This is the recipe that started it all for me: Grandma's Brown Bread. I grew up watching my mom regularly make this recipe and we were fortunate to get back to Ireland every few years to stay with family where I would watch my grandmother make this recipe. I have awesome grandmothers to always remember and two of the things that I most distinguish them by is their bread recipes. My mom's mom is Irish Brown Bread and my dad's mom is Irish Griddle Bread. Both breads are delicious, cozy and food for the soul and today's post is dedicated to my maternal grandmother's Irish Brown Bread recipe.
I knew my grandmother was amazing when I was growing up, but I didn't realize the extent of her amazing nature until I started my own little family. My grandmother lived on a beautiful little rural corner of County Wicklow in Ireland where she raised her fifteen kids. Yes, you read that right: fifteen....as in a decent size classroom of kids. I obviously didn't know her until my mother and the rest of her siblings were grown, but she was kind, funny, loving...and sane....even after raising fifteen kids, of which she did a lot of this on her own as my mother's father died when she was around ten years old. I don't think I have ever seen her lose her temper or get too worked up about anything and that is inspiration for me every single day. I'm fairly certain that she could have run a country.
From what my mother has taught me, this bread recipe was a staple in her house growing up. I swear that you could have blindfolded my grandmother, tied one hand behind her back, spun her around three times and she would still whip up a perfect loaf of this brown bread. The scent of fresh baked bread lightly mixed with Irish air pouring in through her kitchen windows is a memory held in my core. I think about this recipe often, but especially when St. Patrick's Day rolls around each year. This recipe is simple and it's definitely from the "little bit of this, little bit of that" baking school. I don't remember seeing my grandmother or mother using precise measurements when they baked bread, and I distinctly remember them "just knowing" when it was done...when it needed more flour...more milk. Over time, I've made this recipe enough and grabbed some advice from my mom that I think I've given enough details so that someone new could pick it up and enjoy some brown bread within an hour, but feel free to reach out with any questions. You'll still see some hints of my mom and grandma's old school directions here, which I love and will never be tired of reading. So, get ready to brew a pot of tea, get out the butter and jam and enjoy some Irish Brown Bread.
Irish Brown Bread
(as made by my grandma and mom)
-1 cup all purpose flour
-2 cups wheat flour
-1 tsp salt
-1 TBS sugar
-2 tsp baking powder
-enough whole milk to bring the dough to a moist consistency (usually about 2 cups)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place all of the flour, salt, and sugar into a large bowl and stir to combine. Add in the milk and mix until combined to a sticky dough. Sprinkle flour over your counter top or a large cutting board and dump the dough onto the floured surface. Add flour to your hands and knead the dough by hand by using one hand to take dough from underneath and bring it on top while using the other hand to turn the dough. Add more flour when needed to prevent the dough from being too sticky. Continue this process until the dough is in a round shape with a smooth surface on the bottom. Grease a baking pan with butter, oil or non-stick cooking spray. Flip the dough over onto the baking pan and use a sharp knife to etch a cross in the top of the dough to allow steam to escape while it bakes. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 35 minutes. This may vary depending on your oven and my mother and grandmother's famous words to know when the bread is done is to knock on it (like you're knocking on a door) and it should sound hollow. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes and then wrap in a clean dish towel to allow it to continue cooling evenly. Slice and enjoy with butter and jam!
I committed to myself that if I wrote a blog that I wouldn't just post the baking successes but I would also share my bloopers....pictures and all. Isn't that half the fun? While we're on the subject, I will remind you that I'm very messy in the kitchen. Baking is an event and depending on how much controlled chaos is going on in the house at the time has a direct correlation to my bloopers whether it's a forgotten ingredient (I once forgot all the sweetener in some brownies...gross), wrong pan size, wrong cook time etc. Baking is an art and a science or something in between and the bloopers are part of it so let's love them.
Despite my gigantic sweet tooth, I somehow married someone who isn't really into desserts. When planning our wedding, he was heavily advocating for a wedding steak versus a wedding cake. Don't worry- we didn't have a beef carving photo session. Buttercream and a combination of chocolate and vanilla cake prevailed. There are only a few exceptions to his less than enthusiastic attitude towards dessert and lemon bars are one of them.
