gluten-free Irish soda bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

Okay, I’m going to admit this. It’s a little sad. When I was a kid — and sort of well into my adulthood — I only had three associations with St. Patrick’s Day. Leprechauns with leering grins. Green shirts for fear of being pinched. And the Shamrock Shake.

Remember that? The McDonald’s shake, a lurid green?

It’s gross. I would never, ever eat one now. But when I was a kid? Oh my goodness, my little heart went flitter-flutter the first day they were on the menu.

(We ate at McDonald’s a fair amount when I was a kid. My favorite field trip of all time meant walking three blocks from my elementary school to our McDonald’s and being shown how they made the fries and burgers. The fact that I had to wear a hair net didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I still remember the warmth of the red cardboard sleeve in my hands when they gave us free fries. Now, I think, “Wait, this was a school field trip?”)

My mom made a great corned beef and cabbage. I loved the softened carrots that slipped on the plate as I tried to cut them, the almost-limp cabbage, the briny-salty beef, and the clean simple taste of boiled potatoes. (Danny’s mom made a great corned beef and cabbage too, apparently.) If St. Patrick’s Day meant corned beef and cabbage, I was happy.

Over a decade ago, I spent St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland with my dear friend Sharon. We were lucky enough to be on the west coast, rugged country right by the sea. We drove on one-lane dirt roads, passing white horses in green fields, looking out at the ocean far down the cliffs. She and I could not have been happier. We ended up in a tiny town in time for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Everyone in the town either stood on the streets watching or walked in the parade. There was rag-tag marching, blaring horns, and a lot of flatbed trucks. Women in rocking chairs, knitting, on a flatbed truck. Sharon and I couldn’t believe our luck. Our favorite moment? We heard the annoying song “Barbie Girl,” which had been ubiquitous in New York about 8 months before, floating from around the corner. We looked at each other, surprised. What followed? A flatbed truck filled with senior citizens, all dressed as various Barbie dolls. The man in long underwear, rouged cheeks, and a tutu (Ballerina Barbie) was my favorite.

That was my favorite St. Patrick’s Day ever, in Ireland.

And to my surprise, I found that no one was eating corned beef and cabbage.

Turns out that’s a tourist thing. It was invented by Irish-Americans, the “corning” part influenced by Jewish immigrants, and brought back to Ireland for the tourists.

Next you’ll tell me that Shamrock shakes didn’t really have shamrocks in them.

Hm.

We didn’t make this corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day, therefore. There’s another gathering of good folks, celebrating food, that intrigues us even more. Charcutepalooza.

Our friends Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy started a revolution. They’re encouraging folks to make their own charcuterie all year long. It is — as I have found to be true for everything I have learned to make from scratch — much easier than you imagine. If you want to join, all you need to do is follow this link to find out the rules (or Ruhls, as they are calling them, in honor of Michael Ruhlman).

Look at this lovely post on Affairs of Living, showing the process of making corned beef.

There’s a new challenge every month. Play along!

(Those of you who are interested in making more foods from scratch, we highly recommend this brilliant collection from The New York Times: DIY Cooking Handbook. You don’t need a big kitchen or fancy equipment to make great food. Fresh cheese! Maple vinegar! Tomato-chili jam!)

The fact that our corned beef was ready to eat on St. Patrick’s Day was pretty great, even if it’s not authentically Irish. Neither are we.

This, however? This soda bread is Irish.

(Okay, apparently the currants are an American thing.)

We adapted a soda bread recipe from Colman Andrews’ The Country Cooking of Ireland. This is an absolutely gorgeous book. We adore it.

And this soda bread. Soda breads appeal to me right now. Take a few flours, a little buttermilk, some salt and soda, and you have bread. It’s slightly dense bread without being leaden. It’s light with a heft. It’s definitely not a baguette. It makes no attempt to be so. It’s humble and plainspoken and the kind of bread you want as a friend.

We couldn’t stop eating this one.

The recipe is on the Healthy Eats section of the Food Network website. They’ve asked us to develop some gluten-free recipes for them. We’re thrilled.

(Since there were some questions on the recipe, I answered a few questions about the recipe. I’ll put that answer here too:

“For those of you who may not have all the flours on hand, you can substitute your favorite gluten-free flour mix as long as you substitute by weight. This mix of flours was our favorite for flavor and texture, but you can find your own.

