(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
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, position the rack about 1/3 from the top of the oven.
- With a pastry brush, butter two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, with the melted butter.
- Combine the two flours, then add the baking soda and mix well.*
- Add the butter and buttermilk and mix well again, to make the batter.
- 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.
- Place the batter in the loaf pans and push down to compact each loaf, then place the loaf pans in the oven.
- 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.
- 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.