Wheaten is good eatin’
I nearly left the apostrophe out of this post’s title, but then I just couldn’t do it. Because that would be wrong.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here is a picture that my husband’s cousin who lives in Dublin and Belfast sent us today (she kind of does live in both, although not usually at the same time).
Awesome. My husband’s parents were born outside Belfast, and so although I have distant roots in the Emerald Isle, we’re lucky to be able to visit close family members over there relatively frequently. Whenever we’re able to go, we hop back and forth between Dublin and Belfast being very graciously hosted by many warm family members. When I say warm I mean friendly, because even on a good day Ireland isn’t so very warm. But as Phil always says when they start apologizing for the rain, we don’t go for the weather.
We go for the wheaten bread.
That’s right all you Irish relatives reading this, you’ve found out my secret. I pretend to like you and all, and I do enjoy all the tea, so thanks for that, even though I horrify you by putting sugar in mine. But mostly I come for the bread, because you just can’t get wheaten here. You can’t even find good recipes when you Google it, and I am an exceptional recipe Googler.
Let’s let that news sink in for the relatives for a moment and I’ll bring the rest of you non-Irish up to speed, in case you haven’t experienced the diversity of Irish breads. Apparently in the 1800s, Ireland couldn’t grow the “hard wheat,” needed for good yeast leavened bread, so the introduction of baking soda as a leavener was a game changer, allowing the Irish to make good breads with their softer wheat flours. This is where “soda bread,” comes from, and “wheaten bread,” is a variation that uses whole wheat flour. Wheaten may be a more Northerly delicacy, but I might only believe this because it’s on every Belfast relative’s table through the day. We find it a more satisfying, filling, healthy (if you still feel that whole grain is a bonus) toast than anything Wonderbread-ish from here. They’re not even in the same league, actually. The closest I can compare it to is an unsweet, ungreasy, dense bran muffin loaf.
I’m not even finished with the allure of the Irish breads. Again in the North (because it’s St. Patrick’s Day after all. Ahem), there’s something called an “Ulster Fry.” Basically this is a breakfast where each delicacy could cause a coronary in its own right. You’re thinking, “But that’s true of my own breakfast, right here in North America, Ann.” Oh, okay, cheeky. Does your breakfast have at least three types of bread, one of which is potato, and many of which are fried in a pan? Are these graciously accompanied by all the fried eggs you can eat? Multiple types of sausages? Puddings? (Which are kind of also sausages…). You get the picture. I ate an Ulster Fry at a gas station the last time I was there. At a gas station.
But back to why good Wheaten is elusive unless you’re in a place with really cute accents and lots of rainbows (and I’m not talking about Church and Wellesley). Irish flours are still different than what I can get here. Maybe they’re still working the “soft flour,” over there, but if they are they seem to have perfected any 1800s handicaps. My husband’s cousin Heather gave me a recipe for Wheaten some time ago but I was afraid to try it because it included two kinds of wheat flour. We only have one wheat flour here and I’m not convinced I have the luck of the Irish in the flour department.
On my last trip over, though, I found another kindred foodie in Emma who shared a bunch of her cookbooks with me, making a special trip back over to loan them for the remainder of our trip. I had high hopes for this one
which had a similar Wheaten recipe in it to Heather’s, but with only one kind of wheat flour. I finally got around to trying it today. (The rest of the book rocks too, but is crazy expensive to ship from Europe so I bought it on Amazon as an ebook. E-cookbooks suck, BTW – too hard to flip through them quickly – but they’re cheap!)
And now for the recipe! Amounts translated and directions paraphrased, some ingredients tweaked.
Multi Seed Wheaten Bread
(Makes 2 banana bread sized loaves)
- Butter for greasing pans
- 3 1/2C all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2C whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 1/2C wheat bran
- about 1C seeds – I used sunflower, poppy and sesame)
- 1/4C butter, cubed
- 2Tbsp honey
- 2Tbsp brown sugar
- 1L buttermilk
Directions: Preheat to 350 and grease pans. Mix dry ingredients in a very large bowl, reserving a healthy handful of seeds. Add butter, and rub it into dry ingreds with your fingers. Make a well in the middle and pour in remaining ingredients.
Mix, and add to pans. My batter was quite dry, but Neven says goopy. Mine still worked. Sprinkle tops with reserved seeds.
Neven’s directions say to “bake for hours,” which is not highly specific, and I was testing out my new convection fancy-schmantz, so I can’t even tell you how long to let it go either – about an hour on convection.
But here’s what to watch for – wait until it starts to go brown, and then stick a knife in which should come out dry. Dump loaf onto a plate and tap the bottom and it should sound hollow (Neven’s directions). I think you can cook this lepre-loaf for a good long time without damaging it. And then eat it within one or two days because I have a funny feeling it might turn into the blarney stone fast.
Well, I guess I won’t be seeing you Irish relatives again. It was great! Argh, but then there are still those Ulster Frys. I might just have to return after all. 🙂 (Miss you guys). Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!
And on another note…
Question for you. Let’s just say you’ve been remodelling your kitchen due to a broken pipe thanks to your useless neighbour who shares your wall and nearly burned your house down in a prior incident. And let’s just say that your husband is far from being a backbencher, so every decision takes in-depth negotiations. And then let’s just say you’re finally nearing the finish line and he has ordered the final component – lights that took a bedroom peace accord to decide on. And let’s keep in mind that he already got his hand slapped for taking it upon himself to choose the knobs without checking with me, because to anyone else they look like they like the girl version of phallic.
- Wheaten Bread Recipe - […] might remember from before that I tried to make Northern Ireland’s unique “wheaten bread.” When you have a […]