The first time I heard the word Blaa, pronounced “Blah”, I was instantly reminded of our good friend, Gregory. Gregory is a talented screenwriter who has a magnificent way with words, yet in conversation, is quite fond of trailing off his sentences with an endearing “blah blah blah” while still managing to be a charming intellectual. When you move to another country, these are just the types of nuances you miss…the little things…..the blah blah blahs.
The Irish Blaa is a gorgeous yeast bread roll which originated in County Waterford, and is anything but blah. It is the only indigenous Irish yeast roll in existence, and is used primarily as a filled sandwich. After trying a Blaa in Dungarvan a few years ago and loving the flavour and texture, I was thrilled to find the recipe in Niamh Shield’s brilliant cookery book, Comfort & Spice. And just so you know, yes, the dough takes its sweet time to be oven ready, and, yes, it is well worth the wait because these rolls are really some kind of wonderful.
I recently learned that the Waterford Blaa is being considered for the status of European Protected Geographical Integrity that will prevent any similar products produced outside of Waterford being given the same name. The Waterford native Blaa differentiates from a regular bap due to the dusting of flour on top before baking. The Blaa is also free of any preservatives, which means many of the reported 12,000 Blaas produced daily are consumed by Waterford City by lunchtime.
If the EU protected status is achieved, each bakery producing Blaas will under go an annual verification process, which will include a thorough traceability of all ingredients and an inspection of the production method involved in producing the Blaa. Furthermore, The Blaa will be only one of five Irish food products enjoying such status.
We used our freshly baked rolls to make baby Blaas sliders for supper last night which brought a smile to everyone sitting ’round the farmtable…
Niamh’s Blaa recipe from Comfort & Spice
Makes 8 Rolls
10g active dried yeast
10g caster (superfine) sugar
500g extra strong white flour, plus more for dusting
10g sea salt
10g unsalted butter
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 275ml lukewarm water. Ensure that the water is warm, not cold or hot. Leave for 10 minutes. It should get nice and frothy, indicating that the yeast is alive and well.
Sift together the flour and salt, to introduce air. Rub in the butter. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will go from rough to shiny.
Place in a bowl, cover with cling film, and leave in a warm place for45 minutes. Remove from the bowl and knock back , pushing the air out the dough. Rest for 15 minutes, to give the gluten time to relax; this will make shaping easier.
Divide the dough into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Rest for five minutes more, covered.
Dust a baking dish with flour and place in the balls, side by side. Dredge with flour. Leave in a warm place for 50 minutes. Nearly there! Preheat oven to 210/410f/gas mark 6.5. Dredge the blaas with flour for a final time and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2012