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Monday, March 14, 2011

Brown Bread Bake-Off

Last year when I was in Ireland for St. Patrick's Day, I was reminded of my love for Irish brown bread.  Immediately after I returned to the States, I went on a hunt for a recipe to satisfy the void left in leaving the homeland.  I tried so many recipes and found one that seemed the closest to what I had loved... only to lose it when we moved recently.

I had a vague recollection of the recipe's ingredients but couldn't find it anywhere!  I narrowed it down to 5 recipes, then 3, and this weekend I tried two of them.  The recipes were:

Recipe 1: Irish Brown Bread from Sunset Magazine
Recipe 2: Irish Brown Bread from Family Fun Magazine

All I could remember from the recipes was that it was mainly stuff I had in my kitchen regulary except one ingredient. Was it buttermilk or non-fat yogurt? I couldn't remember so I tried both.

Recipe 1: Yogurt based
Recipe 2: Buttermilk based

Both recipes only required one bowl and were extremely easy to put together.  Recipe 2, which used buttermilk, was a lot stickier and seemed to make a bit more, so I made it into two loaves.

Recipe 2: Slightly less golden in color

Recipe 1

I cooked both recipes at the same time in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes.  Recipe 1 came out a bit more golden in color (though it's hard to tell in the pictures).

Recipe 1: Sprinkled with the occasional oat

Recipe 2: You can see the larger amount of oats that were required.
Both recipes called for rolled oats though the type wasn't specified, so I used regular cooking oats.  Recipe 2 required a bit more which you can see in the final product.

In the end, it came down to taste.  Of course I had to enjoy it with some Irish butter...

The winner?

Recipe 1 from Sunset magazine!  This was definitely the recipe that I had used before and the bread came out much more moist than Recipe 2.  That's not to say that Recipe 2 was bad.  It was still delicious but was just a bit drier and more dense than Recipe 1.  I included both recipes above so you could decide for yourself.  They're both so quick and easy to make.  I've included Recipe 1 below with any additional comments that I had.  I recommend enjoying this with some butter, honey or jam, cheese or dipped into some delicious potato soup while you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  Or, if you love wheat breads like me, use this for some tasty sandwiches.  I'm looking forward to making this every couple of weeks to keep fresh bread in our house.

By: Sunset Magazine

1  cup  all-purpose flour
2  tablespoons  sugar
1  teaspoon  baking powder
1  teaspoon  baking soda
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1 1/2  tablespoons  cold butter or margarine
2  cups  whole-wheat flour
1/4  cup  rolled oats (you can use regular or quick-cooking; I used regular)
1 1/2  cups  plain nonfat yogurt
Milk (as needed)

1. In a bowl, mix all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in whole-wheat flour and oats.
2. Add yogurt; stir gently. If mixture is too dry to hold together, stir in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, just until dough holds together; it should not be sticky.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead gently 5 times to make a ball. Set on a lightly greased baking sheet. Pat into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut a large X on top of loaf.
4. Bake in a 375° oven until well browned, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or cool.

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