Irish Country Bread
This recipe for yeasty, springy, light, sweet bread with a crisp brown mantle of a crust comes from Clovisse Ferguson of Gubbeen Farm in Schull, Ireland. I had been on the lookout for this baked perfection for a decade. For real. She got the technique and recipe framework from the amazing Darina Allen of Ballymaloe, and then worked her own magic on it. I use it for sandwiches and burgers and I also make large loaves and top them with minced onions for serving with a grilled steak. For a sweet treat, I roll small balls of the dough in brown sugar, cinnamon and butter, then pack them in baking molds to make insane pull-apart buns. Seriously, this Irish country bread will blow your mind.
Irish Country Bread
- 2 cups warm water
- 3 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Poppy seeds, for sprinkling
- Crème fraîche, for serving
In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup of the warm water with the yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, sift the flour with the salt and sugar into a large bowl. Using your hands, pinch the 2 tablespoons of butter into the dry ingredients until it’s evenly distributed. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast mixture and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water until a shaggy dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Gently fold the dough under itself to form a ball and transfer to a large buttered bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Punch down the dough and scrape it onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Gently shape the dough into 4 rounds and transfer to a large baking sheet. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let stand in a warm place until nearly doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.
Brush the rounds with the egg wash and sprinkle poppy seeds on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until well browned and firm. Let the loaves cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Slice the loaves and serve with crème fraîche.