National Bread Week


National Bread Week is upon us and this gives me another opportunity to extol the importance of good bread and the magic of bread making.

You all know my opinion of the squishy sliced pan and how desperate I am to remind anyone who will listen that YOU, (YES YOU) can make a grand little loaf in the couple of minutes it takes to mix a few ingredients and pour them into a tin. Pop it into the preheated oven and hey presto you’ll have an irresistible loaf of bread in a little over half an hour – you certainly wouldn’t be back from the shops in the time it takes to make and bake a wholesome nourishing loaf that will delight your family, fill your kitchen with the warm aromas of baking plus give yourself a mighty feeling of satisfaction.

I’ve been baking since I was a child and all of my adult life and yet every time I also love the look of satisfaction on a student’s face when they bake their first loaf of bread and suddenly realise they CAN do it.

In fact if I could only teach one thing for the rest of my life, I would choose bread and I would never run out of options.  Think of the numerous types of breads made all over the world. Many, in the most primitive conditions without ovens, cooking simply on a griddle over the open fire or even in the embers as we saw in India. The dough was wrapped in the leaves of the Flame of the Forest tree and gently cooked in the embers of a dried cowpat fire. The leaves were peeled off and the bread was drizzled with ghee and believe me it was so delicious. If that sounds a tat ‘out there’, let’s get back to the kitchen where we have all the mod cons, calibrated ovens and no excuse not to whip up a loaf.

Soda breads are the breads of our country, made in minutes daily in virtually  every kitchen since bread soda (bicarbonate of soda) was introduced in the 1840’s.  It’s an alkali which reacts with the acid in the buttermilk or naturally soured milk if you have your own dairy herd.

Cultured buttermilk is available in virtually every shop in the country but it’s now totally low fat so if you want a beautiful loaf, add a couple of tablespoons of cream or rub in an ounce of butter into flour before you add the liquid.

Increasingly, I now seek out organic flour and flour made from heirloom varieties. Still a bit difficult to source but several small Irish millers are trialling old varieties of wheat and Shipton Mill, Doves and Marriages in the UK offer  a wide variety of ancient grain flours  – Einkorn , Emmer, Khorason, Spelt, Rye… On a recent trip to Denmark, I met Fintan Keenan, an Irish man working with Danish farmers Per and Gitte Grupe on Mordrupegard  who are growing 120 different types of heirloom grains on their farm. He himself is trialling 16, old Irish grains collected from seed banks both here in Ireland and abroad. The Nordic region has a particularly rich tradition and there is indeed a growing interest in these older varieties, now that gluten intolerance seems to have reached an all-time high. Here in the Bread Shed at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, we also make a totally natural sour dough which is fermented for at least 48 hours and even longer at the weekend. It’s amazing how many people who cannot digest ‘ordinary’ bread can eat and enjoy these loaves.  A very limited number of loaves are available from the Farm Shop at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and we can do bespoke sourdough bread making courses for small groups on request.  Also check out Real Bread Ireland

Hot Tips

National Ploughing Championships, 19th-21st September 2017. Plan a skite to Tullamore, Co Offaly, of course for the ploughing competitions but also lots of cookery demonstrations, national brown bread baking competition, junior baker competition……

Milkwood School in Victoria, Australia teach real skills for down to earth living.  There is a range of courses but the Milkwood Permaculture Design Certificate gives you the skills and knowledge to design and implement fundamental and life-changing resilience into your everyday home, community

There is a 2 week intensive course beginning on October 1st, 2017 that will arm you with the design thinking and skills to create resilient, synergistic systems for living, working and community.

ZEROKM at Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow.  Evan Doyle has worked tirelessly to bring us a new exciting Food Project called ZEROKM Dinner. On Thursday October 5th 2017, Evan and his team will cook that evening’s menu using ingredients that come from less than 1 kilometre from the Macreddin kitchens. Tickets are €125 and include a ZEROKM pre reception aperitif, a 12 course ZEROKM  tasting menu with wine and finish with ZEROKM aged cheeses and digestif.  Register your interest by email or through the website

Ballyminane Flour comes from Uncle Aidan’s Authentic Stone Ground Flour which is ground at Ballyminane Mills, an authentic water mill located in Ballindaggin, Co. Wexford.

Telephone: (087) 6837789   Website:

White Soda Bread and Scones

 Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses.  It’s also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.


1 lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14fl oz (350-400ml/1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups) approx.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS.  Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (2.5cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.


Cheddar Cheese Soda Bread

Egg wash the surface of the bread, mark into 6-8 wedges.  Scatter with 4oz (110g) grated cheddar cheese and bake as above.

White Soda Scones

Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 1 inch (2.5cm) deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above).


