Freshly baked brown bread… the aroma wafting through the kitchen… there’s simply no greater pleasure. Growing up in Ireland I know how much we love our traditional brown and white soda bread, and the variations are as long as your arm. You might think it looks complicated to make but I assure you, it’s not. With this recipe, no messing with yeast, no kneading or proving necessary, unlike my Irish soda bread with cranberries and candied orange peel which requires a gentle knead to shape.
We had brands of coarse wholemeal flour stocked in our larger supermarkets but they have all disappeared from the shelves and are no longer available. For now I am using local wholemeal flour, it still makes a really nice loaf… but if you can, use coarse brown wholemeal flour. The pinhead oatmeal (steel-cut oats) adds texture and of course the sunflower seeds too. Yes, the sunflower seeds turn green (nice Irish touch) and the Nordic Food Lab will explain it better than I could.
As this dough is very sticky I prefer lining the bottom of the loaf tin with non-stick baking parchment. I’ve baked enough loaves over the years to know, that even if you grease the baking tin really well without lining, sometimes the bottom of the loaf sticks to the base, why risk spoiling your bread.
To achieve a wet soft sticky dough you may need to use a little more laban than stated in the recipe. The amount of liquid required really depends on the type of flour used. Don’t fret too much with the consistency of the dough, a little wetter or drier, it still bakes into a fine loaf. One thing I will mention… mix quickly and get the bread dough into the hot oven… bicarbonate of soda starts to activate once mixed with an acid liquid. You can take all the selfies with your bread after it’s baked.
To make sure the loaf is cooked through, I like to remove it from the tin and place it back into the oven for about 5 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow ( the sign it’s done) when lightly tapped at the base. You will need an oven cloth as the baking tin and bread are hot when handling.
Simple enjoy this brown bread with some butter and preserves for breakfast or slice thickly and use for open-faced sandwiches. Also, delicious when served along with a hearty bowl of vegetable soup or Dad’s summer salad.
Brown Bread with Oatmeal and Sunflower Seeds
225g brown wholemeal flour, coarse ground is best
50g medium stone ground oatmeal (or blitz some jumbo oats in small food processor)
50g pinhead oatmeal
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
15g butter, melted
280ml laban or buttermilk (you may need a little more)
3 tablespoons jumbo oats
You will need: Grease the sides and base of a 20cm X 13cm loaf tin with vegetable oil. Line the base with non-stick baking parchment.
How to make:
Pre-heat the oven to 400F /200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6
To a medium mixing bowl, add the brown flour, oatmeal, pinhead oatmeal, sunflower seeds, bicarbonate of soda and salt. With a hand whisk, mix all the ingredients together until evenly distributed. Pour in the laban and melted butter, mix quickly but gently. Add a few more tablespoon of laban if the mixture looks stiff or until the consistency is very soft and sticky. Scrape the bread dough into the prepared baking tin. Level the top and scatter over the jumbo oats, pressing down lightly so as most stick.
Place into a hot oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the loaf of bread from the oven, loosen the edges with a blunt knife and turn out from the tin and remove the nonstick parchment if attached. Place back into the oven (without the tin) for a further 5 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped from the base. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Store in a covered container and consume within two days.
Note: If you like a soft crust, warp the bread in a clean cloth while cooling.