Once again, in an ode to one of my most favorite places, I made one of my most favorite (and less famous among the American set) Irish foods: brown bread. You’ll remember last year I made the same thing in hopes of transforming myself into the very wonderful Darina Allen of Ballymaloe. Alas, really simple foods like Darina’s classic recipe are incredibly difficult to recreate Stateside, for an absence of ingredients. The result was a not-so-successful version of what I’m sure is a lovely recipe.
Ever the stubborn type with finding (or creating) the best recipe for my baking arsenal, I searched and I tried again. And friends, success is here. Indeed.
This recipe is the closest I've tasted to the soft, but hearty brown bread frequently found on Irish tabletops that I fell in love with. My favorite way to eat it is with Irish butter and a cup of tea with tea, but it would also be great next to a hearty stew or just plain, standing at your kitchen counter while still warm and crumbly (just a thought, this never actually happened…I swear….no lie…).
Make it today if you’re feeling Irish and still on the clearer side of your Guiness. It’s also a very Irish thing and sometin’ yer wee mam would sure like. It’s grand, ‘tis. Just grand.
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
KD's notes: I was out of buttermilk so replaced it with the "buttermilk trick" - I used some skim milk and heavy cream to make it and it worked out great. Also, I added a tablespoon of sugar, rather than 2 teaspoons, per some of the comments on the original recipe. Finally, don't over mix it! This will cause it to be tough.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flours, wheat germ, salt, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a large bowl until combined well. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in center and add buttermilk, stirring until combined, about 30 seconds. Dough should be a bit sticky, but not wet. Do not over mix.
Transfer dough to cake pan and flatten to fill pan. With a sharp knife, cut an X (1/2 inch deep) across top of dough (5 inches long). Bake until loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool, right side up, about 1 hour.
Bread can be served the day it is made, but it slices more easily if kept, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature 1 day.
Leftover bread keeps, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature 4 days.