Pan, soda, cobb, bloomer, brown, batch, granary, rolled, basket, milk……all names of beautiful breads that you will find in any Irish market or bakery on any given day, and all names of breads that totally eluded me upon moving to Ireland.
Milk bread in particular sounded appealing to me. I stumbled upon a loaf a couple years back and gave it a try, loved it, asked some friends if they knew what it was (no), then somehow forgot all about it. This dairy-based bread came up in conversation at the farm the other day when I was discussing an email that I received from an American blog reader who had spent considerable time in Ireland. She wondered if I had a recipe for “plain old sliced white pan” which I will post very soon (promise!), but in the meantime, I had discovered the farm recipe for old-fashioned milk bread and couldn’t wait to give it a try.
After getting a jug of fresh morning milk from the dairy, I made a cup of coffee and measured all of my ingredients. I made the recipe two ways: First using plain (all-purpose) flour and secondly, using strong (bread) flour. The plain flour will make a softer/cakey almost tea bread and strong flour creates an airier, sandwich-style texture. The milk creates a very rich flavour and texture, and both versions are wonderful.
After combining the flour with butter then adding the salt, sugar and yeast, I added the fresh warm milk. Once it was all mixed, I began to knead the dough which became incredibly velvety and smooth.
Ten minutes later I rolled the dough into an oblong shape and popped it into the loaf pan to rise for about 25 minutes (or until it’s just peeping over the top of the pan) Finally, I slid the pan into a hot oven and 30-40 minutes later out came a gorgeous loaf of bread. Just perfect served warm with fresh honey butter and a colourful salad.
Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell 2012 (photos are of the plain/cream flour version)