Make Ahead

Irish Wheaten Bread

December  8, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Margot Mustich
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • makes One 8-inch x 4-inch loaf
Author Notes

Wheaten bread is a whole wheat soda bread that the Irish eat year-round, not just around St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, soda breads of all shapes, sizes, and varieties abound in shops, markets, and on tables at all times of day and night. Often baked free-form, they are also baked in loaf pans. My husband and I tasted many different ones during a recent trip to Ireland. The best one was served at breakfast at our hotel in Dublin; it was tender, moist, and flavorful—almost cakelike. I praised it. I exalted it. I begged for the recipe, but the chef demurred. So I’ve come up with my own wheaten loaf. And it’s damn good.

I had been focused on making yeasted breads for so long, I’d never given soda breads a thought. All that’s changed now. The beauty of soda bread is that you can measure the ingredients, stir the batter by hand, and put the loaf directly into the oven. No kneading and no waiting for the dough to rise—twice. The whole process takes only about an hour from start to finish.

Delicious for breakfast, tea, or a late-night snack. —Margot Mustich

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups stoneground whole wheat flour (see note)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon rolled oats for sprinkling over the top of the loaf
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Grease a tinned-steel loaf pan measuring 8 inches long x 4 inches wide with butter or shortening. Set aside.
  3. Measure all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Stir well.
  4. Cut the butter into small cubes. Toss them into the dry ingredients and pinch them into smaller bits between your fingertips. Repeat until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the middle for the wet ingredients.
  5. Add the molasses to the buttermilk, and stir until blended. Pour into the well and stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture is thoroughly moistened. Mix well, but don’t overwork it. If necessary, add more buttermilk, one tablespoon at a time, until you get a sticky dough. (The amount of buttermilk needed will vary depending on which brand—and the coarseness or fineness—of flour you’re using.) You’re aiming for the consistency of dense, moist mashed potatoes.
  6. Transfer the dough to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Cut a shallow slit down the center of the loaf, starting a third of the way from one end of the pan and ending a third of the way from the other end. Sprinkle the rolled oats over the top of the loaf.
  7. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the loaf is nicely browned on top and the dough in the center of the slit looks done.
  8. Let the loaf cool in the pan on a wire baking rack for 5 minutes. Then, remove it from the pan and let it cool completely before cutting. Slice and serve as is or toasted, with room temperature butter and honey.
  9. Note: Look for a coarsely ground whole wheat flour. (I get mine online from Baker's Authority.) This produces a loaf with the best texture and flavor. Alternatively, try a sprouted whole wheat flour, preferably stoneground. Regular, industrially milled whole wheat flour is too fine; if that’s all you can find at the market, you might try replacing up to ½ cup of the whole wheat flour with the same amount of wheat bran or oat bran.

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