The Waterford Blaa is a large, soft, and fluffy roll that is exclusive to Waterford City, Ireland. It is also distinguished by it's floury crust. It has achieved PGI (protected geographical indication) status, which is a big deal in the European Union. Any bread sold as a Waterford Blaa must be made by one of the certified bakeries.
The origin of this bread is attributed to the Huguenots, Calvinists driven out of France in the seventeenth century and welcomed into Ireland because of the trades they brought with them. They mostly settled in southern Ireland. This bread, made with white flour, which was new to Ireland at the time, is derived from the French bread tradition. One theory is that the name is derived from the French word "blanc." I got so obsessed with learning about this bread that I spent a couple of hours watching videos in Gaelic all about the Blaa.
The bread is typically served at breakfast with just butter or filled with bacon. I've also seen it used to sandwich "crisps" (potato chips) and to make a "chip butty" (essentially a French fry sandwich). They are also popular for making ham and cheese and other sandwiches.
I am living dangerously by using the term Waterford Blaa. The last time I posted protected bread, Pane de Genzano, I got an email from an unofficial representative of the Italian bread police. Fortunately they did not show up at my doorstep.
Dear Waterford bread police, I have actually been to your fine city! We stayed there on our drive from Galway to Dublin via the southern coast about 10 years ago. Mr. Kitchen was born in Ireland. Please do not arrest me!
This bread is amazingly soft and fluffy... and so good fresh from the oven and slathered with salted Irish butter.
I baked these in a 9 inch by 13 inch Pyrex dish, which I lined with parchment. I'm sure a metal sheet cake pan or a quarter sheet pan would also be fine.
This recipe makes eight large rolls. They are best the day they are made, but are still great for sandwiches the next day. Wrap any leftovers individually in plastic wrap and store in the freezer in a freezer bag for up to two weeks.
After the recipe, check out the rest of the Irish breads from the #TwelveLoaves bakers.
The Waterford Blaa Recipe
285 to 300 grams (285 to 300 ml) lukewarm (100 degrees F) water
10 grams (about 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon) instant yeast
10 grams (about 2 1/4 tsp) sugar
500 grams bread flour (just less than 4 cups) plus more for coating the rolls
10 grams (about 1 3/4 tsp) fine sea salt
10 grams (about 3/4 tablespoon) room temperature unsalted butter
- Place 285 grams of the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the yeast and the sugar.
- Add the flour, salt, and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk until just combined.
- Place the bowl on the mixer and mix with the dough hook for 10 minutes, adding more water early on as needed to achieve a smooth dough.
- Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 to 45 minutes.
- Line a 9 inch by 13 inch baking pan with parchment, and dust it liberally with flour.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and deflate it. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (I used a scale).
- Form each piece into a ball, and then press each ball with the palm of your hand to flatten it into a disk. Place each disk side by side into the pan (2 disks x 4 disks). Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise, about 45 to 50 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 410 degrees F.
- When the Blaas are ready, liberally dust them with flour. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
- Lift the parchment out of the pan and place the Blaas on a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, distribute the flour that is already on the rolls evenly over the tops.
- These rolls can be served warm or cooled. Cool completely before storing.
Update: I made these rolls again, dividing the dough into 15 pieces, and they were great. Just use the same sized pan and reduce the baking time by a couple of minutes.
Recipe inspired by Comfort and Spice by Niamh Shields