The most popular Irish brown bread recipe with Guinness stout, oats and buttermilk.
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About Irish Brown Bread & This Recipe
Irish Brown bread (aka wheaten bread in the North of Ireland) emerged as a way to deal with the country’s softer wheat and is essentially a form of Irish soda bread but made with stone ground whole wheat flour which is what gives it a dark, rustic color. The reference to soft has to do with the fact that Irish grown wheat contains significantly less gluten protein (about 8%) and yeast does not work well to raise it, as opposed to hard wheat such as North American varieties which have 12% or more gluten.
While soda bread tastes slightly sweet, with a milder flavor due to the white flour it is baked with, brown bread is on the savory side, with a deep nutty flavor, owing to its use of whole grain wheat flour, oats and black treacle (aka molasses). Traditionally an acid such as buttermilk or sour milk is the choice of liquid which reacts with the soda to infuse the otherwise very dense dough with air and lighten it up.
Over time Irish brown bread has evolved into a gourmet treat with many variations. The addition of Guinness stout (also acidic by nature) is a more recent development but has attained a massive popularity. We love this roasty, malty ale infused version above any other and make sure to add molasses for extra depth of flavor.
- Whole wheat flour. It is what make this bread brown, if you can get your hands on Irish-style coarsely stone ground wheat flour (aka wholemeal flour) the bread you’ll bake will be that much more authentic.
- Oats. For best results use quick oats (not instant, rolled oats or steel cut oats work much better). If you really want to go authentic you can buy McCann’s Irish oatmeal.
- Baking soda and baking powder. Working in tandem as the leavening agents to lighten up the otherwise dense batter like dough.
- Brown sugar and salt. Definitely dark brown sugar, to counter any residual bitterness from the Irish stout and some kosher salt to balance everything.
- Guinness stout. Playing the role of soda it brings about so much flavor. Guinness has roasted barley in addition to roasted malt in its grain bill which gives extra roasty notes to the dark malty base.
- Butter. Use Irish if you can or anther European butter.
- Buttermilk. The recipe uses less buttermilk than traditional brown bread in order to allow for the Guinness to be added. The combo creates a delicious loaf.
- Molasses. Known as black treacle in Ireland, a little bit goes a long way and contributes unique richness. You can substitute with honey or leave it out.
- Mix the wet ingredients. The important thing here is to make sure that the Guinness is at room temperature, and if possible the buttermilk too. If the stout is too cold it will not mix well with the melted butter.
- Mix the dry ingredients. In a larger, separate bowl combine the dry ingredients (be sure to break up the brown sugar nicely). Create a well in the middle of the mixture.
- Combine and bake. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and gently stir everything together until a homogenous batter is formed. Transfer to greased loaf pan, smooth the top a bit and sprinkle with oats. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.
Ways to Enjoy
- Slather. By far our top choice – salted Irish butter slathered on a slice of Guinness brown bread. Perfect as indulgent breakfast or snack.
- Jams/preserves. And if you are feeling generous towards carbs, top the butter with your favorite jam.
- Great ‘dunker’. This bread is often enjoyed for lunch alongside traditional Irish stew, fish stew or seafood chowder, soups, etc.
- Cheese. One of the best ways to quickly address a loaf of Guinness bread is to include it as an accompaniment to Irish cheese trays.
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- 12 oz Guinness Extra stout (or another Irish stout)*
- 5 tbsp butter, melted + more to grease the loaf pan
- 1 cup buttermilk*
- 1 tbsp molasses (aka black treacle)
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour**
- 1 cup quick oats***
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
1. Make sure that the Guinness and buttermilk are at room temperature*. Heat the oven to 400 F. Grease a loaf pan (9 x 5) with butter.
2. In a bowl pour the Guinness. Add the melted butter, buttermilk and molasses and whisk until well combined. Set aside.
3. In another bowl combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and powder and salt. Stir well together and make a well in the middle of the mixture.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir into a batter. Transfer to the greased loaf pan, smooth on top and sprinkle with oats (optional).
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until nicely risen and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the brown bread to cool down completely before you slice it.
*If the stout and buttermilk are too cold the wet ingredients will not mix well and you will need to warm up the entire mixture and whisk them until well incorporated. Shake the buttermilk before you measure it out and leave on the counter for a bit to come to room temperature.
**For a really authentic loaf we recommend Odlums wholemeal coarse flour. It is produced by stone grinding the whole wheat grain - nothing is added or taken out and therefore the bran content is high, the texture coarse.
***You can use rolled or steel cut oats, the latter will give you a coarser texture. If you want to use authentic Irish oats, we recommend Mcann's Irish Oatmeal.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 850mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 5gSugar: 15gProtein: 8g