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Recipe: Irish brown bread

Posted March 13, 2014

Last year, just before St. Patrick's Day, I shared a simple recipe for Irish soda bread that turned out a moist and delicious loaf.

This year, I gave Irish brown bread a shot. This long-time Irish staple is basically another version of Irish soda bread made with whole wheat flour and, in the case of this recipe, fewer ingredients.

Instead of yeast, both use baking soda as the leavening agent. And that means that you don't need to knead this dough much at  all or allow it to rise. It took me about an hour to make the dough and bake it in the oven.

There are many recipes online for brown bread. Some have ingredients such as butter, eggs, oat flour or wheat germ. Others don't. I landed on a recipe from not because it might be an authentic version of the bread (I make no claim on that), but because it had ingredients that I have on hand and that I suspect most people have hanging out in their pantries.

One exception: I don't usually have buttermilk, but I often mix one cup of milk with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to get a similar effect. And that's what I did here.

The result is another moist loaf of bread that's great on its own or as toast with jam or butter or cream cheese.

Easy Irish Brown Bread from

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups buttermilk (or two cups milk with two tablespoons apple cider vinegar)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Dust a baking sheet with some flour or lay down a sheet of parchment paper. Whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and melted butter. Mix it all up with your hands until nearly all of the flour is moistened and the dough holds together - about one minute. This is messy and sticky and fun for kids to do!

Dust a clean work surface with some flour. Set the dough on top and knead it just a bit. You don't want to see any visible pockets of flour, but you also want to be careful not to knead it too much. (This is easy Irish brown bread, after all). The kneading should last no longer than a minute.

Make the dough into a round of about 7 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick. Put it on the baking sheet. Cut a big X across the top from edge to edge and about 1/2 inch deep. 

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the bread makes a hollow sound when tapped. Move it to a wire rack and cool. You're supposed to let this bread cool completely before you eat it so it doesn't crumble, but hot bread is very hard to resist.

Fun fact: The cross cut into the top of the dough is said to ward off the devil and protect the household. It also helps the bread expand and rise.

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  • Jeff DeWitt Mar 18, 2014
    user avatar

    I tried it too, didn't have any buttermilk or apple cider vinegar, but did have some tarragon vinegar.

    Came out really well, I'll be making this again!

  • teoblitz Mar 16, 2014

    50 year old male here. Tried this recipe last night but with a twist. Didn't use salt, since I figured that the buttermilk had enough and I added raisins. Delicious! Next time I will cook for 35 mins instead of 30 to give it a harder crust.