and add 1/4 cup of Guinness. If after mixing the dry and wet ingredients together you find that the dough is too dry, you can add additional Guinness or buttermilk.

Combine the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Unlike yeasted bread, you do not need to knead this dough very much. You are just kneading it about 10 times, just enough to form a ball. Most soda breads are baked freeform on a baking sheet, but if you prefer you can bake it in a loaf pan. Remember, if you bake in a loaf pan to grease the pan before adding the dough, or line the loaf pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking oil. Using a loaf pan may also increase the baking time. The bread is done, when tapped on the bottom and it sounds hollow. To test the bread baked in a loaf pan, just like a cake, see if a toothpick comes out clean. Internal temperature should be about 200 degrees for either method. Cool on baking sheet or in loaf pan until cool.

This brown bread has a nice soft texture and tastes wonderful with butter and jam in the morning. I have also read that it freezes very well, so if you slice it and place it on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for about 2 to 3 hours, so the slices don’t stick together, then place in a freezer bag. It will keep for about 3 months.

Enjoy!

Siobhan's Irish Brown Bread

  • Servings: 14 - 20 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

Credit: Carlene O’Connor Murder at an Irish Christmas

  • 2-1/2 c stone ground whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1-1/2 c buttermilk
  • 2 tbl molasses or treacle
  • 1/4 c Guinness

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Combine dry ingredients into a large bowl
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together buttermilk, Guinness and molasses.
  4. Stir with fork or spatula until combined.
  5. Cover hands in flour and knead bread in bowl until forms into a ball, about 10 turns. If too sticky, you can sprinkle in some more flour as you knead the bread.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and press down until about 2 – 3 inches thick.
  7. With a sharp knife, cut about half way through the dough and make a cross on top of the loaf.
  8. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
  9. Reduce temperature to 400 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until bread sounds hollow when tapped.
  10. Cool and serve.

Variations

  1. Add 1 cup dried fruit; such as raisins or cranberries
  2. Add 1/2 cup dried fruit and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.
  3. Replace all purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
  4. Replace all the buttermilk with one can of Guinness (15.2 ounces ) and 3-1/2 tbl melted butter.

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