We’ve been traveling to Ireland since 1999. In that time I’ve eaten a lot of Irish brown bread and Irish soda bread. Eric’s uncle in Limerick was once a bread man, so over the years, we’ve eaten great Irish bread. When visiting the Dingle Cookery School we finally learned how to make Irish brown bread. Here, we share our traditional brown bread recipe. It’s not as difficult as one might think. If I can do it, so can you!
What is Traditional Irish Brown Bread?
There are two primary types of Irish bread that people are familiar with: Irish soda bread and Irish brown bread. Traditional Irish brown bread is the darker, more dense sister of the of soda bread. They are both what are considered “quick breads.” One of the benefits of Irish brown bread is that it doesn’t require yeast. That means there is no need to wait for it to rise. You can mix the Irish brown bread dough, and put it in the oven.
Irish brown bread is heavy and dense, more so than Irish soda bread. Irish soda bread is a white bread. Both taste great with warm Irish butter. They are both staples of the Irish diet, even today.
To me, the best Irish brown bread is served as a thick slice, still slightly warm, with Irish butter on the side. Even better? It is served alongside a perfect cup of Irish seafood chowder, which allows me to dunk the crust into the chowder.
How to Make Irish Brown Bread
The reason why I chose to share the Irish brown bread recipe is, in part, because I’ve always been afraid to try baking my own bread. That said, I love warm and fresh bread. After falling in love with the Irish soda bread at the Beech Hill Hotel in Derry, I found myself determined to learn how to make it. I felt that it was important, as someone of Irish heritage, to learn how to make Irish brown bread.
Well, my determination failed me while staying with family. Days wore on, and I had yet to attempt to bake anything other than a box of Betty Crocker brownies (they were tasty though).
When Chef Mark placed the Dingle Cookery School recipe book in front of me, I saw the Traditional Brown Bread Recipe. I started grinning from ear to ear. Once I learned how easy it was to make, I knew I had to share this bit of traditional Irish food.
Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe Ingredients
-300g brown flour
-200g plain white flour
-80g oat flakes
-tablespoon of bread soda (baking soda or bicarbonate)
-300-360 ml of buttermilk
-pinch of salt
Irish Brown Bread Recipe
I absolutely love recipes that start with “mix all dry ingredients together.” Done. Simple. Next step.
Add the buttermilk until it reaches a stiff porridge consistency.
Place the Irish brown bread dough onto a floured tray and shape into a round bread, or a flat loaf, baker’s choice. Use a knife to make a cross on the dough. See the criss-cross pattern on the Irish brown bread above to get an idea.
Bake the Irish brown bread in a hot oven for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to about 190C or 375F. The high heat allows the bread to get a nice crust on the outside. Lowering the temperature allows the bread to finish cooking on the inside.
There’s no magic time when the bread is ready. You can tell by its weight. If it is heavy and dense, it needs some more time. If you slide a thin knife into the bottom and it comes out clean, it’s done. This is probably the most difficult thing about the traditional Irish brown bread recipe. It might take some trial and error to figure out when the Irish brown bread is done.
That’s it. When it’s done, place on a cooling rack. Slice and serve with creamy Irish butter.
I was so excited to learn how to make Irish brown bread.
Learn How to Make Traditional Irish Food At Home
The Dingle Cookery School & Irish Brown Bread
The Dingle Cookery School is just to the west of the center of Dingle, near the Aquarium. Look out for a white sign on the right side of the street heading out of town. The Cookery School offers regularly scheduled Traditional Irish cooking classes, and also schedules special cooking events.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.