Norhtern Irish wheaten bread | Hello Victoria

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Last year for Christmas, Richard and I spent a month traveling (side note – am I the only one who always tries to spell this travelling?) around the UK. We spent time in England, Northern Ireland, Wales, and even drove through Scotland (albeit without stopping) while visiting his family! For some reason, one of the things we remember most is getting stuck in the wind and rain outside of our hotel beside the Giant’s Causeway after a fire broke out. Not exactly the most fun we’ve had, but the reward was worth it!

Giant's Causeway | Hello Victoria
Giant’s causeway

We were in the middle of a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, when one of the dryers in the laundry caught fire, and we were told we had to go outside right away. Unfortunately it was in the middle of December, and of course we forgot to wear our winter coats to the dining room. After freezing outside for a while, we were brought into the nearby visitor centre to wait until the firemen cleared the building. Luckily nothing was damaged.

Giant's Causeway | Hello Victoria
a few photos from our trip last winter

As we were checking out after breakfast, they asked us if we had managed to finish our meal before the fire. With the exception of a cup of tea or two, we had, but we asked them if they could do us a favour in lieu of the rest of our meal. Would they be willing to share their wheaten bread recipe with us? I doubted they would as restaurants/chefs aren’t normally known for that sort of thing, but lo and behold, the chef not only gave us the recipe, but a loaf of bread (still warm from the oven) to take with us!

Norhtern Irish wheaten bread | Hello Victoria

Now, I should just clarify what wheaten bread is for those of you who aren’t familiar. In Northern Ireland, two of the favourite breads (at least where Richard is concerned) are soda bread and wheaten bread – both quick breads made without yeast. Wheaten bread (the proper kind) is a sweet bread, made with a really coarse whole grain flour, normally eaten with some butter or jam (or both!). They can sometimes be shaped in boules but normally baked in tins (it’s a super wet mixture), and they are a bit crumbly due to the flour and lack of gluten development. They remind me a bit of cornbread, in that they are sweetened both by sugar as well as the grain itself.

Norhtern Irish wheaten bread | Hello Victoria

The wheaten bread at our hotel was the best Richard had ever had, which is why we wanted the recipe so much. Of course, it was written as a chef would, with no temperature, instructions, and to make 12 loaves. I adjusted the recipe to make only 2, and have tried it a few times, trying to make it just like it was back in County Antrim. The key I have found, is that you don’t work the batter too much (just mix until all the dry has been moistened) and use a really coarse whole grain flour (ideally fresh, as whole grain flours can go rancid or lose some flavour sitting around too long). At the end of the day, this whole wheat bread gets a lot of its sweetness from the grain itself, so it’s a pretty important part.

Norhtern Irish wheaten bread | Hello Victoria

This recipe makes enough for two loaves of bread, in a regular loaf tin. I tend to store it well wrapped up in cling film to prevent it from drying out. It won’t last as long as a regular loaf of bread, but with the thick slices we tend to cut, that’s okay!

Northern Irish Wheaten Bread

4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

  • 567 grams coarse wholemeal flour
  • 180 grams all-purpose flour
  • 142 grams caster sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 76 grams margarine
  • 3 eggs
  • 568 grams buttermilk*

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 200°C (392°F). Grease two loaf tins and line with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Rub in the margarine until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Make a well in the flour mixture, and pour in the liquid.
  • Mix together just until all the flour is moistened, being careful not to overmix.
  • Divide the batter between the two tins (about 820 g each) and lightly flatten the tops.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden. You want to make sure the bread is fully baked, without becoming dry.
  • Allow the loaves to cool in their tins for a few minutes before removing to a rack. Once they are only slightly warm to the touch, wrap them well in cling film to prevent drying out.

Notes

*If you have trouble finding the right amount of buttermilk, you can always substitute with some homemade stuff. I tend to avoid buying too much as I don't use it for much else, and simply top up with milk/vinegar to make the right amount.
For every cup of buttermilk (250 ml) you use a ratio of 15 ml vinegar/lemon juice to 235 ml of milk.. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes before using.
If using this method entirely, use 34 ml acid and 534 ml milk for the recipe.

31 Comments on Perfecting Northern Irish Wheaten Bread

  1. 4 stars
    I’ve never put any eggs in my wheaten bread – let alone three!
    Do the eggs make it more cake-like?
    At the moment I am using a recipe which came from Taste magazine in NZ
    It uses wheat flour and white flour and wheat germ, I can’t get the coarse whole meal here in Canada, and I call it my Idiotproof Bread because even I can’t ruin it 🤣🤣

    • Hey Jenifer, I’m not really sure to be honest! I’ve never tried to alter the recipe from the original version – it was just that good! The flour is definitely the key factor, but unfortunately hard to find outside of Northern Ireland.

  2. Hi Amy. Thank you so much for your recip. I live in NI and have been looking for a recipe for wheaten bread as my 10 year old son is growing like a bean pole and nothing else fills him up! Just one query- is the margarine in your recipe hard margarine or soft like Stork. Or can you use butter? Thanks lots.

    • Hi Ruth, apologies for taking so long to reply! The margarine in the recipe was meant for any type of solid shortening sold in blocks (like butter), as it’s easier to crumble into the mix. You can definitely use butter, but the finished loaf might not be quite as soft – butter is only about 80% fat, while margarine/shortening/lard are all 100% fat.

  3. Hello Amy,

    I am a fellow Canadian from Saskatchewan. I would like to make your Wheaten Bread recipe but have a couple of questions before I attempt this:
    1. Is regular whole wheat flour from a Canadian grocery the type of flour you used or are we talking about the need to go to a health food store and look for stone ground flour?
    2. Is Castor sugar regular white granulated sugar or brown sugar or something different?

