All About Blaa, A Bread Roll From Ireland
Image Credit: Instagram/gerrie.lanai

A much loved breakfast when stuffed with bacon, egg and sausages, blaa is a pillowy white bread roll that originated in Ireland. The bread is connected to the city of Waterford, where locals say that it’s hard to find blaa after noon. 

Waterford blaa can be traced back to the late 17th century, when French refugees called Huguenots arrived in Waterford. Back then, Waterford was a centre of trade for products like leather, wheat, flour, butter, and other local agricultural produce, all of which were shipped to England and the rest of Europe. A bright Huguenot established a bakery in Waterford city in 1702. At the bakery, bread was made to feed the families of the Huguenots. It is believed that the fluffy bread rolls, now known as blaa, were originally made from leftover bread dough. It was a way to avoid waste and use all of the bread mix. 

Contemporary bakers in Waterford believe that the word ‘blaa’ was derived from Huguenot words ‘blaad’ and ‘blanc’, the former meaning flour, and the latter being French for white. These referred to the unusually white appearance of blaa, which are dusted with flour.

A century later, there was another addition to the history of Waterford blaa. Brother Ignatius Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers, established his own bakery and tailor’s shop at the newly opened school in Waterford city, in 1802. It was from here on that blaa became well-known among the poorer sections in the city, and other bakers tried their hand at them. Soon, 18,000 blaas began to be produced in Waterford everyday. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a surge in bakeries producing blaa in county Waterford, with about 15 of them making blaas in the city during that time.

At present, it has been estimated that the people of Waterford eat between ten and twelve thousand blaas a day. In 2013, Waterford blaa was awarded Protected Geographical Indication status, which means that only blaas produced by bakers in Waterford city and county may be referred to as blaas. This ensures that the product remains authentic, and is only made using traditional methods and unique baking skills. 

Blaas use flour, yeast, salt and water. The resulting bun makes the perfect outer covering for different ingredients like eggs, bacon, cheese, jam or even plain butter. Some people even add potato crisps to their buttered blaas. It is the norm to eat blaa for breakfast and natives from Waterford claim that it shouldn’t ideally be eaten for lunch or dinner.

Waterford is also known for producing high-quality crystal and when crystal factories were at their peak, workers often brought blaas slathered with butter and filled with a spiced-pork mixture called ‘red lead’, which referred to the lead used in making Waterford crystal.

Blaa must not be confused with bap, a similar bread roll eaten across the British Isles. Blaas are softer in comparison. These days, Waterford blaas are supplied to shops and cafes by traditional family bakers who have been in business since the 1800s. The original recipe has been handed down from generation to generation, making it a prized possession.