Basic Brown Soda Bread

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well-greased tin.  This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves


400g (14ozs/2 1/2 cups) Ballyminane stone ground wholemeal flour or a wholemeal flour of your choice

75g (3ozs/3/4 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) arachide or sunflower oil, unscented

1 teaspoon honey or treacle

425ml (15fl ozs/scant 2 cups) buttermilk or sourmilk approx.


sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)


Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm (9x5x2in) OR 3 small loaf tins 5.75 inches (14.6cm) x 3 inches (7.62cm)

Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6.


Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins. Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately (45-50 minutes for small loaf tins), or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Seedy Bread

Add 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of pumpkin seeds, 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of kibbled wheat to the dry ingredients. Keep a mixture to scatter over the top.

Note: Ballyminane flour comes from Uncle Aidan’s Authentic Stone Ground Flour which is ground at Ballyminane Mills, an authentic water mill located in Ballindaggin, Co. Wexford.

Telephone: (087) 6837789



The quantity of buttermilk can vary depending on thickness.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of cream to low-fat buttermilk (optional).


Yufka – Turkish Flatbread

Bread is a staple in Turkey as in so many cultures.  According to the Koran, bread was sent to earth by God’s command, hence it is revered and not a crumb should be wasted.  There are many delicious ways to use up stale bread but I rarely have any over to experiment with.

Makes 8

110g (4oz/1 cup) strong white flour

110g (4oz/1 cup) plain white flour

50g (2oz/1/2 cup) wholemeal flour

1 scant teaspoon salt

200-225ml (7-8 fl oz/1 cup) warm water

Mix all the flours and the salt together in a bowl, add the warm water, mix to a dough and knead well for just a few minutes.  Shape into a roll, divide in 8 pieces, cover and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes – 45 would be better (however I sometimes cook it straight away).

Roll each piece of dough into a thin round, no more than 8mm (1/3 inch) in thickness.

Heat a griddle or large iron or non-stick frying pan.   Cook the Yufka quickly on both sides until just spotted.  Eat immediately or alternatively the Yufka can be stacked for several days, even weeks, in a dry place.

To reheat.

Before eating, sprinkle a Yufka with warm water, fold it in half, wrap it in a cloth and allow to soften for about 30 minutes.  Eat with cheese or butter and honey or fill with a chosen filling of roasted vegetables, cured meat, and salads.  They are then called dűrűm meaning ‘roll’.


9 ozs (250g/scant 2 cups) sieved wheatmeal flour plus extra for dusting

6 fl ozs (175ml/3/4 cup) water

Makes about 15

Put the flour in a bowl.  Slowly add the water, gathering the flour together as you do so, to form a soft dough.  Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes or until it is smooth.  Put the dough in a bowl.  Cover with a damp cloth and leave for half an hour.

Set an Indian tava or any other cast iron frying pan to heat over a medium-low flame for 10 minutes.  When it is very hot, turn the heat to low.

Knead the dough again and divide it, roughly, into 15 parts.  It will be fairly sticky, so rub your hands with a little flour when handling it.

Take one part of the dough and form a ball.  Flour your work surface generously and roll the ball in it.  Press down on the ball to make a patty.  Now roll this patty out, dusting it very frequently with flour, until it is about 5½ inches (14 cm) in diameter.  Pick up this chapati and pat it between your hands to shake off extra flour and then slap it on to the hot tava or frying pan.  Let it cook on low heat for about a minute.  Its underside should develop white spots.  Turn the chapati over (I use my hands to do this but you could use a pair of tongs) and cook for about half a minute on the second side.  Take the pan off the stove and put the chapati directly on top of the low flame.  It should puff up in seconds.

Turn the chapati over and let the second side sit on the flame for a few seconds.  Put the chapati in a deep plate lined with a large napkin.  Fold the napkin over the chapati.  Make all chapatis this way.

Ideally, chapatis should be eaten as soon as they are made.  But if you wish to eat them later, wrap the whole stack in aluminium foil and either refrigerate for a day or freeze.  The chapatis may be reheated, still wrapped in foil, in a gas mark 7, 220ºC/425ºF oven for 15-20 minutes.

From Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery

Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread with Rye

When making Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise. Heat of over 50ËšC will kill yeast. Have the ingredients and equipment at blood heat. White or brown sugar, honey golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe we use treacle. The dough rises more rapidly with 30g (1oz) yeast than with 25g (3/4oz) yeast.

We use a stone ground wholemeal. Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions. The quantity of water should be altered accordingly. The dough should be just too wet to knead – in fact it does not require kneading. The main ingredients – wholemeal flour, treacle and yeast are highly nutritious.

Note: Dried yeast may be used instead of baker’s yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast acting yeast may also be used, follow the instructions on the packet.


Makes 1 loaf


400g (14oz/3 1/2 cups) strong (stone-ground) wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz/1/2 cup) rye flour

425ml (15floz/ scant 2 cups) water at blood heat

1 teaspoon black treacle or molasses

1 teaspoon salt

20g – 30g (3/4oz – 1oz) fresh non-GM yeast

sesame seeds – optional

1 loaf tin 13x20cm (5x8inch) approx.

sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8.

