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Brown Soda Bread

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)

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This straightforward recipe is Myrtle Allen's, from Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, County Cork — except she calls for sour milk, instead of the more readily available buttermilk. She allows considerable variation in the amount of milk used, which I find to be liberating; I just keep adding it until the dough reaches the perfect consistency. Allen calls for this loaf to be baked in the traditional round, scored form. I've found that it also works well in a loaf pan, producing a dense bread, which can be sliced fairly thinly — just right to accompany smoked salmon, mackerel, or eel.


  1. Butter for greasing
  2. 4 cups (400 grams) wheat flour, preferably Irish or Irish style
  3. 1 cup (100 grams) white flour, preferably Irish unbleached pastry flour, plus more for dusting
  4. ½ cup (80 grams) Irish steel-cut oatmeal or oat bran
  5. 1 tsp. baking soda
  6. 1 tsp. salt
  7. 2 to 4 cups (475 ml) to 1 lb. buttermilk


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet and set it aside.
  2. Mix the wheat flour, white flour, oatmeal, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and gradually pour in the buttermilk, stirring with a wooden spoon in a spiral motion from the center to the edge of the bowl. The dough should be soft but not too wet, with no raw flour left. (This will probably take about 2½ cups of buttermilk, but use more if necessary.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Flour your hands lightly, then shape the dough into a flat round about 3 inches thick. Cut a deep cross in the top of the loaf with a wet or floured knife.
  4. Transfer the loaf to a baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until nicely browned and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. (Alternatively, gently push the dough into a nonstick loaf pan and bake until done. The bread should slide out of the pan easily when done.)