Hearty Irish Bread Anyone Can Make

The first time I ate brown bread from the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork, Ireland, was at a welcome lunch for students.

The menu was simple: loaves of bread with poached Poole prawns from Ballycotton Bay, a 15-minute walk from the farm where the school is located. Darina Allen, the school’s co-founder, buzzed around the room, encouraging us to spread thick slices of bread with mayonnaise or butter and pile on the little shrimp. The quiet luxury of it all was intoxicating, but it was the plain brown bread – nutty, barely sweet and still warm – that seemed most special.

“This recipe takes the time and mystery out of making yeast bread,” Ms. Allen said. “It’s a gift for life.” She mixed the yeast with warm water and molasses syrup, let it foam, then stirred the mixture into whole wheat flour, gave it a quick rise, and baked.

An adaptation of Grant bread, which Doris Grant, a nutritionist, created during World War II to make rations easier to use, the bread was less chewy than sandwich bread and less doughy than soda bread, without any sourdough taste. , and although it was quite similar to Danish rugbrod, it was neither dense nor sour.

In time, Mrs. Grant’s recipe reached Ireland and fell into the hands of Myrtle Allen, Darina’s mother-in-law and the chef of Ballymaloe House, an inn and restaurant. Myrtle Allen died in 2018, but the Ballymaloe kitchens continue to produce 20 loaves of this bread every day, as they have for 40 years.

“Unlike Irish soda bread, which is all about handling, this one has no tricks or secrets,” said JR Ryall, a pastry chef at Ballymaloe for two decades. “It’s a simple process that produces something wonderful to eat.”

Cookery school students and guests at Ballymaloe House have taken the recipe home and now prepare it all over the world. Lily Starbuck, a former student, sells it at her West End cafe in Fishers Island, New York. This summer she plans to teach a cooking class using Ballymaloe brown bread as the first lesson: “I’m not worried about a drop in sales. once people see how easy it can be,” she said. “I see this more as a victory to get people back into the kitchen and feeding themselves.”

The version here makes a perfect loaf of bread in under two hours. With its singularly low skills/results ratio, it has, for decades, broken the divide between baker and non-baker.

Ballymaloe now makes this bread with wheat grown on the farm, and Ms Allen serves it with homemade butter and Camembert.

“I don’t need a Prada handbag,” she said. “For me, it’s a real luxury.”

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