When our friends Aaron and Maeve invited us to meet them in Ireland this summer, we jumped at the chance. Maeve’s family is from the area outside of Dublin, and we were excited for the insider’s perspective and eager to spend time with friends. We’ve also always wanted to see the Irish countryside—having only been to Dublin for a few days back in 2009 when TH and I backpacked through Europe—and the sweeping hills and lush, green landscapes were as pretty as we imagined.
I fully recommend visiting the Glendalough valley and the Wicklow Mountains National Park, just an hour outside of Dublin, which features an incredible 9-kilometer hike that follows a wooden boardwalk up the mountainside, climbing up more than 600 wooden steps to offer sweeping views of the whole area. We caught a glimpse of a herd of deer before climbing down the rocky, waterfall-like hillside. We stayed in the nearby town of Laragh, and had a great Irish meal at The Wicklow Heather, where we also enjoyed a whiskey tasting, especially timely considering I had just participated in a tasting with Singleton in Berlin, so I knew my stuff! We also walked around the gorgeous Powerscourt gardens, named the third best garden in the world, and saw Ireland’s largest waterfall.
Although it was a short trip, there was plenty of time for Guinness, beef stew and visiting with our friends. I can also recommend Lynham’s, also in Laragh, as well as the fish restaurant A Caviston in Greystones, a cute little town with a nice street of cafes and shops that is also nice for a walk through. At almost every meal—as toast for breakfast and a side during lunch and dinner—we were served the deliciously dense and hearty Irish brown bread. Similar to soda bread, this quick dough is easy to make and includes whole grain flour for flavor and buttermilk for that moist crumb. I’ve added ground flax seed into my recipe, but you can also use wheat germ to get a similarly nutty/grainy taste. I was excited to come home and make a batch myself, but immediately after leaving Ireland, we took off for two weeks in Montenegro and Croatia—more on that to come! Back at home in Berlin and here’s the Irish brown bread, wonderful slightly toasted with a smear of good butter.
Irish Brown Bread, adapted from Do Chara
Servings: 1 loaf
80 grams (½ cup) flaxseed meal
320 grams (2½ cups) wholewheat flour
260 grams (1½ cups) rye flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons honey
1 large egg
2 cups buttermilk
14 grams (3 teaspoons) butter, cut into small pieces and at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
On a baking tray, spread the flaxseed meal in a thin layer and place in the oven until lightly toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking soda. Separately, combine the honey, egg, and buttermilk and whisk until smooth. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and use your fingertips to rub it into the flour. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids. Quickly combine, bringing the edges into the center, until a slightly soft, wet dough forms. It should not be runny, but it should also not retain its shape in the bowl. Add a little more buttermilk if it is too dry, then add in the flaxseed with your hands, kneading gently.
Grease a loaf tin and place the dough inside, using a spatula to smooth the top. Place pan in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, until the bread has a nice, brown crust and sounds hollow when you tap it.
Cool bread in the loaf tin, then remove, slice, and serve. Bread will keep, wrapped in aluminum foil, for several days.