Brown bread is one of those things. When I'm down in Listowel visiting family, I love slathering butter on slices of our auntie's chewy loaves.
In bakeries, I enjoy getting a loaf fresh out of the oven, with a bit of chew to it, but also a really tender crumb.
I have seen brown bread made a hundred different ways in this country. I make mine slightly differently, too, I suppose.
I love incorporating butter into the bread mix - I know not everyone does this, but I like the effect it has on the finished product. A bit of sweetness - from some honey or maple syrup - is a must for me, as well.
And instead of a stiff bread dough, I aim for a more batter-like dough - it's very wet and gets poured into a loaf pan instead of being kneaded and shaped.
Adding some good Irish oats to the mix is a must for me, too. Though sometimes I enjoy adding different seeds for a bit of texture, the oats just add a lovely flavour and moreishness to the finished product.
Makes one large loaf
300g plain flour
200g wholemeal flour
100g porridge oats
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
125g cold, cubed butter
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
More oats, for sprinkling
1 Preheat your oven to 200°C and spray a large loaf tin with cooking spray (or line the tin with parchment paper). Set aside.
2 In a bowl, combine the plain flour, wholemeal flour, oats, salt and baking soda. Mix well.
3 Add in the cold, cubed butter and rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers. You want the mixture to resemble coarse crumbs once fully incorporated.
4 In a measuring jug, measure out the buttermilk, then add the honey and egg. Mix until the egg is broken up and well combined, then pour the wet ingredients into the dry.
5 Mix well. If the mixture is too wet or dry, either add a bit more flour or a bit more buttermilk. You want a very thick batter-like dough.
6 Pour the dough into the prepared loaf tin and smooth out the top. Sprinkle with oats and place in the preheated oven.
7 Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the loaf from the tin and bake the loaf directly on the oven rack for an additional 10 minutes.
8 Remove from the oven and cool completely before attempting to slice - this loaf is deliciously tender, but it will completely fall apart if you try to slice it while warm.
9 Enjoy with a full Irish or with lashing of butter and good Irish cheese (don't forget the tea).