Home… is where the wheaten bread is!
This amazing homemade Irish bread is healthy, easy to make and tastes like proper home baking. There’s a reason us Irish go nuts for it and have done for generations.
What Makes It So Special?
Why do people go crazy for it then? Wheaten bread (or Irish soda bread as it is commonly known) is totally delicious, wholesome, buttery and moreish. I made it for my cousin in Portugal and her partner likened it to a sort of cake. I think the taste can be quite similar to broa in Portugal.
But this type of soda bread is definitively a fence-sitter when it comes to being sweet or savoury. Because it’s kind of somewhere in the middle, with a soft, crumbly texture.
Equipment You’ll Need
The following items are necessary for baking this recipe:
- A large mixing bowl
- A wooden spoon
- A measuring cup or some kitchen scales
- An oven proof dish approximately 18-22cm
- A cotton tea towel or cloth
- A cooling rack
These items are optional, but will make baking easier for you:
- A whisk and medium sized bowl for the buttermilk substitute
- A spatula for scraping your dough out of the large bowl
- Oven gloves
What’s the Difference Between Wheaten Bread and Soda Bread?
Well… it’s actually the same thing.
In Northern Ireland we call this wheaten bread, but in the South it’s known as soda bread, brown bread, bran bread etc. Whatever way you say it, this is the best thing to come out of Ireland since… sliced bread!
But you don’t have to be in Ireland to enjoy wheaten bread. I used to buy mine at Dublin airport shop on the way back to Barcelona. Or, I’d get the bread up North to bring with me. The main thing is that it be as fresh as possible. I’ve also had my good friends in Dublin meet me at the airport, gifting me with tea and… you guessed it!
There was that time I also flew a rhubarb pie back to share with Irish friends (in the times before I was able to source rhubarb in Barcelona). You may have been this desperate to eat some Irish baking from back home. Chances are, you are in the same boat reading this!
So, you’ll be pleased to hear that with some basic equipment and a few adapted ingredients, you can make wheaten bread just about anywhere in the world!
Is Wheaten Bread Healthy?
Yes, it most definitely is. Wheaten bread uses 100% natural ingredients. Bicarbonate of soda is used as the leavening agent, instead of yeast. So, none of that bloated feeling you might get from other bread.
It also provides far more protein and fibre than standard white bread.
Another benefit, health-wise, is that it can paired with so many healthy, delicious dishes.
What Do You Eat With Wheaten Bread?
In Northern Ireland, wheaten bread is commonly eaten with a smear of butter as a side to soups and stews. But you should also try it with one of the following:
- With cheddar cheese and pickle or chutney. A classic!
- With a poached egg and cracked black pepper. Breakfast heaven.
- With smoked salmon, capers and pickle for a healthy lunch.
- With butter, jam and a cup of tea.
- Toasted with butter and marmite.
- Toasted wheaten bread with an Ulster Fry (cooked breakfast).
- With prawns and thousand island dressing (a 90s throwback).
How Do You Store It?
If you aren’t eating your whole loaf straight away (this can be tempting), you’ll want to store your wheaten bread correctly. Freshly baked bread should stay on the cooling rack with a tea towel over it for an hour or two. When it’s completely cool, you can transfer it to a container for storage.
An airtight container such as a biscuit tin (my go-to) or a round tupperware, will ensure the bread stays fresh. It will be good like this for up to five days, or freeze some straight away in cling wrap so you can enjoy it at a later date.
Why Do You Put a Cross on Wheaten Bread?
The official, sensible explanation is that it helps the bread to cook evenly throughout.
The much more interesting, time-honoured explanation is that it’s to let the fairies and spirits out.
I know which one I prefer!
Wheaten Bread / Irish Soda BreadCourse: Appetizers, Bread, Irish Baking, Uncategorized, VideoCuisine: IrishDifficulty: Easy
This wheaten bread recipe makes one loaf and can be cut into 16 slices approximately. Each slice has around 135 calories, and worth every single one!
- For Buttermilk Substitute
2x125g pots of natural or greek yoghurt mixed with 3/4 cup fresh milk. Alternatively about 2 cups of one of these buttermilk substitutes
- Other Ingredients
1/4 cup vegetable oil (e.g. sunflower oil)
1 cup white bread flour or plain white flour
2 cups brown flour or wholemeal flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (e.g. porridge oats)
1 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon fine table salt
4 teaspoons white sugar
60g salted butter (1/2 cup, about a 1/4 block)
- Preheat oven to 200ºC (gas mark 6) or 180ºC (fan-assisted). Lightly flour an oven dish with wholemeal flour.
- For the Buttermilk Substitute: In a medium sized bowl, whisk the two pots of natural yoghurt with 3/4 cup of fresh milk until smooth. Add the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Leave to one side.
- Add the flour and the other dry ingredients to a large bowl and stir to distribute well.
- Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub into the dry mixture, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the buttermilk with oil (hold a little back until you stir).
- With a wooden spoon, stir completely until you have a well-moistened mixture. If needed, add the little leftover buttermilk mixture. See my youtube video to get the right consistency!
- Turn the dough out onto a brown-floured surface, flour your hands and shape the bread quickly and gently into a round. Lift and transfer to the oven dish.
- With a flat knife, cut a deep cross in the loaf and put in the oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 200ºC, then turn down to 190ºC for another 10-20 minutes. Check with a knife in the centre at 40 minutes. When it comes out clean, the bread is ready.
- Move to a cooling rack with a clean tea towel on top. After 20 minutes you can lift the bread out of its oven dish, and leave to cool as before until you are ready to serve it.
- Traditionally, the reason you cut a deep cross in the wheaten loaf is to let the fairies or spirits out! Also, it helps the bread cook evenly and thoroughly in the middle.
- When in doubt, always hold a little of the buttermilk back until you’re confident about the consistency of the wet dough. Check my youtube video if you’d like to cross-examine! The dough should be moist, but not too floppy to shape into a round.
- Let the baked bread rest in the oven dish for at least 20 minutes. This will help it to set and not stick to your oven dish. After it cools a bit you can flip it out of the dish, then preferably let it cool on a rack so that the base can dry a little.