Irish brown soda bread is a hearty, wholesome loaf that tastes as good with a helping of scrambled eggs as it does with a smear of salted butter or tangy marmalade. And not only is this humble bread versatile, it’s also simple to prepare.
We mimicked the wheaty, nutty flavour and rustic crumb imparted by hard-to-find Irish wholemeal flour by combining whole-wheat flour with wheat bran and wheat germ. Cutting this mixture with all-purpose flour and a touch of sugar helped balance out the strong wheat flavour.
The addition of baking powder guaranteed a nicely risen loaf, but we also included baking soda for added browning and the characteristic mineral tang we love in soda breads. Acidic buttermilk contributed even more tangy flavour.
Finally, to force the soft dough to rise upward rather than outward, we baked our bread in a cake pan. Our favourite whole-wheat flour is King Arthur Premium. To ensure the best flavour, use fresh whole wheat flour. Wheat bran can be found at natural foods stores or in the baking aisle of your supermarket.
IRISH BROWN SODA BREAD
Servings: 10 (one loaf)
Start to finish: 1 hour (plus 1 hour cooling time)
2 cups (11 ounces) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease 8 inch round cake pan. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, wheat bran, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in medium bowl.
Add buttermilk and stir with rubber spatula until all flour is moistened and dough forms soft, ragged mass. Transfer dough to counter and gently shape into 6 inch round (surface will be craggy). Using serrated knife, cut 1/2 inch-deep cross about 5 inches long on top of loaf. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake until loaf is lightly browned and centre registers 185 F, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
Invert loaf onto wire rack. Reinvert loaf and let cool for at least 1 hour. Slice and serve.
To make ahead: This bread is best when served on the day it is made, but leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Nutrition information per serving: 192 calories; 27 calories from fat; 3 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 556 mg sodium; 35 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 8 g protein.