It’s been raining for the past couple of days and it won’t stop until the end of the week culminating, rather fittingly, with St. Patrick’s Day, which lands on Saturday.
So, I made brown bread.
Brown bread is one of those ubiquitous things in Ireland and I –a yogurt and mueseli, hold the coffee kind of breakfast kid – took to a breakfast of brown bread, Irish butter and tea (with milk, please) like I was made for it.
Recipes abound for Irish bread on the ol’ Interwebs, but I was looking for something that was yeast-based (the stuff I got used to seeing in Ireland didn’t seem like it was soda bread, though what do I know?), brown (given) and simple (most genuine Irish accounts claim that all the extras like caraway seeds aren’t traditional).
So naturally, I wanted to use Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Brown Bread recipe.
Who’s Darina Allen? And what on earth is a Ballymaloe, you ask?
Darina Allen is Ireland’s premier food phenom who owns and operates the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Ireland. The school sits on 100 acres of organic farmland where they produce all their own food. Think of her as the fabulously Irish and chatty version of Alice Waters. She’s that kind of big deal.
The only problem with Darina’s recipe is that it’s so simple, that it’s almost impossible to recreate. With only five ingredients (one of which is water), the recipe calls for strong wholemeal flour, treacle and fresh yeast.
Here’s the count:
Strong wholemeal flour: by mail order only.
Treacle: didn’t even look, molasses is close enough.
Fresh yeast: the only thing I could find in France, but of course, not in any of our local grocery stores.
Salt: oh thank goodness, I have that.
Despite all this, I decided to make it anyway. So you’ve been forewarned, this is not the result of a precise recipe.
KD’s note: see my changes in italics throughout the recipe. I had difficulty removing the bread from the loaf pan and would consider NOT preheating the pan before and just simply preparing it with butter and flour as normal. Also, keep in mind that this is a no-knead recipe.
Ballymaloe Brown Bread (adapted from Epicurious)
Yield: Yield: 1 loaf
3 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (I added an extra teaspoon for good measure)
1 1/4 cups (400ml) water (I need more, use your instincts)
1 teaspoon molasses (I used 1 tablespoon)
3 1/2 cups (500g) whole-wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
2 teaspoon salt
Grease an 8in x 2 1/2in (20cm x 10cm x 6cm) loaf pan and warm it in a preheated oven 250°F/120°C, for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the yeast into 2/3 cup (150ml) of the water in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Add the molasses. Leave for 10 minutes, until frothy. Add the remaining water and stir.
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast. Stir in the flour to form a thick batter.
Use your hands to mix the batter gently in the bowl for 1 minute, until it begins to leave the sides of the bowl clean and forms a soft, sticky dough.
Place the dough in the prepared pan and cover with a dish towel. Proof until the dough is 1/2in (1 cm) above the top of the pan, about 25-30 minutes.
Bake in the preheated oven at 425°F/220°C for 30 minutes, then lower the oven to 400°F/200°C and bake for 15 minutes.
Turn the loaf out of the pan and onto a baking sheet. Return the bread, bottom side up, to the oven. Bake for a further 10 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Let cool on a wire rack.
Proofing: 25-30 minutes. Oven temperature: 425°F/220°C. Baking: 55 minutes Yeast alternative: 1oz (30g) cake yeast