It is up there with bacon and cabbage and floury potatoes as a cherished symbol of traditional Irish cuisine.
And yesterday it proved to be the perfect recipe for our own version of the bake-off in the Aldi Marquee at the National Ploughing Championships.
The occasion was the National Brown Bread Baking Competition, sponsored by Aldi, in association with the National Ploughing Association and the Irish Countrywomen’s Association.
It fell to Phyllis McGovern, Butlerstown, Co Waterford, to take the crown. Her brown bread’s traditional appearance and perfect texture was praised by the judges.
Her bread will now be stocked in all Aldi stores in Ireland for a minimum of six months and during this time she will receive a share of the profits, guaranteed to be at least €10,000.
The owner of a B&B business, Phyllis said she was absolutely thrilled to win the competition.
Congratulating the other contestants, she said: “There was no competitive streak amongst us and I have made friends for life today.”
Brown bread was prepared on kitchen tables and baked in bastibles on open fires in country houses over many generations.
It was a staple food for starving families after the potato crop failed with terrible consequences during the Famine.
Nowadays, it is baked in the ovens of hi-tech cookers, with settings to match the electronic era and the expectations of today’s families.
Yet some things never change. Recipes for wholesome brown bread have been handed down through the generations and are still being used.
The final for the National Junior Baking Competition, which is also sponsored by Aldi in association with Foróige, also took place yesterday.
Eabha Campbell, Carrickroe, Co Monaghan, was crowned champion with her Centenary Muffins, based on a recipe for gur cake, which was sold on the streets of Dublin in 1916.
“I am delighted to win, and taking part in all the competitions since March has been an unbelievable experience. I really want to thank Foróige and Aldi for everything,” she said.
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