Ten years ago, I went to Ireland for the first time & I fell in love.
The country was green and foggy; the coast harsh and beautiful; the people chipper and kind. In an strange way, the people felt like my people, and the land held a beauty I’d not witnessed elsewhere.
It felt like an easy place to just be. The kind of place that wraps you up in a woolly sweater and invites you to sit by the fire with a pint and warm bowl of soup and buttered bread. The kind of place where you can kick off the slippers of your anxieties and drink in a cool pint of comfort, of conversation, and of cheer.
There’s always a little fear that a memory of a place might hold more beauty and joy than the reality. Was it just the experience of being somewhere new? Am I remembering through a rose-tinted memory?
I’ve gone back to Ireland several times since we moved to the UK, and I’m happy to say that the magic hasn’t worn off or grown dull with time. In fact, we were just in Ireland. Last month, we took the less-than-40-minute-flight from Manchester to Ireland for a conference Sam attended. We went in a day early and wandered around Dublin, stopping here and there to have a pint of the dark stuff or a cheeky whisky. For dinner, we ate at a gastro-pub that’s been on our list for a few years now, and it did not disappoint. Everything was delicious, but we especially remember the bread.
Oh man, the bread. The bread.
We talked about it for days. It was dense with seeds, malty and ever so slightly sweet. They served it with salty Irish butter and the combination was stellar. But really, everything is good with Irish butter.
As soon as I got home, I began attempting to recreate this loaf. I knew where to start because our waiter told us it was a Guinness bread. After some reading around, I learned that Guinness bread is simply a type of soda bread which has oats, Guinness (obviously), and often treacle. The seeds in the gastro-pub’s loaf were an added treat. I loved the texture they gave, so I kept ’em in my variation even though they aren’t “traditional.”
You could easily whip this up as part of a weekend brunch, but it would be delightful as a bread to accompany a warm autumn meal. Whatever you do, I highly recommend a smear of salty butter, and all the better if you can get Irish Kerrygold.
I know that simply eating a culture’s food isn’t the same as experiencing that culture first hand, but it can give clues. The sweet, malty flavor reminds me of the warm people I met there. The dark color reminds me of the misty weather in which we drank our Guinness. For me, this hearty bread is everything that is comforting about the Emerald Isle brought to my table. When I make this Guinness bread at home it reminds me of all the beautiful things about Ireland. I hope it might give you a little glimpse too.
If you like this Guinness Bread with Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds, you might also like:
Guinness Bread with Sunflower & Pumpkin Seeds
- 2 1/3 cups whole meal flour
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup buttermilk you can use reduced or whole fat
- 1/3 cup molasses use a mild one, NOT blackstrap
- 3/4 cup Guinness stout
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
Preheat the oven to 350*F & make sure your rack is in the middle.
Put the pumpkin and sunflower seeds on a rimmed baking sheet & toast in the oven for 5-7 mins. Make sure to toss them once or twice & watch them super closely because they will most certainly burn the second you turn your back. When they're nice and toasty take them out of the oven and allow to cool completely.
Grease a 8.5in x 4.5in loaf pan with butter and line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the wholemeal flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, sea salt, granulated sugar and oats.
In a medium bowl mix together the buttermilk, molasses and Guinness. Mix well. Add the egg & mix until everything is combined well.
Grab your dry ingredients bowl and make a well in the center of it. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and drag the flour mixture little by little into the liquid either with your hand or a wooden spoon. (I opt for the hand. I spread out my fingers like a claw-- kinda like I'm holding a softball--and drag it around the bowl bringing everything together). Keep going until it all comes together.
Pour the dough into the prepared pan. Pat the top of the batter down (you'll need a little water on your hand so it doesn't stick). Make an indentation down the middle of the loaf, using your fingers or a spoon (this will help it to rise more evenly & not dome like crazy!).
Place in oven and cook for 50-55 mins or until the internal temperature registers 205-210*F.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 mins.
Remove from pan and place on cooling rack. Allow to cool completely, 1 1/2-2 hours.
Slice and serve plain or with salted butter.