The Best Irish Wheaten Bread

Irish wheaten bread became a staple in our house for awhile after our trip to Northern Ireland to visit my husband’s friends and family. (He’s not strictly Irish, but he was raised there, and that makes him Irish!) So it is. And while he was growing up in Ireland, he developed a taste for this wonderful, hearty, soda bread that the Irish call wheaten bread. 

Irish Wheaten Bread

So this week, because we have company coming, I decided to dust off this old favorite recipe and make some fresh Irish Wheaten Bread to feed our guests.

What is so enticing about Irish wheaten bread? It’s earthy, and positively oozes farmhouse kitcheny goodness, although it’s made in all kinds of Irish kitchens. It’s delicious served with fresh butter, Irish cheese or jam.  It can be dressed up with smoked salmon and dill and make a delectable lunch served with salad and tea. Have I convinced you yet??

The Purist

I had a version of my own that I’d made in the past, but once I had tasted the real thing, I was converted to Irish wheaten bread.

You can’t make it entirely with white flour.

You can put orange juice in it, which would be a viable substitute for buttermilk, but it’s not right.

You can make it with sweet cream buttermilk  powder, and just add water to make the amount of liquid called for, but that isn’t right either without some recalculations.

The best way is to use whole wheat flour and real buttermilk. I’ve tried it using real buttermilk and the powder version, and there is definitely a difference. My solution is to use more buttermilk powder than the directions call for to make it thicker, like the real thing.

Flours aren’t equal either. The Irish flour is a low gluten flour, not the kind you make bread with. I’ve noticed a difference between Canadian flour and British flour, which is what I can buy in Hong Kong. Canadian flour is generally higher in gluten. This recipe requires a low gluten flour if it’s going to turn out anywhere near like the true Irish wheaten bread. Go ahead and use your all-purpose flour. It will turn out more like bread than Irish wheaten bread. Still delicious, just not the same.

My recipe is adapted from this recipe on Our Best BitesI scoured the web when I came home from Ireland and found this recipe which works the best for me. The problem I kept running into was having to measure my flour. Well, that’s a pain and I’ve never done that and I don’t have a scale in my house, so it was a relief to have found this recipe which suited me to a tee. 

I’m sure you’re dying to know how to make the infamous Irish wheaten bread by now. So here we go!

Irish Wheaten Bread

Ingredients:

Irish Wheaten Bread

Ingredients for Irish Wheaten Bread

1 c unbleached flour

2 3/4 c whole wheat flour

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

4 Tbs butter (about 1/4 c)

2 c buttermilk (Note: when I use the buttermilk powder, I use 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk, but when I am using Canadian flour I used 2 1/4 cups of real buttermilk.)

Directions:

Set your oven at 400 F or 205 C.  Grease your pans. I used two decent size loaf pans.

Irish Wheaten Bread

Put your dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Irish Wheaten Bread

Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until crumbly. I usually get my hands in the bowl at this point and rub the butter into the flour.

Irish Wheaten Bread

Make sure your oven is up to temp before this step. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Quickly mix the buttermilk with the dry ingredients until you can form a rough ball. Once you add the buttermilk, you need to move quickly because the buttermilk will begin to react with the baking soda to leaven your bread.

Irish Wheaten Bread

Dump the dough out on a floured surface and knead gently about 5-10 times. Don’t knead like bread, just gently rock it back and forth a few times.

Irish Wheaten Bread

Shape the dough and place in or on your pan. If you place it in a pan, as I did, you need to press it into the corners and make a deep cut down the center of the loaf.

Irish Wheaten Bread

This allows the loaf to open up beautifully and cook the center. I have also made it in a round which looks very rustic. In this case,  you shape it into a circle and place it on a baking sheet, and cut a cross with a sharp knife on the top of the loaf before baking.

Irish Wheaten Bread

Bake in the oven at 400 F for 1/2 an hour, then turn down to 375 F, (190 C), rotate the pan and bake 25 minutes longer.

Irish Wheaten Bread

When baked, cool the loaves completely before diving into them! Yes, it’s delicious warm with heaps of butter and jam, but you might end up with a belly ache. Besides it’s a nightmare to cut when it’s too warm!

Hope you have fun with this recipe! Irish wheaten bread is a firm favorite in our house and I know you’ll love it too!

 

 

 

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