Recipe for Irish brown bread

Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe

Makes 1 round loaf

Brown bread, leavened with baking soda and made mostly with whole-wheat flour, is said to be the real Irish bread. The familiar cross cut into the top of the loaf allows heat to penetrate the center so the bread bakes evenly. This version, from Theodora FitzGibbon’s “A Taste of Ireland,” cools on a rack so the crust is crisp. For a softer bread, wrap the hot loaf in a clean dish towel until cooled.

4 cups whole-wheat flour
cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups cold buttermilk
All-purpose flour (for sprinkling)

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1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a bowl, whisk the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, baking soda, and salt to blend them. Make a well in the center and pour in 2 cups of buttermilk. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture lightly and quickly to blend fully. The dough should be soft and moist but not too wet. Add a little more buttermilk if needed.

3. Dust a counter lightly with all-purpose flour and set the dough on it. With floured hands, form the dough into a mound, but don’t knead it; too much handling will make the bread tough. Flatten it into a round about 1½ inches thick. Place the dough on the parchment. Using a wet knife, make a deep cross in the top of the loaf (do not cut all the way through to the bottom, but cut to the edges).

4. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the loaf is nicely browned, firm in the center, and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. It is better fully baked than underbaked. Transfer the loaf to a rack and cool for about 30 minutes. Serve with soft butter. Adapted from “A Taste of Ireland”

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