It’s safe to say that every Irish cook has a recipe for it that’s been personalized by families either by name, ingredients, or method of baking. A few decades ago, I judged an Irish cooking contest and nearly one quarter of all the recipes submitted were for soda bread—Aunt Eileen’s, Grandma O’Hara’s, Auntie Maura’s, Cousin Terry’s—and not one was the same!
Two or three recipes were for the sweet white version that calls for raisins and caraway seeds and even these varied: one recipe suggested soaking the raisins in water or whiskey to plump up the fruit. Another one or two insisted kneading was essential. One added sour cream; another buttermilk.
I enjoyed them all, but this one—a brown bread flavored with Guinness—has become my favorite. It might become yours, too! If you can, use an Irish brand of coarse whole meal flour; if not, mix Irish oatmeal and oat or wheat bran. You’ll fine recipes like this in my cookbook Favorite Flavors of Ireland; signed copies available at www.irishcook.com.
Guinness and Malt Wheaten Bread
Makes 1 loaf
- 1 cup fine whole wheat flour, plus additional for sprinkling
- 1 cup coarse whole wheat flour or
- 1/2 cup each quick-cooking Irish oatmeal and oat or wheat bran
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon barley malt extract *
- 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 3/4 cups Guinness stout
- Softened butter. for spreading
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 7-inch loaf pan and sprinkle with whole wheat flour.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, oatmeal, oat or wheat bran, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
- With a pastry cutter or 2 forks, work in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Make a well in center, add malt, buttermilk, and Guinness, and mix with a wooden spoon (dough will have a porridge consistency).
- Transfer to prepared pan, sprinkle additional flour on top, and bake for 30 minutes.
- Reduce temperature to 325°F and bake for 30 minutes longer, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Turn oven off and let bread cool with door open for 30 minutes. Remove bread from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Serve slices spread with butter.
* Malt extract, also called barley malt, is available in health foods stores.