This gluten free Irish soda bread is the perfect accompaniment to your St. Patrick's Day dinner. It's so quick to make and is best eaten warm, slathered with salted Irish butter!
I never was much of a traditionalist when it came to St. Patrick's Day dinner. I am part Irish, but when I was growing up I either didn't like Irish food or had never really had it. Things like corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread never really struck me as something yummy.
But as I grew up, my taste buds changed and I became a much more diverse eater, trying new things constantly and, for the most part, loving them. One of those was corned beef. Now, I could eat corned beef all the time (my favorite sandwich is a reuben).
A few years ago I had my parents over for St. Patrick's Day dinner and made my first gluten free Irish soda bread. It was a recipe I found that was already gluten free so I didn't have to modify it. All I remember about it was how dry it was.
So this year I vowed I would find a recipe for a gluten-FULL Irish soda bread and then work my magic and make it gluten free. After trying several recipes, I settled on one from the New York Times. It's a recipe written by Darina Allen, who happens to be the owner of the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. What better recipe than one made by a true Irish chef?
What is Irish Soda Bread?
Irish soda bread is a quick bread made with baking soda as the leavener. Apparently back in tough economic times, baking soda was used instead of yeast to make bread in many Irish homes as yeast was expensive. It was a way to still have good daily bread without breaking the bank.
In my research I found that traditional Irish soda bread contains no currants or raisins at all. In fact, purists say real Irish soda bread should only contain four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk.
This bread isn't a spongy, lofty style bread. It's a dense bread, but that doesn't mean it isn't soft or every bit as good, just different. Think beer bread in texture, soft and dense with a crunchy crust. I served it to both my husband and son, who absolutely loved it, as did I!!
How To Make This Bread Gluten Free
When I test new recipes, I always start with the very basics and go from there. So if traditional soda bread contains only four ingredients, that's what I started with, substituting my gluten free bread flour blend for the all-purpose flour. Check.
Then came the baking soda. Gluten free baking always requires more help than non-gluten free baking when it comes to leavening. I bumped up the amount of baking soda just a teeny tiny bit. Check.
The third ingredient, salt, was a no brainer. I try not to mess with the salt amounts when converting gluten filled recipes into gluten free. So that stayed the same. Check.
Finally we get to my favorite ingredient in this bread, buttermilk. In my opinion, NOTHING holds a candle to true whole-fat buttermilk. There are, of course, ways of making buttermilk when you don't have any on hand (milk with vinegar or lemon juice added). But if you can get whole-fat buttermilk (not that low-fat or fat-free stuff), your recipe will thank you! It's so thick and rich and when you think about it, the fat in the buttermilk is the ONLY fat in this recipe. So you really need the good stuff.
Almost every time I convert recipes to gluten free, I increase the liquid. The reason for this is gluten free flours tend to soak up more liquid, thereby making the final product dry. So adding anywhere from a few tablespoons to ¼ cup more liquid combats the dryness without altering the recipe's integrity. Check.
Mixing the Dough
Here's the great news about this bread--it's so easy, even my husband could make it!! (FYI--he's not a baker AT ALL!). You can whip this up in literally about 3 minutes, put it on a baking sheet and shape it in about 1 minute, and have it in the oven in less than 5! How's that for easy????
Start by whisking my gluten free bread flour blend, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour buttermilk into the well.
Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until a soft dough forms. Dump it out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using floured hands and a bit more sprinkled on top, shape it into a round about 2-3 inches thick.
Taking a sharp knife, cut a large X into the top of the dough.
Pop it in a 450-degree F oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn down the temperature to 400 degrees F and continue to bake for about 25 minutes more or until it makes a hollow sound when tapped.
How Long Does This Bread Keep?
Covered on the counter, this bread will keep for only 2-3 days. You can also refrigerate it for up to about a week, but if you want to keep it longer, freezing individual slices is best. Soda bread will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.
I think you're really going to love this bread as we do! It's so easy to make and the perfect accompaniment to any meal and can be made so quickly without any forethought.
Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread
- 3¼ cups (455 g) Kim's gluten free bread flour blend ***
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1¾-2 cups (420-480 ml) whole buttermilk (definitely not fat free, but low fat may be used)
- Preheat the oven to 450° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk bread flour blend, salt, and baking soda together. Make a well in the middle and pour 1¾ cups (420 ml) of the buttermilk into the well. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until combined. If still dry, add 2 more tablespoon of the buttermilk and stir again. You're looking for a sticky, tacky dough.
- Dump dough out onto lightly floured surface and sprinkle a little flour on top. Coax the dough into a large round and place it on the baking sheet. Tap it into a round about 2 inches thick and about 6-8 inches wide.
- Cut an X in the top. Brush the top with any leftover buttermilk. Bake for 15 minutes, and then turn down the heat to 400° F and bake for an additional 25 minutes. When tapped, the loaf should sound hollow.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into slices and serving with salted butter (preferably Irish).
- Store covered on the countertop for 2 days or in the refrigerator for one week. Slices may be frozen for about 2-3 months.
Adapted from NYTimes' Irish Soda Bread