The Literate Chef

Panis Angelicus

In Baking, Recipes on December 24, 2013 at 9:08 PM

Irish Brown Bread

Irish Brown Bread

(Active preparation time about 20 minutes, total time approximately 1 & 1/2 hours, plus time to cool – Makes 2 loaves)

I do not pretend to be much of a baker. Baking is chemistry, and I flunked it in high school. But if a chemistry-challenged person such as I can bake this “heavenly bread” then anyone should be able to master the science. Or is it art? To paraphrase an ancient Chinese (?) proverb, “give a man a loaf of bread and you feed him for a day, but teach him to bake bread and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The recipe for this Irish Brown Bread is adapted from The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Brother Rick Curry, S.J. I was not taught by the Jesuits. Rather, my grammar school, high school and college education was under the tutelage of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, also known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools, or in Latin, Fratres Scholarum Christianarum (F.S.C.). The Christian Brothers were also well-known wine-makers, but I don’t make wine, I only drink it.


4 cups of whole wheat flour
3 cups of unbleached whole-purpose flour
3 tsps. of baking soda
1/4 lb. unsalted butter, melted
3 cups of buttermilk


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, position the rack about 1/3 from the top of the oven.
  2. With a pastry brush, butter two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, with the melted butter.
  3. Combine the two flours, then add the baking soda and mix well.*
  4. Add the butter and buttermilk and mix well again, to make the batter.
  5. Divide the batter evenly and, keeping your hands moist with water, form each half into a tight ball, this reduces the possibility of air holes in the baked bread.
  6. Place the batter in the loaf pans and push down to compact each loaf, then place the loaf pans in the oven.
  7. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Test for doneness by placing a knife in the thickest part of each loaf. If the knife is dry to the touch, the bread is done.
  8. Remove bread from loaf pans (if stuck, use a knife to loosen from the pan), transfer bread to a wire rack to cool.

* Before having an electric mixer, I would do this by hand. I highly recommend using an electric mixer.


  1. Great post! You’re very funny! And beautiful bread! Merry Christmas!

  2. Nollag sona duit a Risteard! Mary Leahy, from whom I learned my own recipe for Brown Bread in her kitchen in Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, would agree with you on the “art” involved in making a fine loaf such as you picture. Mine is more related to the farm yard than the city, rough and round. Of course, buttermilk, but we keep the butter for laying it thick on thick slices, and use a light oil for shortnin’.

    I have a commission for a couple of loaves for tea in a week or so and will see can I do both of them. You can never have too much bread, now, can you?

    Try Kerry Gold butter the next time. You’ll want to put it on everything, simply everything.

    • Bread and butter – a favorite. As a wag by the name of Wynne once said, “you’ve buttered your bed, now sleep in it!” I agree that Kerry Gold is the choice of spreads, much better than its predecessor, Galtee Mountain Boy, which was to be obtained on W.231st.

      • “Great lashings of butter” was the phrase I learned from my father’s mother to go along with “floods of tea” and “hills of bread”. She rarely did things by half. The Mighty Wynne had wit to match.

      • Love the term “lashings of butter” also she “slathered the butter on the bread”. Speaking of lashes, how about “rum, sodomy and the lash”?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: