Aunt Amelia’s Wheaten Bread
I’ll always associate the smell of this freshly-baked wheaten bread with my Aunt Amelia’s house in the countryside near Portadown. She was a dedicated baker, and made bread or scones every day. I have many fond memories of her kitchen with its tiled floor, and the picture of the Sacred Heart on the wall with its wee electric candle flickering away. The kettle was permanently bubbling on the range, and in between bursts of running about outside, we would sit there all cosy, supping tea. The tea was, of course, served with thick-cut slices of wheaten, still warm from the oven. Mouths watering, we’d watch the butter melt, then thickly spread her home-made jam on top and wolf it down. It was such a treat for us kids.
Aunt Amelia was a real character. She didn’t bother with scales and measures, and never wrote any of her recipes down, so I had to watch her carefully to get this one. Being from the countryside, she had some great sayings that you wouldn’t hear in Belfast. One time, my mother enquired about a cousin of ours, who’d recently won a ploughing competition or something like that, and Amelia said Oh aye, thon boy was so proud he was runnin’ about like a dog wi’ two cocks. Me and Patrick near spat our tea, but by concentrating on the Sacred Heart, and avoiding eye contact with Pat I managed to keep it together.
Amelia was a traditional sort of woman and wouldn’t have approved of the addition of sunflower seeds, so if you want it the way she made it, just leave them out.
1 ½ lbs wholemeal flour
½ lb self-raising flour
2 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp golden syrup
4 oz butter
1 pint buttermilk
Sunflower seeds (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 225 C.
Take a large bowl, and sieve the self-raising flour, salt, and baking soda into it. Add the wholemeal flour. Form a well in the centre and put the butter and golden syrup into it, then fold in the flour and mix gently, adding the buttermilk slowly. The mixture should be moist but not sticky. If it is still a little dry after you’ve added all the buttermilk, you can put in a little more until the consistency is right. If you’re using sunflower seeds in the bread, you can fold in a handful or two at this point. Save some for sprinkling on top.
Use your left-over butter wrappers to grease a baking tray and turn the dough out onto it. Divide it into two rounds and slash the top in an ‘x’ to form four farls. Sprinkle some sunflower seeds on top if you’re using them.
Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes. The bottom of the loaf will sound hollow when it’s done. Leave to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before you get stuck in.