‘Tis the Time for Irish Soda Bread — Traditional and Gluten Free

Dianne E. Dillman, for the Shuttle

Seeded Irish Soda Bread

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 2/3 cups old fashioned rolled oats 
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 4 tbs. flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tbs. hemp seeds
  • 3/4 cup unblanched raw almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, or a combination
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 2 tsps. baking soda

Mix the hot water, coconut oil, and maple syrup in a large bowl and stir until the oil melts. Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir well. Let it rest on the counter, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours or until the dough is very thick and readily separates from the bowl. 

Make sure your rack is in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°

Butter or oil lightly an 8” x 4 1/2” loaf pan. Line the bottom and sides of either the long or short side of the pan with parchment or wax paper and leave enough paper to serve as handles for easy removal. Butter or oil the paper.

Fill the pan with your firm dough and press down to release air bubbles and to even out the surface. 

Bake for one hour. Remove the bread from the pan and the paper from the loaf. Place directly on oven rack and bake 15 more minutes.

Let cool completely on a rack. Store leftovers, well wrapped, in the fridge.

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, the Irish in me craves soda bread. Authentic Irish soda bread is nothing like our Irish-American version, which is enriched with butter, sweetened with sugar, and studded with raisins and caraway seeds. The true version is a plain bread born of necessity and poverty. It’s made from either whole wheat or white flour mixed with the milk that soured while sitting unrefrigerated on the kitchen counter, leavened by baking soda and flavored with salt. It could be mixed swiftly and easily, baked and put on the table within an hour. There was no need for costly and perishable yeast, nor for a warm kitchen for rising a yeasted loaf.

Despite its common roots, this basic Irish soda bread is quite delicious, especially if topped with heavenly Irish butter. It’s featured in fine restaurants all across Ireland.

Today’s bakers are further updating the traditional loaves and creating healthier versions of savory loaves. My take includes oats, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and maple syrup to create a dense and chewy loaf. It’s perfect for accompanying soup or stew on a chilly evening, or as a base for cheese and smoked meats. Though best the day it’s made, it readily reheats in the oven, and slices are delicious when toasted. Also, it happens to be gluten free.