Updated: Mar 18
Typically made once a year for St. Patrick's Day, Irish-American families enjoy soda bread as a savory treat alongside corned beef, cabbage, and carrots. You can easily make your own and adapt it for your dietary restrictions. This recipe is for those who eat gluten-free and/or want to reduce sugar in their diet. (It's also nut-free and vegetarian.)
There are many variations of soda bread, according to Wikipedia, from the traditional flatbread griddle cake version to the brown soda bread served with salmon (popular in the 1960s) to others that use Guinness, nuts, or honey.
This recipe will use raisins, also known as "Spotted Dog." This was how my family traditionally made soda bread when I was growing up.
Irish soda bread is the ideal gluten-free treat because it's a quick bread, eliminating the need for yeast and gluten formation. Instead, it relies on baking soda, hence the name "soda bread." Ironically, this recipe calls for very little baking soda (1/8 tsp) and gets its leavening more from baking powder.
Sugar has many functions in food science beyond taste. Sugar can also help add color. As a cake or bread bakes, the sugar is what allows it to turn the characteristic golden brown that bakers strive for. Sugar also maintains moisture so baked goods don't get dried out.
In this sugarless Irish Soda Bread recipe, the raisins lend enough sweetness so that additional sugar isn't necessary. And because this is typically a white bread, the sugar isn't needed for browning either. Although the soda bread is dense, the butter and milk help it remain moist even without added sugar.
The recipe below is a modified version of a recipe my father got from an Irish friend. It was passed down through generations and my family continues to make it. The only modifications I made were cutting the recipe in half (originally it made two loaves), swapping out the wheat flour for gluten-free flour, and eliminating the sugar.
Give it a try and feel free to adapt it as you like with other fillings such as walnuts or experimenting with different spreads like butter, jam, nut butter, or olive oil.
Gluten-Free, Sugar-free Irish Soda Bread
Yield: 1 loaf Servings: 8 (1 90g slice) Time: 1 hour 20 mins.
1 cup raisins
2 cups gluten-free flour blend (I used Bob's Red Mills One-to-One All Purpose Flour)
1/8 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup 2% milk
Boil raisins for 5-10 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Preheat over to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray or sprinkle with flour.
Melt butter and set aside.
Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Whisk or blend together wet ingredients in a medium bowl.
Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula. Fold in raisins.
Add flour to help the dough become less sticky and detach from the bowl easily.
Move dough to a cutting board or clean surface and add flour to allow you to shape the dough into a round loaf. (A lot of flour may be needed- be generous.)
Place rounded dough loaf on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes.
Serve with butter, olive oil, jam, or nut butter, or enjoy plain with a cup of tea.
Nutrition per serving: (91g)
Calories: 243 Carbohydrates: 47g Protein: 4g Fat: 4g Saturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 33mg Fiber: 2g Total Sugars: 16g Added Sugars: 0g Sodium: 191mg Calcium: 9% Iron: 6%
Vitamin D: 0% Potassium: 6%
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