Make a loaf of this delicious Irish brown bread recipe for your next St. Patricks Day feast! A hearty quickbread made from whole wheat flour with sweet and malted flavors. Each tender slice pairs perfectly with corned beef and cabbage.
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I bake a traditional loaf of Irish soda bread yearly to serve at our families’ St. Patricks Day celebration. However, to switch things up, slices of Irish brown bread are our new favorite addition to the feast. The good news is it’s still quick and easy to prepare, made using baking soda.
Instead of using all-purpose flour, whole wheat adds a more hearty and nutty taste. I use a combination of ingredients to add a hint of sweetness and malty flavor to each slice. It’s also great to serve for breakfast, especially toasted with creamy butter and corned beef hash.
What is Irish brown bread?
Traditional Irish brown bread combines whole wheat, all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. It’s very similar to soda bread. However, the bran from the flour adds a brown hue and more chew. There are various ways to customize the recipe.
Add in sweeteners, butter, or oils to make the bread more tender. Oats add exciting texture. Beers like a dark stout provide interesting yeasty flavor without needing long rise times. The bread can be shaped in rounds for drier dough or a loaf pan with a thick batter.
Mix the dry ingredients
I skip the white flour and use all whole wheat flour. The slightly high protein content, 13 to 14%, and ground bran give a dense, heartier bread. A small amount of old-fashioned rolled adds a slight chewiness and nutty flavor. Quick oats or instant oats are a good substitute.
Both the flour and oats add extra fiber to each slice. Baking soda gives the quickbread instant rise for a stunning domed top. Kosher salt helps to enhance the flavor. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl to disperse the fine particles evenly.
Incorporate the butter and sugar
Wheat flour can dry out the bread since the germ and bran are left in the product. To add tenderness and fat, use butter. Break the cubes of cold unsalted butter into the flour mixture; it should look like cornmeal. This is a similar process used in homemade biscuits to give a more interesting scone-like texture.
To add sweetness, mix in some dark brown sugar. It also acts as a humectant, keeping the bread soft for nearly a week!
Add the wet ingredients
To make the brown bread more moist and flavorful, I use a combination of three liquid ingredients. Buttermilk adds tanginess to the bread, and the acid helps to activate the baking soda, giving the bread rise as it bakes. Molasses adds sweetness and a darker brown hue. To amplify the flavor, add in Guinness Irish dry stout.
The malted and roasted barley hops, and yeasts, add incredible flavor, dimension, and aroma to the bread. Quickbreads tend to lack the flavor that yeast bread has due to the fermentation of the yeast. Adding in the beer provides that taste without the time required to develop it. Whisk the ingredients together, then stir into the flour mixture until a thick batter forms.
Bake the bread
The bread batter is going to be very wet. Bake it in a metal 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. To make removing it easier, line the pan with parchment paper, creating a sling. Grease the inside of the pan and paper with cooking spray or neutral oil. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. I like to sprinkle rolled oats on top of the dough for a pretty presentation.
Bake at 350ºF (177ºC). The process takes about 50 minutes. The bread is ready when the center reaches 190ºF (88ºC), signaling that the proteins in the flour are fully cooked. The texture will taste between wheat bread and banana bread. It’s soft and tender yet still chewy.
Cool and slice
Cool the loaf in the pan for 5 minutes to finish any carryover cooking. Use the parchment paper overhang to remove the bread, then transfer it to a wire rack. My family always asks for a slice soon after it comes out of the oven. The warm bread covered in melted Irish butter is hard to resist.
Serve this with
Frequently asked questions
Brown bread made with whole wheat flour contains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals since the germ and bran are left intact.
Rye bread is made with rye flour, giving it a unique, sour taste and a denser texture with a dark brown hue. It’s made using yeast-leavened dough. Irish brown bread is a quickbread that tends to be sweeter, moister, and has a brown shade from wheat flour and any added ingredients like molasses or beer.
Let the bread cool completely, then tightly wrap it in foil—place it in a resealable plastic bag to prevent moisture loss. Slices can also be frozen, then toasted, giving a tender texture when reheated.
How to keep the bread tender
This Irish brown bread recipe stays moist and tender for several days after baking. That’s because brown sugar and molasses are humectants that attract moisture from the environment. The oats and proteins in the flour also create a gel-like matrix when cooked, trapping water in the crumb. Slices can be enjoyed for up to 5 days when properly stored at room temperature.
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Irish Brown Bread
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup Guinness stout
- ⅓ cup molasses
- Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line a 9 by 5-inch metal loaf pan with a 9-inch wide piece of parchment paper, that overhangs about 1 inch. The sling will make it easier to remove. Grease the bottoms and sides of the paper and pan with cooking spray.
- Mix the Dry Ingredients – In a large bowl, whisk the whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, and salt.
- Incorporate the Butter – Using your fingers, break the butter into very small pieces, until the flour mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir in the brown sugar. Make a well in the center of the bowl.
- Add the Wet Ingredients – In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, Guinness, and molasses. Add to the center of the flour mixture, and stir until a batter forms. Do not overmix!
- Bake – Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, spreading it into an even layer. If desired, sprinkle oats on top. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 190ºF (88ºC), and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 to 55 minutes.
- Serve – Lift the loaf out of the pan and transfer it to a wire rack to cool. Slice and serve warm.
- Molasses Substitute: Use maple syrup or honey. The bread will not be as dark brown in hue.
- Substituting Guinness: Use all buttermilk (the bread won’t be as dark) or use root beer.
- Smaller Loaves: Bake two mini loaf pans (about 5 by 3 inches) on a baking sheet. Check at 35 minutes for doneness, adding more time as needed. Loaves are ready when they reach 190ºF (88ºC).
- Storing: Cool completely and wrap in foil and place in a plastic bag. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost the loaf before using it.
- Reheating: Toast room temperature or frozen slices of bread.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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