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)
3/16/2020: please note that there are some modification options noted below the recipe to suit your preferences and you can also find a video tutorial with our six year old and I walking you through the process of making the bread from scratch over on Instagram @sunday_bakers
-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, baking powder 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 40 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! See below for modification options.
Option 1: To bake a White Irish Soda Bread with raisins, use only All Purpose Flour (3 cups) and omit the whole wheat flour. After you stir in the milk and get the bread to the messy, wet consistency, fold in 1- 1 1/2 cups of raisins before you pour the bread batter onto your cutting board for kneading. Bake at the same temperature and time as noted above.
Option 2: For a plant based version, please see this vegan version of the recipe that I created here. This recipe uses coconut milk with the addition of a small amount of vinegar to create a vegan "buttermilk."
Option 3: You can modify any of these recipe options into scones. They aren't the super buttery scones that you might be used to in a bakery but they are wonderful to serve with butter, jam and tea. After kneading, simply use a rolling pin to roll/press the dough out to approximately 1 1/2 inches of thickness. Use a biscuit cutter or a cup to cut as many circles into the dough as you can fit. Then gather up the remaining dough, re-knead together and repeat the process until you have used all of the bread dough. Reduce the baking time to 30 minutes.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
New England wife and mom. Faith, fitness, yoga, baking and constantly cleaning my kitchen.