ICA news: Excitement builds ahead of national brown bread finals

Mary O'Connor, Bishopstown ICA, regional brown bread winner.

As a brown bread baker, Bishopstown ICA’s Mary O’Connor is self-taught and used a recipe she found in a 2011 newspaper at last month’s regional finals of the Aldi Brown Bread Baking competition in An Grianán.

Mary is one of eight contestants whittled down from 27 who will compete in the semi-finals at the National Ploughing Championships later this month. 

The mum of two freely admits she goes through phases of making brown bread.

“But it’s been a daily thing since I won in Cork because I want to get it down pat. My recipe is one where you can pour — you don’t have to knead. Before I found that, I’d often cheat and use a [bought] brown bread mix.”

While her mother baked brown bread every second day where Mary grew up in north Cork, she says she herself was more interested in making novelty cakes. 

“It wasn’t until I was much older and sensible and more health conscious and I became aware of the sugar that I started making brown bread.”

Mary, who came first for her brown bread at Ballygarvan Agricultural Show in 2015 and second at Cork Show this year, joined Bishopstown Guild five years ago because she wanted to celebrate a milestone birthday. 

“My mother was a member of Boherbue ICA for years and it always appealed because I’m interested in craft. ICA is just another network. As you get older, you tend to have more networks in your life.”

Up to now, she hasn’t had to make her brown bread in front of an audience. So how will she bear up under the pressure at the National Ploughing Championships? 

“Time will tell but I don’t normally let things faze me.”

And, she says, there’s no secret to her success. 

“At the Cork competition, they told me the taste was gorgeous. I think it’s down to the judges’ preference on the day.”

The two semi-final heats of the Aldi Brown Bread Baking competition take place on September 20 and 21. Contestants placed first and second in each heat will qualify for the final on September 22.

* Bishopstown ICA Guild meets every Thursday at 8pm in the SMA Hall, Wilton. 

They return for the 2016/17 session next Thursday, September 8.


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