Food and travel go hand in hand, especially when it comes to exploring Ireland. No matter where you travel in Ireland, you’ll always find a pride in the food on offer. We’ve some of the best produce around here in Ireland, and this connection to food goes back hundreds of years with recipes passed down through generations. To celebrate World Baking Day we take a look at some of the most famous Irish bread recipes and how they have evolved over the years.
Irish Bread Recipes Over Time
Irish Soda Bread
Perhaps the most famous of all Irish baked goods is soda bread, a traditional bread that dates back to the mid-1800s. Soda bread was produced when baking soda found its way into Irish kitchens and was mixed with flour, salt and milk to make soda bread. Requiring minimal ingredients and very little equipment, soda bread became a popular bread across Ireland and has remained popular some 200 years later, with soda bread enjoyed throughout the world.
Soda bread recipes have evolved over time but you will still find it on many hotel and cafe menus as you look forward to breakfast on your travels. With so many great cooking schools across Ireland, you’ll never have to look far for a masterclass to making a great Irish soda bread. The Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Northern Ireland, does this brilliantly by taking you back in time to see how soda bread was cooked in towns and villages across Ireland in the 1800s.
If you’d like to try out making your own soda bread, check out this traditional brown soda bread recipe from Bord Bía.
The humble potato has been an Irish staple since the 17th Century, and by 1770 became commonly known as the Irish Potato. The potato was historically associated as a food of the poor and was the food of choice for many depressed farmers across the UK and Ireland in the 1700s. In time, the potato was used for many new recipes of which potato bread was one as the ‘spud’ was used in place of flour.
When the Great Famine hit Ireland in 1845, soda bread became the bread of choice for many, although potato bread did make a return and today is popular on many breakfast tables. Potato bread became particularly popular in Northern Ireland with apple potato bread a speciality in Armagh.
The story of the Great Famine is told in museums across Ireland with Strokestown Park in Roscommon home to the Irish National Famine Museum, where you can find out more about the impact of potato in Irish cooking over time. Find out more at Strokestown Park.
Another popular bread in Ireland, wheaten bread was actually brought to Ireland in the 1100s by the Anglo-Normans who settled in Leinster and Munster. Wheaten bread continued to be a popular bread for generations but when potato became the food of choice for many, bread took a back seat. The Great Famine saw many families return to wheaten bread, and today it continues to be a favourite with many, with stout and other flavours added to recipes in many bakeries across the country.
Wheaten bread was traditionally made with brown wholemeal flour and was a bread of choice for many poorer rural areas, while refined flours were used to create other bread and used as a sign of wealth in days gone by.
Barmbrack is traditionally enjoyed at Halloween but the fruit loaf can be found in many homes across Ireland throughout the year. In years gone by, the bread was used as a way to tell someone’s fortune as it would be baked with a number of items within it and when sliced you would get a glimpse into your future. Some common items and their fortunes included a ring for love and marriage, a coin for good fortune or a bit of cloth for bad luck.
Today you’ll only find dried fruits like sultanas and raisins in a barmbrack, but some bread will include a ring as part of a traditional marriage proposal (just be careful when encouraging your better half to take a bite). Check out a modern barmbrack recipe from top Irish chef Donal Skehan.
Blaa is a bread that originated in Waterford in the 17th Century and was awarded Protected Geographical Indication in 2013. A soft white bread roll, Blaa was introduced to the people of Waterford by the Huguenots and today some 10,000 blaas are sold each day, primarily in Waterford and Kilkenny. Eaten mainly at breakfast with butter, they are also eaten for lunch with a range of fillings.
The last traditional baked recipe we’re going to look at is the Belfast bap, an impressive bap that you will come across in many bakeries and eateries when visiting Belfast. Like so many Irish bread recipes, the Belfast bap came about as a result of famine as a way to keep thousands of people across the country alive. Master baker Barney Hughes was the man behind the Belfast bap back in the 1800s, and he made a point of keeping the cost down so that even the poor could afford to buy it.
Check out the latest Belfast hotel deals, and look forward to sampling the glorious Belfast bap on your trip.
What Are Your Favourite Irish Baking Recipes?
These traditional bread recipes remain as popular today as they have in generations gone by. Share your favourite Irish baking recipes with us below, or by telling us your favourite on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
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