I like making this bread, because it is quick, easy, and almost foolproof. This particular recipe is adapted from the Irish Cooking Bible, and I love the versatility of it. You can omit the spice and herb variations and just bake a basic loaf. You can also substitute these spices and herbs with your own combinations. The cross is cut into the top of the bread to help it rise, and according to Irish folklore, the cross will both ward away the devil and bring good luck or get rid of any mischievous fairies in your kitchen.
How deep you cut your cross in the dough will effect the outcome of the bread. There is no wrong or right way to cut your cross. If this bread becomes a favorite you will develop your own preference. I have two different loafs for examples of a minimum cut and a deeper cut.
2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped (optional)
1 and 1/4 cup buttermilk, plus additional as needed
3 tablespoons dark molasses, robust or blackstrap
1 tablespoon oats (optional)
Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and thyme in a large bowl. Mix well. Combine the buttermilk and molasses in a small bowl. Mix well. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Add additional buttermilk by tablespoons if needed in order to make dry, rough dough.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Knead the dough 8 to 10 times or until smooth. Do not over knead! Shape dough into a round loaf about 1 and 1/2 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Use floured knife (very sharp) to cut about halfway through the dough, scoring into quarters (called farls in Ireland). If desired, brush the loaf with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with rolled oats. Bake about 30 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove to wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm. This makes 6 to 8 servings.
(edited by Anna Weicht)