Last Christmas I was gifted a heavenly amount of King Arthur flour, and as we cruise into Christmas 2011, I can’t help but reflect on all the bread and pizza and pies it has been turned into over the past twelve months. However, a package of Irish-Style Wholemeal Flour somehow wedged itself behind some boxes in the pantry and was forgotten about completely until this past weekend. Conveniently, the back of the bag offered a tempting recipe for soda bread, but it required buttermilk. I didn’t have any, but what does fresh Irish Soda bread need more than anything? Good butter, of course. So I decided I would knock down two pins with one throw, as it were, and make my own butter while using the reserved buttermilk for the bread. That would be so cool. You can totally do that, right? Well….

On reflection and after some further study, I realize that I made a miscalculation. As I did not gather my milk over many days in the barn before churning it, nor did I culture it (as a store-bought product would have been processed), my buttermilk was probably missing the acidic quality that you’re looking for when triggering your soda bread chemical reaction. That said, even if my bread could have been lighter and fluffier, its rough wheat character still tastes great and is quite satisfying–especially toasted and topped with a schmear of fresh dill butter.

And next time, I guess I’ll forgo the DIY heroics and just buy a bottle of buttermilk at the store like a normal person.

Irish Brown Bread

Irish Brown Bread
adapted from the package of King Arthur Irish Wheat flour

4 cups Irish-Style Wholemeal Flour (I needed a bit more, probably due to my buttermilk snafu)
2 T sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons oil

Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to evenly incorporate. Pour the buttermilk and oil into dry ingredients and quickly stir together into a shaggy dough, kneading just a bit with your hands to pull it together into ball.

Move the prepared dough onto the baking sheet and score a deep cross into the top with a large bread knife. Sprinkle the top with a mix of sesame and poppy seed, if you like, and place in the hot oven for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Irish Brown Bread