I was nine years old when my Grandmother (Nana) came to live with us. We all adored her, her funny ways and her overwhelming kindness.
She was always very keen to help around the house and especially in the kitchen. I will admit I wasn’t always happy when she was on dinner duty as she loved to cook very traditional dishes with meat and two veg while I craved my mum’s more adventurous and delicious dishes.
The one area that Nana really excelled in was making traditional Irish breads which were always on the table, steaming hot, when my sister and I (and often a selection of our friends) came home from school. Nana’s specialities were soda, wheaten and treacle bread which she would make in her mother’s old stone Hartleys jam jars which made wonderful round loaves. I’m not sure why, but somehow these taste better than the traditional loaf shape. I loved learning how to make these breads with her and the comforting feeling of working with the dough, then using her size 10 knitting needle as a skewer to check that the bread was cooked. After she died, the jamjars lay abandoned as it was just too painful to look at them. At the same time, there was no way we could ever throw them out!
When my parents moved house a few years ago, they were having a ruthless clear out and somehow I found myself rescuing the stone jam jars from the junk pile and bringing them home where I will admit that they sat in a cupboard for a very long time. I was always a little bit anxious about using them in case the bread didn’t work and it would just make me sad! Now after many years I have taken on the mantle and am honoured to carry on her tradition.
When I use them today, I am overwhelmed by the memories of Nana. I started with wheaten bread (click here for the recipe) and set my sights on recreating treacle bread to give to my family and friends for a taste of nostalgia. Every time I make it, I am transported back to childhood and the comforting smell of freshly baked bread- heaven! Would you believe I still use Nana’s original knitting needle to check the bread? Its a bit out of shape but it definitely feels like part of the tradition!
Don’t panic if you don’t happen to have your great grandmother’s jam jars hanging about the house- this recipe works just as well in a lined loaf tin.
The recipe and instructions for Treacle bread are below the picture gallery
- 2 tablespoons black treacle
- 1 egg (thankfully my chickens provide me with a constant supply)
- 300ml buttermilk
- 450g plain flour
- 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 level teaspoon salt
- preheat the oven to 230ºC
- place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well
- Warm the treacle (I use a pyrex jug in the microwave or you can warm in a saucepan)
- Beat the egg, add to the buttermilk and add the mixture to the warm treacle
- Make a well in the dry mixture and pour in the liquid
- Mix it together
- You can either pour it into a lined loaf tin or form it into a round on a baking tray and score the top (I used my Nana’s old stone jamjars)
- Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes before reducing the heat to 200 ºC and cooking for 30 minutes or until cooke
- When it is ready a skewer or knitting needle will come out clean when inserted. You can also tell it is ready by tapping the bottom of the loaf- it should sound hollow if it is ready
- Cool on a wire tray although in my opinion it is best served straight from the oven and topped with butter- Yummy!!
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