Sweet yet savory with a perfect, almost biscuity, texture, this hearty Gluten-Free Irish Soda Bread is one for the history books.
You know what I-rish? I wish I would have known I was Irish YEARS earlier. So many missed opportunities for celebrated holidays.
Though I probably should have known I had some Irish in my blood thanks to my intense love for Irish Soda Bread.
But wasn’t until one year in high school – yes, roughly 16 years into my existence – that I learned of my Irish heritage. In one of my history classes, we had to do a report on our ancestry, and I learned that I had Irish in my bloodline. It all made sense! I was madly in love with Irish Soda Bread for a reason — I was bred (no pun intended…but ha!) to love it.
I know that you’re thinking: how does a girl who thinks she’s not Irish, just happen upon a very traditional and not extremely common place food like Irish Soda Bread? Well my friends, there’s this heavenly little place in Pittsburgh, PA [which my family owns] called Loafers Bread Company that introduced me to almost any type of bread my carb-loving heart could desire.
But of course, Irony of all Ironies would be that the owner’s daughter (yup, that’d be me) wouldn’t be able to tolerate gluten. Sigh. More on that some other time.
A few years ago, my fellow bread-loving husband discovered Irish Soda Bread and fell for it almost as hard as I did.
Though he has no Irish genes — just bread-loving genes.
So, over the last few years, I’ve gotten to take great joy (← sarcasm) in watching him savor every perfect little bite and morsel of Irish Soda Bread. I’ve smelled the sweetness of the raisins and perfect bitterness of the caraway seeds wafting through the air. I’ve watched the way the butter so gently nestles into every tiny nook. I’ve heard the grunts of enjoyment as every last crumb is consumed.
I’m so happy he gets to experience the joy that is Irish Soda Bread, but to be quite blunt: It’s been torture. Pure torture.
So this year, I decided I could take no more and became dead-set on making the perfect loaf of gluten-free Irish Soda Bread. One so good you wouldn’t ever know that it was gluten-free. One that might even be — GASP — as good as the Loafers’ version.
And wooooo boy did we hit the jackpot with this one.
It has that perfect biscuity texture with the tiniest hint of sweetness in the dough. The plump raisins add that extra little somethin’-somethin’ that takes the bread from good to out of this world, and the caraway seeds flawlessly balance all of the flavors out.
It even has the crumb of it’s gluten-full rival (!!!!)
The hubs said, and I quote, “You’d never know the difference if you weren’t told.”
My favorite ways to chow-down on Irish Soda Bread?
- Plain (can’t beat it).
- Toasted with a pat of Irish butter.
- Smeared with a soft blue cheese.
- Dipped into a rich stew.
- Slathered in jam. Or peanut butter. Or both.
- Made into a grilled cheese with a sharp Irish Cheddar.
…the possibilities are endless and they are all so.good.
Oh! I almost forgot to tell you — don’t forget to score an “x” into the top of the dough before you bake it. According to Irish lore, the score in the bread was meant to look like a cross in order to ward off evil spirits. And I don’t think we want any of those.
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 cups gluten-free flour mix*
- 11/2 t. xanthan gum (omit if your mix already includes it)
- 1 t. salt
- 1 t. baking soda
- 1 t. cream of tartar
- 2 T. sugar
- 2 T. unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
- 1 T. caraway seeds
- 1 egg
- ½ cup buttermilk + 1 T for later
- 2 T. coarse sugar crystals (I used Sugar in the Raw) **
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
- In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the raisins to the water, and immediately reduce to a simmer. Allow the raisins to simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until soft and plump.
- Remove the raisins from the stove, drain well, and set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar.
- Using two forks, and then your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mix until the mix is smooth and no large lumps remain. The mix should look a bit crumbly.
- Add the caraway seeds to the flour mixture and stir until evenly dispersed.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg well, and then combine it with ½ cup buttermilk.
- Pour the buttermilk and egg mixture into the flour mixture, along with the cooled raisins. Mix slowly with a spatula, until the dough starts to come together, and then start to lightly knead the dough with your hands.
- Once the dough is formed into a nice uniform ball, transfer to the baking sheet and knead a few more times until the dough is nicely rounded.
- Brush the top of the bread with the remaining 1 T of buttermilk and sprinkle the coarse sugar evenly over the top of the dough.
- Using a sharp knife, score the top of the loaf in an “x” pattern, about ¼ inch deep.
- Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
**Most traditional Irish Soda Breads that I’ve seen recipes for don’t include sugar crystals on top, but I argue that they are an absolute must. If you’ve never had it this way before, you are in for a royal treat!