Ode to Brown Bread

March 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

A kind of strange title, I suppose. A bit underwhelming, maybe. Only if you’ve never tasted Irish Brown Bread. Sometimes the most unassuming earns the highest praise.

I went to Ireland in college and fell in love. The misty haze that threatens rain at any moment but only lasts as long as a quick pop into a nearby shop, the lush and season-defying greenness, people who use words like “grand” at the drop of a hat, that accent, and of course, the food. (Don’t believe what anyone tells you about Ireland not being a “foodie” destination.)

Brown bread became one of my constant companions on our two-week trip. The only hotel we stayed in served it with every meal, and once I found it in a market, I bought more than one loaf. Blackcurrant jam, another discovery, usually found itself smothered atop the thick, almost chewy slices of bread as I happily noshed. I don’t recall if anyone else liked it as much as I did. They may not have gotten a hand in the bread basket to try it.

Ever since that trip, and another after college, I’ve wanted to recreate it, but never found the recipe or the time or the ingredients. (My previous first attempt was, well, a failure) This recipe, from here, required only one thing I didn’t already possess. And, a quick trip to the local health foods emporium netted me graham flour, which I had read would be good for this kind of bread since it’s coarser.

With my hit-and-miss success with yeast breads, I was even more delighted that this bread doesn’t use any. It mixes together quickly and easily. I was unsure about how “wet” my dough was supposed to be so I just added splashes of more and more buttermilk until it seemed alright to me. As it baked, and the distinct tang of wheat escaped the oven, I knew it was going to be a good experiment. The results pleased me no end. Not an exact copy of the original, but close. The nuttiness was present, the dense crumb, the chewiness. It tasted almost as good and true as the real deal.


Since I’m halfway into a daydream of Ireland now because of it, that’s more than good enough for me.

(As I type this, I’m searching the web for more recipes, some calling for oats, wheat bran, germ, etc. It’ll take time, but I’ll try them all.)

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