My Irish Granny’s Whole Grain Wheaten Bread
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! (or almost!)
Despite being named Erin, I don’t actually have an Irish granny. But if I did, I would hope she would bake bread like this–slightly sweet and nutty with toasted Hodgson Mill Steel Cut Oats, with a crisp browned crust hiding a tender buttery biscuit crumb. (For any word nerds out there, ‘Wheaten’ is an old English word that means just what it says, and it’s the name of this type of loaf.)
To me, this fun clover-shaped loaf is whole grain baking at its best—taste, texture, and looks (a triple threat!). And since it’s a soda bread, made with buttermilk and baking soda instead of yeast, it’s ready in just about an hour. It’s perfect for breakfast, toasted, with butter and jam, but it easily holds up next to a savory soup or stew. The smell of this, fresh from the oven, drew everyone in my house straight to the kitchen. . . I just love when that happens.
Let’s get started by toasting your steel cut oats.
This intensifies the flavor, and I think it sweetens them up a little. Just toast them over medium heat in a dry pan, shaking once in a while to move them around so they don’t burn.
Save a tablespoon of the oats, for topping, and let the rest cool. Then toss the rest in with the dry mix – Hodgson Mill Best for Bread and Whole Wheat flours, salt, baking soda, and a little bit of sugar, all whisked together. Cut the butter into chunks, then rub it into this dry mix, using your fingertips, a fork, or two knives, until pieces are crumb-sized.
Next, make a well in the center of the mix, and add canola oil and buttermilk to the mix. Work fast from here on out, because when the buttermilk hits the baking soda, you want to get this into the oven as fast as possible before the chemical reaction fizzles out.
Mix until no dry bits are left. The mixture will be very wet and slack.
Still working fast, dust the dough and your hands with a little more bread flour, and knead it just a few times, just enough so you can gather it into a smooth ball. Plop it onto a baking sheet (lightly greased or lined with parchment paper), brush it with a little more buttermilk, and use that tablespoon of toasted oats with a pinch of salt and sugar for the topping.
Now, slash the bread deeply – this is no time for the faint of heart. Really cut deep, halfway into the loaf. You want it to spring apart into a clover leaf in the oven.
Bake it in a very hot oven, and I can just about guarantee you’ll get compliments on your new kitchen perfume.
(Apologies and much love to friends across the pond who must think every American has an Irish granny. “You’re from Dublin? My family came to the states from Dublin in the 1800s. Do you recognize our name?” LOL.)
Happy St. Paddy’s! Do you have any St. Paddy’s family baking traditions?
My Irish Granny’s Whole Grain Wheaten Bread
1/2 cup Hodgson Mill Steel Cut Oats, toasted, and divided
1 1/2 cups Hodgson Mill Best for Bread Flour
2 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons butter, cold, cut into chunks
2 Tablespoons canola oil (or other flavorless vegetable oil)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon buttermilk or milk
1 pinch granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon toasted steel cut oats, reserved from the 1/2 cup, above
Preheat oven to 450° F. Line a cookie sheet or other shallow baking pan with parchment paper or lightly grease it. Heat a dry skillet over medium heat and toast steel cut oats, shaking intermittently, until browned and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon for topping, and let the rest cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda, and 2 teaspoons sugar. Stir in cooled, toasted steel cut oats. Using the tips of your fingers or a pastry cutter, rub or but the butter into this flour mixture until crumb-sized.
Make a well in the center of the mixture, like a volcano, and pour in the vegetable oil and buttermilk. Stir together wet and dry ingredients until uniformly moistened. Dough will be fairly wet. Dust the dough and your hands with more bread flour, and knead a few times. Shape and gather it as best you can into a smooth ball. Place on prepared pan and pat down slightly. Brush the loaf with 1 tablespoon buttermilk or milk, and sprinkle a pinch of sugar and the last tablespoon of toasted oats over the top. Slash top deeply in a cross with a serrated knife — go at least halfway down the height of the loaf. You want the triangles to spring apart in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated 450° F oven, then reduce heat to 375° F, and bake another 20-25 minutes. Loaf will split into four triangles along the cross-shaped slashes, and will brown deeply. Check after 10 minutes and cover loosely with foil if you’re concerned about the points burning.
Allow loaf to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before slicing.
You may also choose to bake this in a loaf pan. This recipe yields a generous loaf, with at least 10-12 slices. Serve with butter, jam, or honey, or alongside soup or stew. Instead of buttermilk, you can substitute plain yogurt, sour cream, or use 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice topped with enough plain milk to equal 1 1/2 cups, stir, and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Adapted from Our Best Bites Wheaten Brown Soda Bread