Mix the flour with the salt. The ingredients should all be at room temperature. In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the treacle with some of the water, 150ml (5floz/generous 1/2 cup) for 1 loaf and crumble in the yeast.

Sit the bowl for a few minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Meanwhile check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 4 or 5 minutes it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top.

When ready, stir and pour it, with all the remaining water (10fl ozs/300ml), into the flour to make a loose-wet dough. The mixture should be too wet to knead.   Allow to sit in the bowl for 7-10 minutes (time varies depending on room temperature).   Meanwhile, brush the base and sides of the bread tins with a good sunflower oil.  Scoop the mixture into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the loaves with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place somewhere close to the cooker or near a radiator perhaps. Cover the tin with a tea towel to prevent a skin from forming. Just as the bread comes to the top of the tin, remove the tea towel and pop the loaves in the oven 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for another 40-50 minutes or until it looks nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The bread will rise a little further in the oven. This is called “oven spring”. If however the bread rises to the top of the tin before it goes into the oven it will continue to rise and flow over the edges.

We usually remove the loaf from the tin about 10 minutes before the end of cooking and put them back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust there’s no need to do this.

Griddle Bread

This recipe is especially worth noting for students or those whose kitchens don’t have an oven, because all you need is a griddle or frying pan and a single gas ring. I’ve made this bread successfully in a campervan in New Zealand and on a riverbank in Spain. Serve warm, cut into pie-shaped pieces, with butter and jam, cheese, crispy bacon or cured meats. Serves 4–8


225g (8oz) plain white flour

1⁄2 level teaspoon salt

1⁄2 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

175ml (6fl oz) buttermilk

non-stick griddle or iron frying pan 25.5cm (10in) diameter


Preheat the griddle or a non-stick pan on a low heat. Sieve the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk. Using one hand mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more buttermilk if necessary. The dough should be softish, and not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board and knead lightly for a second, just enough to tidy it up.

Roll the bread into a round about 2.5cm (1in) thick. Put onto a hot griddle and cook on a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes on one side. When it has a nice firm crust, turn it over and continue to cook on the other side for a further 15 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked through.

Indian Paratha Bread

Makes 16

These roughly triangular breads get eaten all over India. Easy to make at home, all you need is a cast iron frying pan. In India ghee is used instead of oil.

175g (6oz/1 1/2 cups) sieved wholemeal flour (weigh the flour after sieving, add the bran to the remainder in the bag)

185g (6 1/2oz/1 1/2 cups) plain flour plus some extra for dusting

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) vegetable oil or clarified butter

200ml (7fl oz/1 cup) water

oil for frying and brushing


Put the wholemeal, white flour and salt into a bowl.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of oil over the top.  Rub the oil in with your fingertips. The mixture will resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Add the water and gradually mix them together to form a softish ball of dough.

Knead on a clean work surface for about 10 minutes. Rub the ball with dough with a little oil put into a bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Heat a cast iron frying pan on a medium-low flame. Knead the dough again, shape into a roll and cut into 16 equal pieces.

Keep 15 pieces covered while you work with the 16th.  Flatten this ball and dust with a little plain flour.  Roll out, into a 15cm (6inch) round. Brush a little oil over the surface of the paratha, fold in half. Brush again with oil, then fold again to form a triangle.  Roll this triangle towards the point into a larger triangle with 18cm (7inch) sides approx.  Dust with flour if necessary.

Heat a frying pan (preferably iron) really hot and slap the paratha onto it.  Let the paratha cook for a minute or so. Brush the top generously with oil. Turn over and cook the second side for a minute or so.  Both sides should have brownish spots.  Move the paratha around as you cook so all ends are exposed evenly to the heat.

Keep warm in a tea towel or on a covered plate.  Cook all the parathas in the same way. Serve warm.

Paratha’s may be reheated wrapped in tin foil in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 – they take 5-10 minutes.

School Lunch Box Suggestion

Egg and Scallion Mayonnaise in a Bap or Bla

2 baps or blas

2 hard-boiled eggs , cook for 9-10 mins.

2-3 tablespoons chopped spring onions

Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise

4 leaves Butterhead lettuce


Peel and coarsely mash the hard-boiled eggs with a fork.  Add the chopped spring onion and mayonnaise.  Season well with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Split a bap, lay a leaf of lettuce on each buttered side.  Divide the mixture between each bap.  Top and wrap in parchment paper.

Alternatively, fill the egg mixture into a bowl or container, cover, accompany with a split and buttered bap and assemble just before eating.  Include a couple of radishes or cherry tomatoes in the box….

A little smoked fish, mackerel or a tiny dice of smoked salmon add extra flavour and nourishment here.


About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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