Irish Wheaten Bread is a quick, no knead bread shaped into a ‘bannock’ (round shape) with two criss cross slits made in the top of it before baking. It is a healthier option to soda bread as it uses whole wheat flour. Wheat germ and wheat bran in the form of shredded wheat, along with butter and buttermilk make up the ingredients. This is my best recipe rendition for authentic Irish Wheaten Bread.
It is very popular in the north of Ireland, where I am from. It is similar to its cousin – Irish Brown Bread, which uses a combination of white and wheat flour. Brown bread is more common in the south of Ireland.
Irish Wheaten Bread is commonly sold in bakeries and supermarkets in Ireland, but it is impossible to buy here in the States. However, the flour used for making it, is available here, but after selling your favorite child to pay for it, I’m not sure it’s worth it. So, over the years I have experimented to try to find the best and easiest substitutions to make this bread in the States.
One of the absolutely most important steps when making this bread, is to cut a cross into the top of the uncooked bread. This is to let the faeries out. As a grown woman, I would never imagine omitting this step.
- Whole wheat Flour: preferably organic.
- Shredded wheat.
- Sugar: granulated.
- Baking soda.
- Butter: salted, preferably Irish / grass fed.
- Buttermilk: preferably full fat.
Chop the butter and add to the shredded wheat. Add about half of the buttermilk. Microwave for about 30 seconds – just enough to melt the butter and gently warm the buttermilk. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar.
Add the shredded wheat mixture and the remaining buttermilk.
Mix together, using a light hand.
Form into a flattened ball. Do not knead.
Put on a greased baking tray or one lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Cut a cross in it using a serrated knife.
Put it in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for around 50 minutes. Test the doneness of the bread by holding the hot bread in a clean drying cloth and knocking on the bottom of the bread. A hollow sound means it’s done. Another test is to push down on the surface of the bread. A sinking feeling shows the dough is still wet. Return it to the oven and check every 5 minutes until you get a hollow sound and no sinking texture when the surface is pushed.
Changing this recipe for Irish Wheaten Bread in any way, takes a step away from its authenticity. It will also alter the nutritional value, calorie content, flavor profile, and appearance.
The whole wheat flour and shredded wheat combination is an attempt to replicate wheaten bread flour, commonly sold in Northern Ireland. The shredded wheat in particular, boosts the wheat germ and wheat bran content of this recipe. Use 2.5 whole shredded wheat biscuits, unsweetened instead of the mini shredded wheat cereal I used.
Substitute the whole wheat flour with sorghum flour or buckwheat flour if desired.
The salt and sugar are both needed to offset the flavor of the baking soda which is needed for leavening. Use brown sugar or date sugar and any type of salt.
Only use butter and buttermilk in this recipe.
Usage for Irish Wheaten Bread
Irish Wheaten Bread is a dense, rustic, versatile bread that is served at any meal period. At breakfast, serve it toasted (or not) and slathered with Irish butter and marmalade. For lunch, it will often accompany soup or salads and at dinner, it is the bread of choice served alongside Irish stew. It will often appear in a hearty Ulster Fry. Anywhere bread is needed, Irish Wheaten Bread can do the job!
Store bread in an airtight container, not a bread bin. There are no preservatives in this bread, so it will mold quickly. A ziplock freezer bag with the air squeezed out is ideal. Alternatively, store it in the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before eating it.
Freeze Irish Wheaten Bread for up to 6 months, in a ziplock bag with the air removed. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
Toast Irish Wheaten bread if it gets to be a couple of days old.
A Tip From Me
This bread is quick and easy to make. There’s no kneading or proofing. I like to bake several at a time and freeze them. One quart of buttermilk will make 2 Irish Wheaten Breads.
I’ve got answers – hopefully!
- Is the marking of a cross on the bread a superstitious thing to do? Some consider it so, as it lets the faeries out and wards off evil and in doing so protects the household. Others interpret the symbolism as a blessing and give thanks for it. From a food science standpoint, the slicing of the bread dough expands the surface tension and allows the bread to rise to its fullest.
- Why did my Irish Wheaten Bread not rise? Too much flour. Use the exact amount in the recipe. Try not to incorporate extra flour when bringing the dough together to form a bannock. The dough will be tacky. Do not be tempted to add more flour to deal with this tackiness.
- Why did my Irish Wheaten Bread crumble? Not enough buttermilk. Again use the noted amount of full fat buttermilk and your Irish Wheaten Bread should be fine.
Irish Wheaten Bread
- 1 lb whole wheat flour
- 14 oz full fat buttermilk
- 2 oz shredded wheat
- 2 tbsp salted butter, preferably Irish
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Chop the butter and add to the shredded wheat in a bowl. Add about half of the buttermilk. Microwave for about 30 seconds. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar.
- Add the shredded wheat mixture and the remaining buttermilk.
- Mix together, using a light hand.
- Form into a flattened ball (bannock). Do not knead.
- Put on a greased or lined baking tray. Cut a cross on the top, using a serrated knife.
- Put it in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for around 55 minutes.
- Test the doneness of the bread by holding the hot bread in a clean drying cloth and knocking on the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow, then it's done. Another test is to push down on the surface of the bread. If it sinks, as if the dough is still wet, then return it to the oven and check every 5 minutes until you get a hollow sound and no sinking texture when the surface is pushed.