One of my favorite things growing up was coming home from school and smelling the wheaten bread baking in the oven that my mother was making. When she made wheaten, she frequently made soda bread at the same time and both were delicious. The problem was that my mom often made me wait for the bread to cool down before cutting a slice for me. However, when my father was home, he seemed to have more influence than I did, and as he enjoyed melting butter on warm wheaten and soda, he would convince her to let us have some of the warm stuff.
I continue to enjoy Irish wheaten and when an adult, had to learn how to make it myself if I wanted any. My parents had moved and I couldn’t just show up anytime it was made in my parent’s house. So, I made sure to learn.
A note about this recipe: I am using Odlum’s Irish wheat for the whole wheat. It is a coarsely milled wheat, although you can use North American whole wheat flour and it will still turn out quite good; not just quite the same. For more on why this is the case, please see my post on “The Trouble With Wheat.”
There are several ways one can make Irish wheaten. Often, some will bake it in a loaf tin. I prefer to do it the way my mom did, on a flat surface in the oven. I use a flat cast iron griddle to bake the bread. It is a well seasoned griddle, so I don’t need to use any grease like shortening to prevent sticking. However, I do lightly dust the surface of the griddle with flour before putting the dough on it.
Because you will be using baking soda as the leavening agent, you need to work fairly quickly after you’ve added buttermilk to the flour mixture. There really is no kneading required once all the ingredients are mixed together. Simply just shape the dough into a circular shape. Some people once they have shaped the loaf will cut a “cross” into the top of the dough. For whatever reason, my mother never did that. Instead she cut the dough in half once it was shaped, and then each half faced each other on the griddle or bake sheet.
- 1 Cup Pastry or Cake Flour (Or all purpose flour)
- 2 3/4 Cups Odlum’s Course Wholemeal Flour (Or Wholewheat Flour)
- 1 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Heaping Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 2 Teaspoons Sugar
- 1/8 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 Cups Buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl very well. You need to remember that you want to ensure the baking soda is mixed well throughout the ingredients.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
Pour in the oil and buttermilk into the center of the ingredients.
Mix all of the ingredients to form a fairly wet dough. With some wheat flours, you may need to add more buttermilk.
Dust a bread board and your hands with flour and turn out the dough onto the board. Working quickly, form into a round shape and then cut into half so you end up with two separate bread doughs, each in the shape of a semi-circle. (As noted above, some people simply cut a cross in the top of the dough).
Place each on a flat griddle (a flat cookie sheet also works) after you have dusted with flour and put in the oven on a rack set in the middle.
Bake for about half an hour.
Remove the bread from the oven and put on a cooling rack. If you can’t resist, you can cut off a slice while it is hot however the bread may be a bit crumbly when it is hot. But, it is delicious with butter melting on it!
I also enjoy this bread with honey spread on it.
There are numerous variations on how to make this bread. This is just the way I do it. Some people will add an egg as an ingredient. I’ve never tried that. Some people don’t use vegetable oil, however I do as I find it helps to keep the bread from going stale. When I was younger, and there were five of us in the family eating it, there were never any worries about the bread going stale, but when you live on your own, it is something to consider. I can’t eat all of this myself within one day!
Some people will add a teaspoon or so of baking powder in addition to the baking soda, which will probably help the bread rise a bit more. If you would prefer that, feel free to try that yourself.
Some who bake Irish wheaten will also brush a small amount of buttermilk mixed with a teaspoon or so of sugar on top of their bread before they bake it. That is something I may try myself, but have never done.
If you make this, I’d appreciate knowing what you think of it! Another way you can enjoy it (as I do) is to fry slices of it along with your breakfast bacon, similar to what is done with Irish soda farls.