    Is there anything you need from Canada in the way of baking supplies? I visited Scotland a few years ago and the lady who ran the b&b we stayed at wanted us to take her chocolate chips because she couldn’t get them in Scotland. So iff you are dying for something I can try to accomodate.
    Lynda

    • Hey Lynda, apologies for the super late reply! I’m sure you no longer need the answer, but I’ll provide one anyways.

      1. No, unfortunately it’s not the same as regular whole wheat flour. You can definitely use that, but you’ll never end up with proper wheaten bread as normal WW flour doesn’t have the right texture or sweetness. It’s hard to find outside of Northern Ireland, but you want to look for a super coarse flour, almost like it has flakes of wheat in it.
      2. Caster sugar is what we’d call berry sugar back in Canada, or super fine sugar (but not powdered/icing). You can buy it most places, or you can even just throw normal granulated sugar in a blender/food processor and pulse it until it’s a bit smaller. Since we’re making this recipe by weight, you can definitely sub the same weight of normal sugar if it’s too much hassle.

      That is honestly the sweetest thing I have ever heard! My mom manages to bring me the odd thing when she comes to visit, so I’m good for access to baking stuff. She brings us Montreal steak spice (and other flavours) and quick tapioca (which I always use in pies to absorb excess liquid). Yes, chocolate chips over here aren’t as common!

  4. Awesome recipe – same problem finding coarse enough flour in Australia though – I wonder would using wholemeal and adding part cracked buckwheat work?

    • Hey Bec, sorry for the super-late reply! I’m sure you no longer need the answer, but I’ll provide it anyways. I’ve never tried using cracked buckwheat, but it sounds intriguing. Let me know if you have any success with it! Even here in the UK it’s hard to get this flour outside of NI. Thanks, Amy

  5. I live in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and used this recipe today to make Wheaten Loaves. I only had medium wholemeal but it worked really well. Thank you so much for this recipe. I hate to say it but I think it might actually be better than my granny’s recipe. Emma.

  6. Hi what size is a regular loaf tin is it 2lb or 1lb ie 450g or 900g? I would love to try this receipt and have some Neills’s whole meal flour from my cousin in Northern Ireland all ready to go.

  7. Hi there. I live in Belfast. I bake a LOT, but not bread. Since the COVID lockdown however I have made white loaves, sourdough and even baguettes. Made wheaten once before in the past and it was very dry which put me off making it again. I have to say this recipe is fab: very moist, not dry at all and gorgeous flavour. Thank you!

    • Hey Lesley,

      Glad to hear it! It’s crazy how much the entire country seems to be baking these days with us all stuck at home – who knew everyone had such a passion for homemade bread?

      Amy

  8. Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I am originally from NI but now live in NZ so especially delighted to come across this recipe in your blog. This sweet bread is identical to the wheaten scones from the best bakery in the town of my childhood.
    Most delicious with lashings of butter and thick cut marmalade.
    Best wishes
    Leo

    • Hey Leo,

      Glad I could help bring a little slice (pun intended) of Northern Ireland to NZ! I’ve never tried this as a scone shape, so might have to give that a go.

      Amy

  9. I’m originally from Garvagh , Co. Londonderry N Ireland and I love wheaten bread . I used to make it as well but since moving to BRIDGEND , South Wales I can not find “course wholemeal flour” , or soda flour?! Can you advise ? They obviously don’t have Neil’s make .

    • Hi Erica, the only places I have found it is online shopping. I used to get it from Ocado, but they don’t seem to carry it anymore. Asda shows Neil’s online and there’s always Amazon (as much as I would like to shop local).

    • Hi Jane, sorry for the super late reply! Any liquid with the same consistency as milk/water is an automatic grams to ml transfer. So 568 grams is 568 ml!

    • I reckon it’s a Pint or 20 fluid ounce (UK). Work on the basis of 1ml weighs 1g. So a cubic metre of a such a liquid would weigh about a tonne!

  10. Has anyone converted this to cups etc from grams? I live in the US and am going to try this but have to convert everything over.

    • Hey Heather! Unfortunately no – I’ve become a complete convert from cups to grams since I started using them. But based on online sources, the amounts should be as follows. However, I cannot guarantee that the recipe will turn out the same, as cups will never be as accurate as grams!

      Wholemeal flour – 5 cups
      All-Purpose flour – 1.5 cups
      Caster sugar – 2/3 cup
      Baking powder – 2 tsp
      Baking soda – 1.5 tsp
      Salt – 0.5 tsp
      Margarine – 1/3 cup
      3 eggs
      Buttermilk – 2.25 cups + 1 tsp

  11. Best wheaten bread I’ve tasted. I usually buy local made however I’ve been making this recipe every week for a few months now. It slices brilliantly and keeps so well, I freeze it sliced with grease proof paper between each slice. I’ve reduced the sugar with each bake and I’m down to 100g so far, we like it toasted so it seem sweeter after toasting. Thanks for sharing

    • So glad to hear that! I haven’t baked a loaf in ages (it’s almost too warm to bake in this heat), but your message has got me itching to start experimenting with less sugar.

  12. I actually live in County Antrim and love our local breads- soda, wheaten etc. I have to say this is by far the best recipe for wheaten bread I’ve used – beautifully moist. I also sliced one of the loaves and put the individually wrapped slices into the freezer. Once defrosted it was as good as the day it was baked. Thank you for the recipe Amy and glad something good came out of a not so nice experience.

    • Hi Sam. Thanks for the suggestion about pre-slicing the loaves! I’ve got some wholemeal flour in the cupboard just asking to be made into wheaten!

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