When I was asked to share one of my favourite traditional Irish bread recipes, there was only one option for me: the mighty batch loaf. This is a bread I never tire of making.
Batch is a traditional Irish bread: it triggers so many childhood memories for people and is something we bake every day at the bakery. We use buttermilk in our dough as we find that it just gives the bread an added richness.
The bread is beautifully soft with a dark crust and just screams comfort. I love everything about it, particularly the way in which it is baked. Traditionally, it would be baked within a wooden frame. The frame supports the dough, ensuring high sides to the loaf, but the wood was also used to flavour the bread. I also love that in order to make a batch loaf you can’t simply bake just one — you literally have to bake a batch of them.
Each loaf sits side by side, which prevents the crust forming on the sides and keeps the loaf really soft. It is the perfect bread to share; bake one for yourself and a few more for friends and family.
The recipe couldn’t be easier, and don’t worry if you don’t have a wooden frame in which to bake your bread — a square baking tray will work perfectly.
Buttermilk batch bread
Makes 4 loaves
1kg strong white flour
20g fresh yeast (or 1 x 7g sachet dried yeast)
- Mix the flour and salt in a clean bowl. Crumble the yeast into the flour, then add the buttermilk. If you are using buttermilk directly from the fridge, you will find that the bread will take longer to prove. This isn’t a bad thing; the longer the bread proves, the more the flavour develops. However, it is important to maximise proving without over-proving.
- Bring the dough together with your hands or with a spatula. Turn the dough out on a clean surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes or until the windowpane effect has been achieved. The dough should be soft and elastic.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or wrap in cling film and leave to prove for 90 minutes.
- Turn the proved dough out and knock it back. Divide the dough into four equal portions, approximately 450g each. Shape each portion of dough into a rough round and leave them to rest on the counter for 10 minutes: we call this bench rest and allows the gluten to relax before final shaping.
- Traditionally, batch bread is shaped onto a baking tray surrounded by a wooden frame. The frame supports the dough, ensuring high sides to your bread. The bread can be baked without the frame; all that will happen is that the final loaf may not have the same height as when baked within the frame. However, the flavour will still be great. A large square cake tin also works well to mimic this frame; alternatively, just shape the loaves without a frame.
- Once the dough has rested, roll each portion of dough into a tight round and place onto your baking tray in a 2×2 pattern, allowing each portion of dough to just touch each other. Cover and allow to prove again for 60-90 minutes. Just before baking, the dough should be well risen with a nice bounce to the dough when touched.
- Preheat the oven to 220˚C/200˚C fan/gas mark 7. Place a roasting tray into the base of the oven.
- When ready to bake, place the loaves into the oven and pour water from a boiling kettle into the hot roasting tray; this should release a blast of steam.
- Bake the loaves for about 35-40 minutes. Resist the temptation to get stuck in until the loaves cool, then enjoy.
Per Serving 125kcals, 0.5g fat (0.2g saturated), 25.2g carbs (1.2g sugars), 4.2g protein, 1g fibre, 0.269g sodium