We post the ingredients in weight for the benefit of you who have different food allergies. If you can’t have the almond or potato flour, for example, you can sub in a flour you CAN eat, as long as you replace it by weight.

There are certified gluten-free oats, such as those produced by Bob’s Red Mill. Most of us with celiac seem to be able to tolerate them. Those of you who cannot might try rice bran or quinoa flakes here. Or, simply add additional flour.

The 2 to 4 cups of buttermilk is actually from Colman Andrews’ recipe, which is adapted from Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House in Cork. It’s not imprecise. It’s asking you to trust your instincts instead. As he wrote: ‘She allows considerable variation in the amount of milk used, which I find to be liberating; I just keep adding it until the dough reaches the perfect consistency.’ Flours can vary in humidity based on the season or where you live. And once you substitute different gluten-free flours, all of which are different weight and protein levels from each other, you will have a big difference in the need for liquid. Like Colman Andrews, I’m trying to give everyone the best chance of making a great soda bread!”

Now, go make some soda bread!

Good stories and celebration — that’s my kind of St. Patrick’s Day.

43 comments on “gluten-free Irish soda bread

  1. Erin Swing

    Now you have me wanting corned beef and cabbage! Instead, I think I’ll be having Skyline/Cincinnati Chili on a baked potato, then off to my local for some green gin & tonics. Luck of the gluten-intolerant American-Irish. ;) Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

  2. Mariko

    Are you actually for sure telling me that corned beef and cabbage is NOT Irish? You are crashing my world, Shauna.
    I just got that book myself. There’s even a recipe for corned beef. What a sham! :)
    I’m totally fascinated by this idea of DIY charcuterie. I’m off to check it out. I can’t believe you made that corned beef from scratch. It looks wonderful.

  3. SMITH BITES

    confession: i’ve never liked those shamrock shakes — ever — weird, yes? was excited when i saw Jennifer Perillo tweet about them thinking she had a secret recipe … but not meant to be … and that is ok because i really shouldn’t have one anyway. am lovin’ this bread though Shauna — this one, i may just have to do!

  4. MrsWheelbarrow

    What a lovely evocative post, Shauna. You brought back memories of our trip to the West of Ireland — such a beautiful coastline and such a welcoming country, right? I wish I could have seen a parade, but we did see many a parade of sheep. :) I’m feeling the need for this Irish Soda Bread right now, and thankfully, have all the lovely ingredients — including some luscious full fat buttermilk. Happy Shamrock Shake Day! xoCathy

  5. Sarah

    alright… I made the bread last night and it started out so-so because I had trouble getting it to fully cook, but I think that’s because I messed up a few things. I might have added a little too much milk and I definitely tripled the currants (I love and them — whoops — too many fell in). But the worst part was that my oven doesn’t seem to be working right. I halved the recipe and my round still took about an hour and 45 min. to cook. Despite the challenge I had some for breakfast and sure enough it was delicious in the morning. :) I’m having so much fun learning to bake gluten free! I can’t wait to try again and see how a few changes will affect the final outcome!

    1. Jess

      I made the soda bread for a work potluck and it came out really well! Thanks so much for this recipe. I’m thinking I might make another loaf this weekend because it was so good.

      Sarah– mine only had to bake for 45 minutes, so I think there is definitely something wrong with your oven.

    1. alexis

      hey pat — i made this last night with quinoa flakes instead. it was tasty, but quinoa is definitely a most distinctive flavor than oats. it was just a very earthy soda bread. :)

  6. Eileen

    I love love love this recipe!!

    With just recently moving from Dublin (yes, the real one) to San Francisco, I’ve been quite homesick today. Your post definitely put a smile on my face!

    Back in Dublin, we generally take the mickey out of the Americans who come over expecting us to be fanatical about Paddy’s (sorry, but it’s quite hard not to..bless:). In truth, it’s simply a bank holiday that we take to go to mass at the main cathedral, then down to our local (pub) and meet with a few friends over a pint. (A good friend of mine was gobsmacked when she saw that certain cities in America even go so far as to dye their rivers green).

    And fair play to you for (unintentionally?) putting a cross in your bread. It’s an old folklore tale that you cut a cross in your scones (or soda bread in this case:) to let the evil fairies out!

