Brown Bread + County Clare

In June 2015 my boyfriend and I went on a whirlwind tour of Ireland. It was his first time in Ireland and our first time with a car since we moved to the UK in March – so we wanted to see as much as possible and drive until the wheels fell off. We got an outrageously cheap flight from Edinburgh to Dublin and spent a week tearing around in a BMW (my bf’s joy).

After a couple of days spent exploring Northern Ireland (more on that later) we headed cross country to Galway. A mad dash through the colourful city sent us dodging tour buses and construction to head for the open, winding roads again. We stopped at a grocery store and bought a cooler (my #1 travel tip) and road snacks; Irish cheddar, peanut butter, canned tuna, nuts, apples, etc! We didn’t know where we were going… it was late afternoon but in June the sun shines in Ireland until 11pm so we had all the time in the world. We ended up driving part of the Wild Atlantic Way through County Clare, the Burren National Park, and spending our night in the village of Liscannor on the road to the Cliffs of Moher. We woke up bright and early to head to the Cliffs fuelled by a proper Irish breakfast courtesy of a wonderful B&B run by a woman named Mary.

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Perfect Cuppa in Liscannor
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Astounding Beauty, Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
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Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
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Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare

The cliffs are breathtaking and the narrow paths that wind around the precipes are not for the faint of heart! County Clare was so beautiful, the landscape so interesting and varied, and the people so friendly we decided to spend more time there. We ended up in the charming village of Doolin, near the spa town of Lisdoonvarna. Doolin is renowned as the home of traditional Irish music. {Check out Doolin’s Website for more info}.

We had a relaxing cup of coffee at the Doolin Cafe. As I browsed the menu and deli counter, the food looked delicious, but my brain was on a budget. So I bought a loaf of their house baked Brown Bread for the road. We ate it in the car (with the PB + Irish Cheddar conveniently in the cooler). It was delicious and kept us going all day.

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Doolin Cafe, Doolin, Co. Clare
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Perfect Road Snack: Brown Bread from Doolin Cafe, Co. Clare

It is with nostalgia for those moments spent cruising around County Clare that I present to you a recipe for Brown Bread (see below). I love soda breads – they are the only type of bread I bake. They are SO simple and quick! No yeast, no fuss.

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My attempt at re-creating a loaf of Irish Brown Bread

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Irish Brown Bread

Ingredients

2 Cups Spelt Flour (or whole-wheat flour)

3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

2 Tblsp Butter

1 Large Free-Range Egg

1 1/2 Cups Buttermilk

1 Tblsp Honey (or molasses)

Note: Butter and all wet ingredients should be at room temperature.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and Grease a loaf pan (I prefer cast iron).
  2. Sift together all-purpose flour, baking soda, & salt. Mix-in Spelt flour. Use a pastry cutter to cut in butter until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.
  3. Whisk wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet mixture.
  5. Gently mix with a spatula (do not over mix) until you have a wet, sticky dough.
  6. Pour dough into greased loaf pan and score a line up the centre (this ensures it will bake through evenly).
  7. Bake for 40 minutes.  Cool for 10 min. Remove bread from pan and cover with a tea towel* (very important -this ensures it stays moist).

Note: Check the loaf mid-way through baking. If the top is getting too brown tent with tinfoil and return to oven (this ensures the top won’t burn).

P.S. If anyone has experimented with a totally wheat or gluten-free version of brown bread I’d love to hear about it!

This recipe is inspired by  The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from my Life on an Irish Farm by Imen McDonnell, Roost Books, 2016. It’s a beautiful book based on her award-winning blog, The Farmette where the original recipe “Best Brown Bread” can be found.

Ideas:

What to do with said brown bread?

-A hardy accompaniment to soups

-Toast + Butter + Jam

-Hummus or Pesto or Avocado

-Or something more elegant; sustainable wild salmon, organic cream cheese, fresh lemon juice + pepper + toppings of your choice: rocket + capers + shallots.

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