Back in June for Father's Day, I set out to find a lemon bar recipe that would change his dessert mind set. Ina Garten from the Food Network has an amazing recipe that starts with a buttery, shortbread like crust and a sweet and tangy lemon filling that sets just right on top. I set out on my baking journey that day in a rush and here's what I came up with....
The crust looked nice. The lemon curd was to die for. I had to adjust the baking timing recommended in the recipe. It didn't set. What did I do wrong? Wrong size baking pan. The effort wasn't lost but it was a win for baking being a science. Well, Mr. Sunday Bakers had a birthday a few weeks back and I set out for lemon bar redemption with the correct sized baking pan and here's the comparison...
Redeemed! This recipe makes a lot of lemon bars too so I was able to put half of them in the deep freezer for a cold winter day when we need a reminder of spring! The blooper was a nice excuse for a new baking pan also and I've got to say that the crust in this recipe is really a beauty and I've used it for festive strawberry and blueberry tarts over the summer.
So, enjoy the journey my friends; bloopers, messes and all. Have a great week.
Last day of the year! We're wrapping up that weird week between Christmas and New Year's where everything has been a little bit slower than normal. We have some baking to do today that I will refer to as lemon bar redemption. More on that another time, but this week's baking feature was this chocolate cupcake. We baked the super moist chocolate cupcake recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction. Wonderful. These cupcakes came out perfect. We modified a little bit by splitting the extracts between mint and vanilla. We also put half of a thin mint Oreo on the bottom of the baking cup before baking and we topped this with our own minty marshmallow buttercream and the other half of the Oreo. All of this combined created a winter perfect minty hot cocoa cupcake and a perfect ending to our Christmas baking this year.
Although it might sound cliche and you're likely hearing about this everywhere today, I like to pause on New Year's Eve to think about another year passing and a new one on the way. This year has brought me a lot to be thankful for and a few tough surprises along the way that remind me how precious time and life is. We're just a few hours away from hearing Auld Lang Syne as the clock passes midnight and we feel the blank canvas of 2018 beginning.
I'm taking a different spin on resolutions here and thinking about some things I want to attempt and learn about on my baking journey this year:
I've made plenty of Irish brown bread and other varieties of breads and rolls over the years, but I've yet to invest in and nurture a sourdough starter. It seems tricky and precise, which intimidates me a tad (ok, more than a tad), but the slow process of making sourdough bread intrigues me. I feel like this on demand world needs more things like sourdough bread so I'm going to slow down and give it a try!
One of the little Sunday Bakers is quite intrigued with Paris lately....maybe even obsessed. This leaves us looking at all sorts of pictures and inspiration for French bakeries and pastries, and we are particularly smitten with the macaron. We tried some from a bakery back in June and they were light as air with the perfect amount of sweetness and flavor. I'm anticipating that this one will take us a few tries but I think it will be a fun project together.
Ok, this one isn't exactly in the category of baking but it's a kitchen adventure that's been on my mind anyway so I'm expanding my horizons a little bit here. I'm not an expert about the famous Julia Child but I love learning about her and I loved the movie Julie & Julia. When I do watch TV, I enjoy food and baking shows, but there's so much out there now that it's kind of overwhelming. What I love about catching an old Julia Child clip is how natural it is. Although the shows of today are amazing, Julia Child's TV kitchen chronicles had less editing and polish. There were more messes, bloopers and raw moments, which I love...because I'm a total mess in the kitchen. There's flour and sugar everywhere...the dogs bark and jump up to the counter, a little one cries because it was her turn to dump the sugar in and not her sister's, and then I sometimes find myself wondering "Wait, am I on my second or third cup of flour?" (I remember once that the mini-chaos left me forgetting to add any sugar or sweetener to a recipe....you can imagine how that tasted). Raw. Messy. Real. Thank you Julia. We will add this to the 2018 kitchen adventures.
I wish you and your loved ones a healthy and happy 2018!
wife, mom, faith, fitness, yoga, baking and constantly cleaning my kitchen.