    Cheers, and thanks a million for such brilliant posts. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see tasty foods I can actually eat!!

      1. shauna

        I was in Ireland before I realized I had celiac, so I didn’t eat gluten-free. However, I’ve been told that Ireland has the highest diagnosis rate for celiac in the world and that it’s easier to eat there than here!

        1. Eileen

          They lie :/

          Unless you’ve embraced white bread and all its family members, you’re really between a rock an a hard spot!! The concept of eating a gluten-free diet really just came into the mainstream I’d day maybe a year or two ago?

          There is one food stop in South Dublin that does cater to well, non-coronary type food, called Cornucopia. When I didn’t feel like cooking, that was my stop!

          Tara– Are you moving there?

          Shauna– I used to sit at my laptop, salivating over your recipes. Then I discovered Bob’s :) I would have their products shipped in just so I could make a darn muffin (or bread, or cookie..had to compensate for those shipping costs anyway!). Cost an arm, leg, and some other necessary body parts, but was completely worth it in the end!!

  7. Molly

    I’m Jewish, my husband is Irish-Catholic, so we’re eating our corned beef and cabbage for Shabbat dinner this week. He really wanted soda bread, but I won the challah battle. This looks great!

    1. Amy

      Molly– do you have a favorite recipe for GF challah? I’d love some! “Challah” back at me, won’t ‘cha? ;)

  8. The Yummy Mummy

    Amazing. And thank you for joining us, for making corned beef, for mentioning our little project on your beautiful blog. You are a gem. And you always make me almost want to bake something…how the hell do you do that? No one does that.

    Anyway, I’m picturing you right now, your hands dusted with flour and Lu at your feet in the kitchen. That makes me smile.

    xo Kim

  9. Sheena

    I made this last night with corned beef and mash and it was splendid! I didn’t have any currants, so I omitted them, but I had sharp white English cheddar and a slice of cheese with a chunk of bread was heaven :)

  10. Jolie @ Joeycake

    Oh. My. God. You totally just jerked my memory back to a McDonald’s school field trip! I think I had completely blocked it out until I read, “warm cardboard”! :) I can’t believe that was happening in the 80s. NUTS.

    I’m a new blogger and just found your site. Really loving your photos and the way you write. Thank you!

  11. Nina

    Oh help! I’d love to make this for gluten-free me and my no-yeast boyfriend, but I still haven’t managed to find anything in the UK called ‘almond flour’. We have _ground almonds_ in every supermarket and health-food shop (and my cupboard), but are they the same thing? I see in the Elana’s Pantry FAQs she says _almond meal_ is OK as long as it doesn’t include the skins. But I’m still having Transatlantic translation issues — is _meal_ what I have? Ground almonds don’t seem like a flour to me, they’re too moist — but I do use them in cakes all the time (have you seen the book ‘Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache’?)… Please let me know because I’d love to make all sorts of recipes from this blog, starting with this soda bread. I know Gibran said, ‘Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf,’ — but it would be nice to share a loaf occasionally!

    1. shauna

      Almond flour is blanched raw almonds, skin removed, ground into a flour. Almond meal is coarser than almond flour, but you can use it. Just grind it finer in your blender. Take care not to turn it into almond butter! And of course, you can always substitute with another flour, as long as you use the same weight.

      1. Nina

        Thanks, Shauna! I have a teeny tiny kitchen and no blender, so I’m going to use my ground almonds as they are and see how it goes (they might be somewhere between meal and flour anyway)…

        1. victoria rowan

          hi there,I live in the uk and use TRS almond powder which is very fine, the also do a coconut powder as well which is great for pancakes and things. Its a very common asian food company which do dries pulses, ground rice etc. I also use the red velvet cook book lots, its brill!!

  12. Crystal Smith

    Hullo! Just thought you should know I included your wonderful blog in my article on gluten-free blogs! It’s a great resource and eye catching as well!
    Cheers
    Crystal

  13. Carly

    Hi, I just found out that I have celiac disease a couple months ago and I know its different for everyone but I was wondering how long it took you to get your energy back once you started the diet?
    This bread looks delicious! I’m definitely trying this very soon!

