ICA: Excitement rises for finals of national brown bread baking

Watergrasshill ICA president Kathleen Barry had two broken fingers when she won the Cork Federation heat of the national brown bread baking competition in June.

So it’s no surprise she’s now one of eight contenders to get through to the semi-finals, which takes place at the National Ploughing Championships later this month.

“I never weigh anything — it’s a fist of this and a fist of that. You either have it in your hand or you don’t,” says Kathleen, who learned to bake from her mother.

“I use our own cow’s milk, cooled at room temperature. I use Macroom extra coarse, stone-ground, wholemeal flour for the crunch. At home, I make four to five cakes [brown bread] at a time,” says the grandmother of five.

Kathleen got first prize for her brown bread at Conna Horticultural Show this year. “I won the ESB competition for brown bread 30 years ago in Clonakilty out of a total of 91 contenders. I used much the same recipe as I do now.”

The other Munster federation finalist is Phyllis McGovern of Butlerstown Guild in Waterford for 30 years.

“This is my first time entering a competition like this for brown bread. I have entered it in local small shows — Dungarvan Show and Dunmore East Food Festival. I’m absolutely thrilled to be through to the national semi-final.”

Phyllis says her secret is practice; she bakes brown bread everyday at her guesthouse, Ashleigh House in Holy Cross.

“My family are my biggest critics. I’ve been tweaking the recipe over the years, depending on how fashions change. If something new is in vogue, I’ll add it. I’ve added nuts and pulses — nuts definitely give it flavour.”

Phyllis feels the challenge at national level will be for the bread to turn out as well as it does at home. “I’ve never baked with a gas oven. That will be the biggest challenge for me — trying to work out the right temperature.”

Also into the next stage are Mary O’Neill (Carlow), Carmel Walsh (Kilkenny), Vivienne Rigley (Laois), Teresa Dooner (Longford), Pauline Carney (Monaghan) and Margaret Sexton (Roscommon).

Competition semi-finals are in the Aldi marquee at National Ploughing Championships on September 22/23. Two people will be chosen from each day to compete in the final on September 24.


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