Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Nellie's Irish Brown Bread

Homemade bread made easy!

If there’s a baked good to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s definitely traditional Irish soda bread. I shared my family’s favorite recipe for it with you guys a couple years ago if you’re looking for a tried and true favorite that’s really easy to make and guaranteed to hit the spot. It was also the first Nellie themed post on A Peek into the Pantry! 

But if you’re looking for something new and different, I think I’ve found something that will fit right in to any Irish themed festivities you might be planning that’s just as easy, and way tasty. Whether you’re eating it with a nice stew or a morning cup of tea, this bread is definitely worth checking out.

Irish brown bread has a lot in common with your typical Irish soda bread. Both don’t rely on yeast to rise, making it a fairly easy loaf to make for bakers like me who have mixed results at best with yeasted breads… or yeasted anything! 

The major difference between the two is what flour they use. Irish soda breads use white flour, while brown bread uses at least some whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour has been historically cheaper for families to afford, while white flour was far more pricey, meaning an every day bread loaf like this was made with whole wheat flour to stretch a family’s budget. Even though this isn’t the case in the modern era as it would have been for Nellie’s family before (and even after!) they immigrated to the United States, Irish brown bread is still a local favorite in Ireland, and was served at many of the restaurants we ate at on our recent trip to Dublin. 

When we got home, my mother stumbled upon a recipe for Irish brown bread that she just had to try out, and it went over so well with my family in Connecticut, I knew I had to try it out myself! It’s from Analida’s Ethnic Spoon, an awesome food blog with beautiful photography. I wish my pictures looked half as nice as hers! 

One thing I want to point out before we get started: this recipe calls for a food processor, which is a piece of equipment I haven’t added to my collection just yet. I didn’t really miss it while making this recipe, but it’s something to keep in mind when you’re making it yourself. I wouldn’t be shocked if the food processor version might have a lighter texture than the really dense loaves I ended up with, but I’d like to think this is more authentic to 1904… 

To start, combine 2 cups of whole wheat flour with 1 3/4 cups of white flour in a bowl and blend them together. Add 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 cup of oats, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda and mix them in too.

Pour in 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of molasses, and 4 tablespoons of butter which has been cut into small cubes. Mix the ingredients together until the dough forms a ball.

Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface, and then divide it into two balls. These balls should then be flattened until they’re a 1/2 inch tall. Take a sharp knife and cut a deep cross into each ball. Brush the tops with olive oil, and then bake it in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the top of the bread sounds hollow when you tap it with a finger.

The bread smells delightful when it’s baking and comes out as a very nice dark brown loaf.

It’s a pretty dense bread, and doesn’t exactly make the world’s most attractive looking slices, but I still definitely wanted to dig right in.

Although the molasses does give the bread a very, very slightly sweet flavor, it’s definitely not a dessert bread, nor is it something that’s only going to be good for pairing with stew. It tastes great with jam or as a dunking bread, but honestly, all it takes is a little butter to really bring this out as a winner. I’ve been enjoying slices of bread alongside my morning oatmeal and cup of tea for the last few days, and it’s really been hitting the spot. 

I was also pleased the recipe made two loaves, as it allowed me to make one for myself, and bring the other in to work for my coworkers to try. It went pretty quickly and received good reviews, which is always nice to hear. 

Finally, although this recipe might be slightly more involved than my family’s soda bread recipe, this is simple enough that’s definitely something an aspiring young baker could take on by themselves, or with minimal adult supervision. It’s a pretty timeless recipe, but would absolutely bring a taste of home for Nellie for any Turn of the Century themed American Girl events you might be cooking up!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have tea time to celebrate...


  1. I loved the brown bread in Dublin, so I was pleased to find this recipe for homemade bread at home. I will be bringing this to Geema's for her traditional supper this Saturday.

    1. Enjoy the corned beef and cabbage! Wish I was there to join the festivities. :)

  2. I love Irish Soda bread and my sister makes the best. I can't wait for Saturday as my oldest grandson, who helped me find out that I am actually part Irish, is coming for the weekend. He has planned a feast corned beef, cabbage with carrots that we will cook along with bread & Irish potatoes(candy). I've never had the dark brown soda bread but it sounds yummy. I do love the Brown Bread that comes in a can but it's more like a cross between bread and moist cake.

    1. That sounds delicious! Hope you had a lovely time.