In October 1685, Louis XIV of France renounced the Edict of Nantes, which outlawed Protestantism and the subsequent Edict of Fontainebleau encouraged Catholics to begin a programme of persecution of French Protestants.
The Hugenots, the victims of the Fontainebleau Edict, fled France and settled throughout Europe. Many went to Ireland, encouraged by an Act of Parliament allowing them the right to settle. A significant number settled in Waterford, the country's oldest city, a seaport on the south-east coast.
The Hugenot word for corn was blé, and over time, the word developed into blaa, a bread product, strangely though, it was made from wheat, rather than corn.
Waterford blaa or, in the plural, blaas, are soft floured bread rolls that that are popular throughout Ireland. They're great for sandwiches - traditionally eaten with bacon 'rashers'.
A genuine Waterford blaa can only be made in Waterford, but at least this recipe comes from the area, so there is a degree of authenticity about it. These will be as close to the original as is possible without a visit to Hickey's or Kilmacow Bakeries in Waterford itself.
The blaa is double-proved which adds to the malty taste and encourages the softness.
This recipe will make a dozen blaas. You'll note that this recipe requires the use of a 'sponge'. This is a term used for activating your yeast with a little warm water and sugar before adding it to the flour.
for the 'sponge'
142 mls warm water
14 g dry active yeast
1 teaspoon of sugar
for the dough
780 gms strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
300 mls of filtered water or basic bottled still water
You'll also need a deep baking tray or a roasting tin. Something with 'walls'. Have a look in the cupboard and see what's in there. Failing that, a normal baking tray will do.
|Ready for kneading|
Make the 'sponge'
- Take a small jug and add the yeast, sugar and warm water.
- Stir and leave for 15 minutes until it is foaming.
|After first kneading|
|A dozen blaa ready for the final prove|
|An hour later and ready for the oven.|
- In a large mixing bowl add the flour and the salt. Mix well.
- Add the 'sponge' to the flour and salt.
- Add the water bit by bit until you form a dough that comes away from the side of the bowl.
- Knead the dough by hand for at least 5 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. It should stretch without tearing.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave at room temperature for ONE hour (Room temperature = 20 to 22 degrees C
- Knock the air out of the dough and then return it to the bowl for a second prove. This time leave it for 30 minutes.
- Tip the dough out and weigh it. Tip it onto a lightly-floured worktop and divide up into 12 equal parts.
- Shape each part into a ball and place into a baking or roasting tray about one inch apart.
- Cover with cling film and leave to prove for a further 45 minutes to one hour.
- Preheat your oven to 210⁰C. Dust the rolls with plain flour and bake for 25 - 35 minutes. Don't let the rolls become too brown on the top but the bottoms should be crisp.
- This is baking in a 'batch' so let them cool down before splitting them into individual blaa.
Cool on a wire rack.
The blaa will keep for a day or two but they can be frozen and refreshed in a warm oven.
They're fabulous with bacon, sausage, cold meats, cheese....soft and light with a crisp crust.
Happy baking.....Bácáil shona ....