Friday, March 9, 2012

I've Got the Blaas

by Sheila Connolly

Made you look!  You had to see what this was all about, didn't you?  Blaas are real food, honest.  They're Irish.  And the homely blaa even has a festival of its own, the Fleadh Blaa Hooley in Dungarvan, County Waterford.

I stumbled upon the blaa in a post by a delightful American woman who married an Irish farmer and moved to the West of Ireland and now blogs about it here.  In her blog she talks about a wide range of topics, and food is only one of them.

A blaa is a yeast-raised white-flour roll, which originated in Waterford City and County, Ireland (and there have been sightings in Kilkenny and Wexford).  It is soft, and usually dusted with flour.  It can be eaten at any time of day, for breakfast, lunch or snack.  Do not confuse it with the bap, which is square and has a less floury exterior.

There are many recipes for blaas on the web, with little variation among them, but most of them come from Ireland.  The challenge is to translate the European measurements to American ones.  Also some of the terms.  While I give you an American version, I wanted to add that:

--one recipe recommended "strong" flour.  I have no idea what that means, but I used bread flour.

--the recipe called for 10g of dried yeast, which in my calculation came out to 1½ packets as we know them.  Since the dough rose on schedule, I think that's correct.

--After the first rising, you're supposed to "knock back" the dough.  I guess that's no sillier than our term, "punch down." (Why is everyone so angry at their dough?)

--It's a surprisingly time-consuming project, as are many breads—all that rising and resting, you know.  Allow yourself a leisurely afternoon to make them.


Makes 8 Rolls

1½ packages active dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 cups extra strong white flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tblsp unsalted butter

Wet ingredients
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1 cup lukewarm water. (Make sure 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. (If it's not frothy, throw it out and find some newer yeast.)

Dry ingredients
Sift together the flour and salt. Rub in the butter with your hands. The mixture should be crumbly, not pasty. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. You'll be able to feel the change in the dough.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap (aka "cling film" over there), and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes. Remove from the bowl and punch it down. Let it 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. Let rest for five minutes more, loosely covered.

Dust a baking dish with flour and put in the dough balls, side by side. Dust tops with flour. Leave in a warm place for 50 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dust the blaas with flour for a final time and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm, with lots of butter (everything is better with butter!).  Okay, it's a simple roll, but the Irish are very proud of it.

Coming soon:  Farls!

New this week:  Fire Engine Dead (Museum Mystery #3)


  1. Oh boy did you just bring back some wonderful memories of my little Irish grandmother! She would make Irish Soda Bread and Blaas and let us kids help beat down the dough. These always tasted like heaven, especially warm from the oven with butter. . . YUM!

    Thank for the recipe, but especially thanks for the warm, happy childhood memories of my beloved grandma.

  2. Oh my gosh, warm from the oven with butter--I could use one right now. Then I bet the words would come tumbling out!

  3. Hooley is such a fun word. We should start using it. Hmm, wonder if that's where hooligans came from?

    Your rolls look gorgeous. Bread doesn't need a lot of ingredients to taste great. But your post clarified why we're so angry with bread that we're mean to it -- it's time-consuming! I do love homemade bread, though.

    ~ Krista