Some of my favorite types of recipes to recreate are comfort foods. Foods that bring back childhood memories, or tell a story about tradition and one’s heritage. Foods that you remember how they tasted and smelled, even though it’s been YEARS since you have eaten them. Foods that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about them. Isn’t it amazing that food can do all of these things?!? Cooking and baking have been my passion for over 20 years, and I am barely over 30 years young! I used to prepare family meals at a very young age and had my first bake sale at the age of 10. I have such wonderful memories in the kitchen, creating something unique that would put a smile on my loved ones’ faces!
The History of Irish Soda Bread
Like many of my other recipes on the blog and in my two cookbooks, Satisfying Eats and Comforting Eats, this bread tells a story. For most traditional recipes that I recreate, I enjoy looking up the history and meaning behind the food. (Be sure to check out my recipe for my Mardi Gras King Cake.) I was not familiar with Irish Soda Bread, even though I am sure I have some Irish blood somewhere in my veins. This is actually the only recipe I have ever created without having ever eaten the “real thing” so it was very important to research this recipe to get it right.
“Irish Soda Bread is a traditional product of a poor country, it was made with only the most basic of ingredients: flour, baking soda (used as a leavening agent instead of yeast), soured milk to moisten and activate the soda, and salt. Before baking, a cross was cut on the top with a knife, to ward off the devil and protect the household. ” Source
From reading about this traditional bread, I found out that the recipe is not that old (only about 250 years), and that the shape of the loaf was determined by what part of Ireland you were from. Pretty neat history. The cross in the top of the bread also helped to “break” the bread to share, and, as mentioned above, to “ward off the devil and keep the household safe.” To learn more about the history of Irish Soda Bread, check out this site!
I think this will be my new go-to bread recipe! I love the hard exterior and that it is tender but sturdy inside. I tried to stick to “tradition” and included the caraway seeds (which I have never used before). However, I used raisins instead of currants because they are easier to find. I also added a bit of baking powder to make sure I got a good rise. I kept to the traditional recipe that doesn’t call for butter, but traditionally, you are expected to toast and slather butter all over the finished bread. Without the gluten found in wheat bread, the recipe needed something to hold it together, so I added eggs to the mix! The result was a wonderful, almost artesian looking bread…I’m so proud!
Every soda bread recipe I researched had different variations. Feel free to stick to tradition, or to use this dough as a canvas for your favorite flavor combinations. In one loaf, I omitted the caraway seeds and added 1-1/2 tsp. real cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of vanilla, and 1/2 cup chopped pecans… yum! I also made one batch with 2 tbsp. of butter instead of sour cream. You could also use dried cherries, or even omit the fruit if you really want to make this bread low-carb. I think lemon-poppy seed would be great too! Again, make it your own… start a new tradition!
NOTE: I added a small amount of sweetener (1/8th tsp. Organic KAL Stevia) to give this bread just a hint of sweetness (like that of a scone). You can also use 2 tbsp. of Organic Coconut Sugar or other sweetener. However, the sweetener can easily be omitted or reduced for a more savory bread (and to suit YOUR taste buds). As I have said a thousand times, taste your batter and sweeten accordingly with your sweetener of choice.
Looking for a Nut-Free version?? Simply (really, it’s this easy), substitute raw sunflower seed flour in the place of the almond flour. How do you make sunflower seed flour?? Place raw sunflower seeds in a Magic Bullet or food processor and process until sunflower seeds are pulverized and look like almond flour. Do not over blend or you will have sunflower seed butter.
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Grain-Free & Low-Carb Irish Soda Bread
1-1/4 cups almond flour (or sunflower seed flour for nut-free)
2 tbsp. coconut flour (I use Tropical Traditions or Bob’s Red Mill)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. grain-free baking powder
1/8 tsp. Himalayan salt
1/8 tsp. Organic KAL Stevia or sweetener of choice, to taste (See note above about sweetness)
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 oz. raisins or currants, chopped (or snipped in half using scissors)
1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. sour cream, heavy cream or coconut milk (for dairy-free)
For topping: An additional 1/2 tsp. of caraway seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 inch cast iron skillet or cake pan and set aside. (You can also just use a cookie sheets but make sure to oil the bottom.) In a medium bowl, add the dry ingredients (including the caraway seeds and raisins) and blend well, making sure there are no lumps. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well with a wood spoon until ingredients are blended. Taste for sweetness and adjust if needed.
Place the dough in the middle of the cast iron skillet (or cake pan), then with damp hands, pat and shape the dough into a round loaf (the loaf will be approximately 5-6 inches across). Using a knife, cut an “X” into the dough, about 1/2 inch deep. Sprinkle the remaining caraway seeds on top of the loaf. Bake for around 25-28 minutes or until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool 5 minutes in the pan before carefully removing the bread with a spatula to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Allow to cool at least 20 minutes (longer is better) before breaking the bread or slicing with a serrated knife. Enjoy plain, or toasted with salted butter.
I found that this bread was actually better the next day after I left it out to “air” cool.
Nutrition: 100 Calories, 7 grams Fat, 5.5 Total Carbs, 2 grams Fiber (3.5 NET Carbs), 4 grams Protein per slice
However you make this bread, I hope you enjoy the recipe! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!