By Kristin Kenneally
MIDLETON, Ireland – Over the river and through the city off to Midleton we went. Specifically, we went to Midleton Farmers Market to connect with the farm fresh agricultural aspects of County Cork.
At the market the smell of yeast and bread immediately filled the air from the first stall—Arbutus bread company started by Declan Ryan.
“I started baking in a two car garage,” said Ryan, “just to keep the brain ticking.” Little did he know that he would popularize sourdough in the Irish community.
In 1976 Ryan created his first loaf of sourdough. He was given some over-ripened grapes and his imagination began to swirl. After he mashed the grapes, Ryan combined them with a simple water and flour mixture and allowed the blend to sit for three to four days. The bread fermented and allowed him to create his signature sourdough; Ryan still uses this method to this day.
Ryan has had other successes. In the 1970s, he launched the Arbutus Lodge restaurant with his brother and it soon gained popularity and reputation for fine culinary works. In 1974 Arbutus won its first Michelin Award; this was the first Michelin award for County Cork as well. After the Lodge closed in the 1990’s, Ryan’s bread stall at the Midleton market allows him to continue working with his love of food.
Ryan, invited to travel to France with the Bakers Guild of America, learned of a twenty percent sourdough blend that he modified to work with his breads. From that day forward, Ryan ordered high protein French flour in five ton quantities per order.
It was on the trip to France that Ryan also learned to make his spiral bread. The spiral bread is a saffron and almond ring with a brioche base. Ryan uses his traditional sourdough brioche with saffron blended with an almond marzipan. Once the bread is cooked, it is sprinkled with sugars and almonds to create a crunchy glaze on the top of the ring.
French flour at Artubus Breads stall at Midleton Farmers Market. Photo by Kristin Kenneally