It is hard to imagine, but I’m pretty sure that there must be a few diners who eat at Fable and Spirit restaurant in Newport Beach that don’t include the Irish Guinness Brown Bread in their order.

Too bad. To my palate, it is a must-have winner. I suspect that the Michelin inspectors enjoyed a slice or two before recently honoring the eatery with a Bib Gourmand award.

My loaf pan is slightly smaller – so I have enough batter to make a little bread brother.

Served with honey butter (Irish Kerrygold butter mixed with clover honey and topped with coarse salt), it is the kind of treat that could play center stage in sweet daydreams. Cookbook maven and Food Network star Ina Garten, has a recipe that comes close in delectability.

Her formula calls for a 9-by-5-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan. My pan is slightly smaller, with the same depth but is only 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inches. So, when I bake it, I make two, the second one in a tiny loaf pan. That puny loaf is for this baker’s secret pleasure.

Honey Butter, Mmmmm

Ina’s Irish Guinness Brown Bread

Yield: 1 loaf (see story)
1 cup McCann’s quick-cooking oats (not instant), plus extra for sprinkling
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (11- to 12-ounce) bottle Guinness extra stout beer, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, shaken before measuring
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing pan
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For serving: honey butter (unsalted butter combined with honey to taste whirled in food processor, topped with coarse salt)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In large bowl, place oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with whisk to combine. Set aside.

2. In separate bowl, whisk together beer, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into the well. With your clean fingers, stir batter from middle of bowl to the outside, until it is well mixed. It will look more like cake batter then bread dough.

3. Brush a 9-by-5-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan with melted butter. Pour batter into pan and sprinkle top with oats. Put the bread in the oven, immediately turn the temperature down to 400 degrees and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn bread out onto cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Slice and serve with honey butter.

Source: adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network