After many years of trying to replicate my Grandmother`s old recipe for Treacle Bread, I finally clinched it two summer’s ago. My emotions were elevated, as I savoured the slice of warm malty softness with melting Irish butter. When I closed my eyes I was immediately transported back to her loving farmhouse kitchen overlooking snow-capped mountains and the river at the bottom of the field that she fished salmon in.
I love baking bread on an open pan/griddle, or bastible as it is sometimes known. My Grandma made this bread every other day and especially when she knew her young grandchildren were visiting! In the days of the old AGA this bread and soda ‘pan’ bread as she called it, were baked at six in the morning when the coals of the grate were poked and a fresh batch of turf loaded into the pit. Because the oven would take a while to re heat and fresh bread was required for breakfast, the stove top would be hotter to bake upon, and this she did lovingly for seventy of the ninety-two years of her life.
- 450g/1lb plain white flour
- 1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 300 – 400ml buttermilk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons treacle/molasses
Heat a heavy frying pan or cast iron pan over a low to medium heat. Sprinkle a small handful of plain flour over the base and watch that it doesn’t burn. When the flour starts to brown slightly, it’s at the right temperature. If it’s browning too quickly, pull off the heat and turn down the temperature.
Half fill a cup with boiling water and place into it the tablespoon you need to measure the treacle. This helps the sticky treacle slide off the spoon, creating less of a mess!
Place 300ml of buttermilk in a small saucepan on a low heat to warm. Take the hot spoon and measure the treacle into the buttermilk, stirring & warming for a minute or two.
Sift together the flour and bread soda in a bowl and add the sugars and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk / treacle liquid.
Working quickly and using a stiff hand, bring the dough together being careful not to overwork. The dough should be quite soft but not sticky. If it is too dry add another 50ml of the buttermilk and the rest if needed. Some flours need extra liquid or if the flour is stored in a cold area either.
Knead lightly on a floured board for half a minute or so. Roll out to roughly measure the size of the pan/griddle and place the bread in. Flatten down gently with the heel of your hand to fit to the edges of the pan.
Cook for approximately 10 – 15 minutes each side. Use your nose, if it smells like it’s burning it probably is, adjust the temperature, pull off the heat for a moment and continue cooking.
When you need to turn it over to cook on the other side, cover the pan with a large dinner plate, turn upside down and slide the uncooked side onto the pan again quickly.
Cool for 10 minutes, if you can wait that long, before spreading with butter, honey or maple syrup.