  14. Ilke

    I meant to make Irish soda bread, then got lazy, justifying that I am only Irish by marriage!
    But I guess it should still count! :)
    Very warm looking bread! I wish there was a light going off when the dough comes to “the desired consistency” :)

    1. Susan

      No,I think they’re too busy mending shoes! Seriously tho’-I believe they would prefer some porridge.

  15. Lydia

    Made the soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, it was wonderful! I made it too wet so it had to bake forever! I’m still having trouble figuring out how much liquid to use in the bread recipes out here in the New Mexican desert. The crust was wonderful and I loved it with breakfast the next day and a cup of tea the next! I’m thinking it would be nice as individual muffins. Do you think it would bake in a loaf nicely? Thanks for the recipe!

  16. maire

    Currents are not just an American thing. It’s common over here. Alternate versions are also with apple, and with treacle.

  17. Kathleen

    Hi there :) I discovered your blog last year sometime, and have gone back to the beginning to read every entry. Partially thanks to your words and recipes, I can confidently say that Celiac is the best thing that ever happened to me! I was raised almost entirely on fast food, microwaves and barbeque and didn’t touch a stove until I was 21 (no joke)… but now, 5 years later, I cook up a storm!

    I bought a kitchen scale this weekend and your Irish Soda Bread Buns (posted in March last year) was the first recipe I tried (I previously tried one of your bread recipes, sans scale, and it was a disaster. Lesson learned). These buns came out fantastic… slightly sweet, pillowy texture, melt-in-your-mouth amazing. My family loved them! Thank you SO MUCH for all that you and the Chef have done for the world of cooking (not just gluten-free)… not eating gluten is a dull and intimidating endeavor; eating locally grown, nourishing, flavorful foods and mixing flours in my kitchen like a mad scientist, all the while just happening to not include gluten in my diet, has enriched my life in ways I never imagined.

    You are appreciated :)

  18. Sarah

    I want to make this bread, but need a good sub. for the buttermilk. I usually cook with almond milk, is this ok to sub. for the buttermilk or is there something better? Thanks!!
    Sarah

    1. shauna

      Sure! Try it! You can also make a “buttermilk” out of non-dairy milk. For every cup, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and let the milk sit for 15 minutes before using it.

  19. Damselfly

    I am so sorry to report that I made this bread today and didn’t have much luck. I would caution others to add WAY less liquid than the recipe calls for. I ended up only using about 1 cup and a couple of tablespoons.

    It cooked fine but I think it is tasteless and dense. I made Irish Soda bread last year using a different recipe so I guess that’s more what I was thinking it would be like. Perhaps the recipe might have been more to my liking with some sugar in the recipe, and maybe some acid.

    Not all recipes are winners with everyone and we all have different tastes. Maybe others love this version. Next year, I think I will go back to Elana’s recipe as it was more to my liking. http://www.elanaspantry.com/irish-soda-bread/

    But as always Shauna, I appreciate your forum and your efforts. A lot of us would be lost without you. I am STILL making and addicted to your pie crust recipe made as cinnamon crispies!

    1. shauna

      I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. However, I will say that I used that much liquid for a reason. Gluten-free bread dough has to be wetter than traditional dough. When you use only the amount you think will make a traditional dough, you end up with dense bread.

  20. Damselfly

    Hmm, it would have been “soup” with more liquid and I would not have been able to shape it, but I understand your point. I hadn’t realized that and will keep it in mind in the future. Thanks for the lesson! I hope your move went well.

    1. shauna

      It’s amazing. The best gluten-free sandwich bread I make has a batter thinner than pancake batter. It takes awhile to let go of the expectations of gluten!

  21. js

    I’m finding that no matter what I do this bread never cooks through before the crust is near burning, and I’ve made it half a dozen times. It tastes good, but it is very doughy. I think that perhaps the recipe has too much almond flour, but I’m basing that on the fact that 2/3 of a cup of almond flour is closer to 100 grams than 150. But Elana’s recipe is all almond flour, so I just don’t know.

  22. Amanda Whelan

    Hi,
    I made this soda bread, it’s not a bad result, it’s tastes nice the only problem is its extremely brittle and breaks as I try to cut it, any tips would be greatly appreciated?
    Amanda

  23. Nora

    Most GF bread recipes use xantham gum for a bread that’s not crumbly. I made this soda and the whole family loved though it was a bit crumbly. Would some xantham gum help?