Irish vs. Canadian Wheaten Bread
Now in my last post, which was ages ago, I left you with a teaser for my next post. There was some drama that happened with the … dried bugs … so for the longest time I had the excuse that I thought my mail-order scorpions (no, you are not having a seizure that is making your reading-eyes imagine things) had been thrown out with the cottage fridge, but I recently discovered that my father-in-law managed to rescue my dried creepies, so now the reason why I haven’t blogged them yet is just because I am procrastinating seeing what a scorpion tastes like.
I might just feed them to my sister, who has always been a very picky eater, so stay tuned for foodie hilarity.
In the meantime, let’s talk about something more delicious. (I assume — maybe I’ve been avoiding eating scorpion for all the wrong reasons and they taste just like little lobsters)
A few weeks ago we visited Northern Ireland, which is where my husband’s family is from.
Here’s Holywood’s shoreline (pronounced “Hollywood”)
Here’s Strangford Lough
And Belfast (I didn’t take as many scenery shots there, it’s nicer than my pics)
Here are a few beautiful family shots that my husband’s cousin’s wife Kellie the photographer took, in a park that I forget the name of. Love them!
You might remember from before that I tried to make Northern Ireland’s unique “wheaten bread.” When you have a proper breakfast in Northern Ireland, there will usually be wheaten and regular bread on the table, and sometimes even more varieties. Here is the first known historic description of how to make it (found here):
In NOV 1836 the The Farmer’s magazine (London) p. 328 cited the following article that was repeated in various publications in the US, including The Journal of the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania and Mechanics’ Register on page 71 had the following:
A correspondent of the Newry Telegraph (a newspaper in Northern Ireland) gives the following receipt for making “soda bread,” stating that “there is no bread to be had equal to it for invigorating the body, promoting digestion, strengthening the stomach, and improving the state of the bowels.” He says, “put a pound and a half of good wheaten meal into a large bowl, mix with it two teaspoonfuls of finely-powdered salt, then take a large teaspoonful of super-carbonate of soda, dissolve it in a half a teacupful of cold water, and add it to the meal; rub up all intimately together, then pour into the bowl as much very sour buttermilk as will make the whole into soft dough (it should be as soft as could possibly be handled, and the softer the better,) form it into a cake of about an inch thickness, and put into a flat Dutch oven or frying pan, with some metallic cover, such as an oven-lid or griddle, apply a moderate heat underneath for twenty minutes, then lay some clear live coals upon the lid, and keep it so for half an hour longer (the under heat being allowed to fall off gradually for the last fifteen minutes,) taking off the cover occasionally to see that it does not burn. This he concludes, when somewhat cooled and moderately buttered, is as wholesome as ever entered man’s stomach. Wm . Claker , Esq., of Gosford, has ordered a sample of the bread to be prepared, and a quantity of the meal to be kept for sale at the Markethill Temperance Soup and Coffee Rooms. Farmer’s Magazine.
So when I went to NI about three years ago, I was sure to ask Phil’s relatives for their recipes. I rushed home and tried to make wheaten, but it didn’t taste the same. I found it just tasted a lot like flour. So this time, I smuggled a bag of their wheat flour home in my carry-on.
Security: “And is that white powder in your backpack flour, ma’am?”
Me: “Yes, it’s to make this special bread…”
Security: [suspicious frown] “Proceed.”
[Ann leaves, followed by a parade of sniffer dogs while dialing producers to film the NI version of Brokedown Palace]
And hey, I used another souvenir from my last Irish trip for the recipe! And yes, it’s the same one I talked about last time, but did I do a taste test using Canadian and Irish wheat flours then?
No? Well then giddy up. The cookbook I made the recipe from is here. Recall that you should never buy e-cookbooks unless forced by geographic availability as I was, because it’s annoying to browse and flip between pages.
Here it is, with my translated measurements for a North American readership (Yes, I actually weighed all this junk for you people. Is that how British people always bake? It’s kind of troublesome. You must really love your baked goods to go to that kind of effort):
Yield: 1 standard loaf pan’s worth
- 225g (2 Cups) all-purpose flour
- 225g (2 Cups) wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 50g (3/4 Cups) wheat bran
- 100g (1/4 Cup) mixed seeds (I used sunflower and sesame), 1 Tbsp reserved
- 25g (2-3 Tbsp) butter at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp golden syrup (I smuggled one of these back too, only to be disappointed to find it the following day at my normal grocery store)
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 500 mL + 1/4 Cup buttermilk (however much it takes for a semi-goopy consistency)
Preheat oven to 350 and oil loaf pan. Sift flours, baking soda, and salt together, tapping wheat left in the mesh into the bowl, adding the wheat bran and seeds, and stirring it. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers (it will disappear into the flours). Make a well in the centre and pour in syrup, buttermilk, and sugar. Mix gently and quickly with a wooden spoon, adjusting milk until batter is heavily wet-goopy (with that kind of description, I think this recipe just became mine!).
Spread batter into loaf pan and sprinkle with reserved seeds.
Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, until a knife comes away clean, and tapping the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow. Allow to cool on a rack.
So as you know, I made two of these loaves to see first hand whether the origins of the flour made a difference. And here is my verdict: I think if you’ve had Northern Irish wheaten before, you’ll notice a difference. The Irish flour gave a slightly sweeter, less-flour-tasting result. But I fed both breads to my Canadian friend Janet, and she couldn’t taste the difference. So the bottom line is, don’t go paying a flour-mule to smuggle some in for you, just give this a try!
(You really can find any picture you’re looking for on the Internet)
And on a Blog Transition Note
To increase my blogging excitement, I’m going to begin to review cookbooks so that I can be dangerous with creative recipes as well as with dangerous ingredients. So stay tuned for two cool posts that are on their way — one about my sister tasting a scorpion, and another about my favourite travel souvenir (yes, even moreso than my wheat flour and golden syrup) — taste-testing the Ballymaloe Cookbook, by the famous Irish chef, Myrtle Allen.