Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

Darina Allen



Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

 This wholemeal loaf has been made at Ballymaloe House since the 1950’s and is a variation on the Grant loaf created accidentally by Doris Grant, who was keen to produce an easy-to-make, nourishing loaf. The main ingredients wholemeal flour, treacle and yeast are highly nutritious.

This bread is a brilliant introduction to yeast bread making. There’s no need for a machine – it’s made entirely by hand; there’s no kneading involved; there’s only one rising; and it’s easy to scale up the recipe to make 4-16 loaves.

Ballymaloe brown yeast bread takes approx. 1 1/2 hours to make from start to finish. It takes time, but not your time – mixing is a matter of minutes and the remainder of the time is spent rising

When making Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide, which cause the bread to rise. Heat over 50˚C (122˚F) will kill yeast, so have all the ingredients and equipment at blood heat (37°C/99°F). In cold weather, it helps to warm the flour a little in a warm oven.

White or brown sugar, honey, golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe, we use treacle.

The dough rises more rapidly with 30g (1 1/4oz) yeast than with 25g (1oz) yeast. Dried yeast may be used instead of baker’s yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast-acting yeast may also be used – follow the instructions on the packet. Add directly to the flour, 10-15g (1/2oz – generous 1/2oz) is adequate for 450g (1lb) flour).

We use a stone-ground wholemeal, but you could use 400g (14oz/generous 3 cups) stone-ground wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz/scant 1/2 cup) strong white flour OR 450g (1lb/scant 4 cups) stone-ground wholemeal flour. Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions so the quantity of water will need to be altered accordingly.

  • The dough should be just too wet to knead – in fact, it does not require kneading. Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves
  • 450g (1lb/scant 4 cups) stone-ground wholemeal flour (or see the intro) 9g salt
  • 1 teaspoon black treacle or molasses 425ml (15fl oz/scant 2 cups) tepid water
  • 20-30g (3/4oz – 1 3/4oz) fresh yeast (or see the intro) light olive or sunflower oil, for greasing
  • sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1x 450g (1lb) loaf tin: 13 x 20cm (5 x 8 inch) approx.
  • OR 3 small tins 14.6 x 7.5cm (5.75 x 3 inch)

Before you begin, all your ingredients should ideally be at room temperature.

Mix the flour with the salt in a wide bowl.

In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the treacle or molasses with 150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) of the tepid water, crumble in the yeast and stir once or twice.

Put the bowl in a warm place for a few minutes to allow the yeast to start to work. Check to see if the yeast is working – after about 5 minutes, it will have a creamy, slightly frothy appearance on top.

When ready, stir and pour it into the flour with all the remaining water to make a loose, wet dough. The mixture should be too wet to knead. Allow to sit in the bowl for 4-5 minutes (the time varies depending on the room temperature).

Meanwhile, brush the base and sides of the bread tin(s) with a good light olive or sunflower oil.

Scoop the mixture into the greased tin(s). Sprinkle the top of the loaf (loaves) with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place in your kitchen, out of a draught. Cover the tin with a clean tea towel to prevent a skin from forming.

Preheat the oven to 230˚C/450˚F/Gas Mark 8.

After 10-15 minutes, just as the bread comes to the top of the tin, remove the tea towel and pop the bread into the oven for 20 minutes. The bread will rise a little further in the oven – this is called oven spring. However, if the bread rises over the top of the tin before it goes into the oven, it will continue to rise as it bakes and will flow over the edges.

After 20 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until it looks nicely browned and the bottoms sounds hollow when tapped. We usually remove the loaf from the tin about 10 minutes before the end of cooking time and put it back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust, there’s no need to do this.

Cool on a wire rack.

Fermented Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

Make the bread as in the master recipe but put only three-quarters of the dough in the oiled loaf tin. Put the remainder in a jar, cover it with a clean cloth, secure the cloth with a rubber band and leave it out at room temperature overnight (or refrigerate for several days). Add this starter to the next loaf to add extra flavour and complexity.

The resulting loaf will have an even more complex flavour, slightly like a pumpernickel bread. It’s delicious with charcuterie or smoked fish.

Russian Village Bread

We enjoyed several bread courses at the Village Bakery in Cumbria with Andrew Whitley, co-founder of the Real Bread Campaign. Andrew makes many Russian breads, including one with coriander seeds on the top and bottom. On our return we experimented with our brown yeast bread, and although it is not as complex as Andrew’s sourdough version, it is still delicious.

Follow the master recipe but substitute the flour with 400g (14oz/scant 3 cups) wholemeal flour, 50g (2oz) rye flour and 50g (2oz/scant 1/2 cup) strong white flour. Brush the tin with sunflower oil, then sprinkle a layer of lightly crushed whole coriander seeds over the base of the tin. After you put the bread in the tin, sprinkle another layer of crushed coriander seeds over the top of the bread. Bake as in master recipe and cool on a wire rack.