The Waterford blaa: a fascinating history and recipe

Suppose you’ve ever been to Waterford or even been lucky enough to just speak to a Waterford native. In that case, you’ll surely have heard tell of the Waterford blaa.

This floury bread of mystique seems to hold quite a grip on the people of Waterford, and once you try one, it’s easy to know why.

After hearing tell of the mystical blaa, you’re going to want to try one immediately. But, before you sink your teeth into a blaa, there’s so much you must learn.

What even is it? What makes it a Waterford treasure? How do you even eat such a thing of great beauty?

Read on to learn about the fascinating history of the Waterford blaa, the county’s most beloved treasure.

What is a Waterford blaa? – pure perfection is what it is

The famous Waterford blaa.
Credit: Facebook / @walshsblaa

The first time you hear of the Waterford blaa, you may think the person is just making a funny noise. But alas, do not be fooled.

A blaa is a soft, floury type of bread. It’s not quite a roll and not quite a bap; it somehow fits snugly in between these two bread species.

You can identify it by its distinguishable square-like shape and floury coating. Waterford people will tell you it’s the most sacred thing to come from the Déise.

Once you try it for yourself, you’ll quickly understand why they say this.

The history of the blaa – where did it come from?

Where did it all begin?

The Waterford blaa has become a staple of Waterford culture from as far back as the 1700s, with the arrival of French Protestant refugees, the Huguenots.

The Huguenots arrived at the city in 1702 and, opening a bakery in the town, introduced their culture of bread baking to Waterford.

The bread we now know as the beloved blaa was initially made from scraps of leftover bread dough, meaning Waterford was zero-waste before it was even cool.

The Huguenots would refer to this bread as pain blanc, meaning ‘white bread’ in English.

Hickey’s and Walshes, two of Waterford’s prominent blaa bakers, are under the impression that the Waterford people adopted the blanc word to name the bread. The name changed to ‘blaa’ with the Waterford accent over the years.

What makes a blaa a blaa? – the land it comes from, of course

The Waterford blaa can only be made in Waterford.
Credit: Facebook / @walshsblaa

Much like champagne, a blaa can only be called a blaa if it has been made in Waterford, in one of the established blaa bakeries, which have been baking blaas for generations.

The beloved Waterford blaa received the prestigious Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status from the European Union in 2013.

This status means that if you see a bakery outside of Waterford selling blaas, then it’s definitely not a blaa.

How to eat a blaa – the important part

There are plenty of ways to eat this Waterford delicacy.
Credit: Facebook / @walshsblaa

The traditional way to eat the Waterford blaa is to cut it down the middle and slather it in butter.

Some opt to add their favourite sandwich fillings such as cheese or ham, or if you are a true Waterford die-hard, you’ll load yours with red lead (what the Waterford folk call luncheon meat).

Another great way to eat your blaa is to make a posh crisp sandwich out of it. Our personal favourite is to stuff it with Meanies (once you’ve buttered it, obviously).

Whatever way you choose to eat your blaa, there is one crucial thing to note: make sure to eat your blaa as early in the day as possible.

Blaa’s go stale at a rapid pace, so unless you like a hard blaa (which some do, although soft is best in our eyes), you should aim to eat it before midday as a breakfast treat.

What’s a blaa made from? – made from pure goodness

The Waterford blaa is a popular dish in Ireland.
Credit: Flickr / Marco Verch Professional Photographer

The Waterford blaa is a humble, simple product that has captured the heart of many. So simple in fact that its recipe only consists of flour, water, salt, and yeast.

That’s right; the humble blaa is even suitable for those on a plant-based diet. Rejoice!

If the concept of a vegan diet makes you recoil in fear, though, feel free to adjust your blaa toppings accordingly to make up for it.

Where can a blaa be purchased? – you’ll want one ASAP

The Waterford blaa can be bought all over Ireland.
Credit: Facebook / @walshsblaa

Blaas can be purchased directly from Hickey’s specialist blaa bakery on Barrack Street in Waterford City, or they can be bought from pretty much any shop in the town.

Outside of Waterford? Walsh’s bakery delivers to Supervalu’s all over the country and has several other stockists throughout Ireland. Check out where you can pick up your fresh blaa here.