It’s nearly St. Patty’s Day already (where does the time go?!), and no recipe more than Irish Soda Bread symbolizes this festive holiday.
I will freely admit that I was never a big fan of the wheat-based versions of this traditional Irish staple. After researching authentic recipes though, I realized that my Southern palate just couldn’t appreciate the “plain” dry soda bread varieties. I’ll admit I’ve never been one for a dry or crumbly loaf (hence my distaste for most store-bought gluten-free bread!), so that didn’t help. I discovered through my research though, that there are many modifications to the “plain” soda bread that might lend themselves nicely to my kind of bread, so I dove in.
Apparently, variations on the traditional have their own ancient roots on the Emerald Isle, with geographic differences yielding the most radical diversity between recipes. The northern regions of Ireland have historically tended to favor a type of soda bread called “farl,” a baking term which essentially means “triangular piece.” The farl style bread is baked in four triangles in a heavy frying pan rather than in an oven. The Irish Southerners favor the “cake” style soda bread (as a Southerner myself, I’m liking this international trend…) which is mounded higher, criss-crossed with a knife before baking and cooked in an oven.
Further research also revealed that the typical Irish soda bread does not contain fruit, nor is it very sweet; however, breakfast soda breads — or those offered at tea — often are the opposite. I was suddenly attracted to the idea of those types of breads, and made some notes. My goal became to make a more “Treacle” (molasses) style of soda bread with enough flavor and moisture to stand on its own.
The recipe I devised was of the cake (Southern) variety, incorporating both treacle and fruit (I used baking raisins; sultanas would be a nice option too). My bread was also definitely not dry or crumbly. It’s a good thing I photographed it before I tasted it – I’ve already devoured a full farl of treacle (is that possible?) on my own, and I’m tempted to go back for more! I also decided to throw in a twist by making this version gluten, dairy, soy, nut and egg-free … and I used a delicious continental gluten-free beer in the process. (Don’t tell the hard-core Irish in your group, but the beer was Belgian!) This recipe should also work nicely with ginger ale instead.
It promises to be an international and universal favorite, no matter what your food restrictions! Follow my directions below to fashion your own homemade Dutch oven, and you’ll be baking this modern version the old-fashioned way, with delicious results!
(PS – check out this yummy soda bread on DC’s FOX news!)
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Irish Soda Beer Bread
- 3 1/4 cups Jules Gluten Free™ All-Purpose Flour
- 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
- 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
- 1 tsp. granulated cane sugar
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. cardamom
- 1/2 cup baking raisins or sultanas (or boil raisins in water, drain, then add to the recipe)
- 2 Tbs. dark (Black Strap) molasses
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup vanilla yogurt, like soy, coconut, almond, rice or dairy yogurt (I used So Delicious® Cultured Coconut Milk Yogurt)
- 3/4 cup gluten-free beer, gingerale, club soda or Perrier (I used Green’s Tripel Blonde Ale)
- milk of choice to brush on top of dough (dairy or non-dairy)
Preheat oven to 375° F (static) or 350° F (convection).
In a large food processor (or if using a mixing bowl, use a pastry cutter or large slotted spoon) mix all the dry ingredients together thoroughly. Add the molasses, apple cider vinegar and yogurt, stirring together until the dough is raggedy and dry, but mixed. Gradually add the beer and raisins until it holds together in a ball shape.
Roll the ball in a light coating of Jules Gluten Free™ All Purpose Flour and place into a parchment-lined metal cake pan (9-10 inch pan is fine). Press down slightly to make a dome, rather than a ball. Brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush, then brush the dough with a thin coating of your favorite milk (dairy or non-dairy).
Using a sharp knife, make a criss-cross cut into the top of the dome, pressing down with the knife approximately 1/4 inch without pulling the dough. Rock the knife back and forth slightly to open up the cuts and allow the bread to rise in those directions. Top the pan with another cake pan of the same size (this will create a mock Dutch Oven) and place in the preheated oven.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325° F (static) or 300° F (convection) for approximately 30 more minutes, then remove the top pan. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until cooked through (test with a wooden skewer inserted into the center or knock on the bottom, listening for a hollow sound).
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. To store, wrap in a tea towel then place in a zip-top bag. The towel will help to keep the bread moist and soften the crust a bit.