Friday, January 30, 2015

St. Brigid's Oat Bread

by Sheila Connolly (or maybe Síle ní Conghaile for this week)

Ah, and who would this St. Brigid be? Only the female patron saint of Ireland. Early on, she was a Celtic goddess of fertility, and over time she came to be associated with the beginning of spring, which falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. That’s when the spring lambs are being born, you’re readying your fields for planting, and you’re doing your spring cleaning (in Ireland, not Massachusetts!). Her feast day, also known as Imbolc, falls on February 1st.

My publisher wisely chose to issue the books in my County Cork series in the first week in February. May I have your blessing, St. Brigid?

I’ve read that chewy oatcakes are often given to children on St. Brigid’s Day (to strengthen their jaws). Having heard that, I went hunting for a recipe. I found two—that bore no resemblance to each other, other than the basic ingredients. They differed in cooking temperature, proportions of ingredients, and how they were shaped. So much for tradition. I improvised.

For mysterious reasons I was out of regular oatmeal, but I had a full can of Irish steel-cut oats, and I figured they would meet the “chewy” requirement. One recipe suggested soaking the oats in buttermilk overnight. I figured a few hours would do it, so I put the oats and the buttermilk together and let them sit.

Anyway, here’s the basic recipe, more or less:

3/4 cup steelcut oats (Irish, of course)
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

The oats
The soaked oats

Mix these together and set them aside for several hours or even overnight (add the extra buttermilk if all the liquid has been absorbed quickly).

The dry ingredients
3/4 cup flour
1 Tblsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 Tblsp butter, in small pieces

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix.

Add the butter bits and cut in until the mixture is crumbly (okay, I used my hands).

Add the oat/milk mixture and mix.

Beat the egg and add that, and mix again with a fork until the dough holds together. Form a ball and transfer it to a floured surface. Warning: this will be sticky, so feel free to add flour. Knead 20-25 times.

Pat the dough into an 8" round and transfer to the baking sheet. Score a deep cross in the top (do not cut through).

Ready to bake

Bake 23-28 minutes until brown, and a tester comes out clean. Break into quarters to serve.

I was happily surprised by the results. The bread was lighter in texture than I expected, and still had a bit of crunch from the oats. Usually the bread is served with butter and jam (I’m addicted to Irish black currant jam, which is hard to find around here), but it could also go well with soup.

This bread should be eaten quickly--it's best fresh.

I hope I’ve done St. Brigid proud. Brid agus Muire dhuit! And bless this book!

An Early Wake, third of the County Cork Mysteries, coming February 3rd.

Sure, and it's time for another trip to Ireland, isn't it?

If you're looking to order it, you'll find it here:

Amazon (print)

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble


  1. Bless the book! Recipe sounds interesting.

  2. Good luck with your release, Sheila! And this bread looks delicious. Baking my own bread always makes me feel so resourceful.

  3. I passed the recipe along to one of my daughters. I let them do the baking these days because they enjoy it. I'm definitely going to score a copy of the new book to read even if I have to wait till the library decides to buy a copy.

  4. Mmmm, fresh bread is the best! Thanks and congratulations on the new book!

  5. I never have the patience for yeast breads, so quick bread recipes are nice to have. I will admit I cannot seem to make the traditional brown bread to save my life--it comes out like brown brick, even with imported flour. Now, the white variety (with currants) is not a problem.

    I've also assembled the ingredients for a "full Irish" breakfast--bangers, bacon, and black pudding (it's an acquired taste, but it's not as bad as it sounds--and the best kind comes from Clonakilty, in Cork).

  6. Why Irish oat or soda bread became a tradition with my German mother, I have never known -- or minded. I can almost smell this one baking!

  7. I agree with Leslie that this must smell wonderful while cooking.
    The Vermont Country Store has red currant jelly. Is that close enough?

    1. Libby, I think red currant is more tart. I'm not sure why the black ones are so popular in Ireland. But any good jam or jelly would taste good with the bread.

    2. No yeast, huh? Doesn't look like it needed it!

      Sheila and Libby, I'm addicted to anything made of black currants. I never understood why we didn't have them here. In Europe they're a common drink and the best jam. If I recall the story correctly, around the turn of the century someone got the idea that black currants were killing trees, so they were banned. Of course, they were not responsible for the blight or whatever it was, so the ban has been lifted and there are now some black currant farmers in the US. My grocery store carries black currant juice but doesn't have any jam yet.

  8. I miss black pudding. And the rest of the breakfast.