A delicious recipe for gluten-free Irish soda bread featuring dates and walnuts
From Chef Oonagh Williams of Gluten-Free Cooking with Oonagh
I keep playing with the recipe for gluten-free Irish soda bread trying to get a taste even closer to what I grew up with. Both my parents were born in Southern Ireland, so soda bread was almost a daily bread growing up, even in London, England.
Gluten-Free Irish Soda Bread with Dates and Walnuts
- 1 c (5+3/4 oz, 160g) the brown rice, potato starch, tapioca starch mix (King Arthur, Annalise Roberts, Authentic Foods) OR 1c (4oz, 112g) my gluten-free blend (see recipe below) and 1/2 c (2oz, 56 g) almond flour
- 1⁄2 c Teff Flour (2+1/2 oz, 70g)
- 1⁄2 c Millet Flour (2 oz, 60g)
- 1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder - I use Rumford’s labeled gluten-free
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
- 1⁄2 tsp (3ml) xanthan gum
- 1 tbsp (15ml) sugar
- 2 tbsp (30ml) butter or substitute
- 6 Medjool dates, pits removed and cut into small pieces. (about $5.99/lb box in my local market)
- 1⁄2 c (2 oz, 56 g) chopped walnuts, toasted – Mariani brand has started labeling their nuts gluten-free. I toast all my walnuts at one time and store them.
- 1+1/4 c (10 fl oz, 300ml) milk (fat free milk or soured almond milk)
- 1⁄4 c (60 ml) plain Greek yogurt
- 1+1/2 (8 ml) tsp baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda in UK)
1. Preheat oven to 400*.
2. In a wide shallow bowl mix flours, baking powder, salt, xanthan gum and sugar.
3. Rub butter into flour mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Or in food processor and then turn into mixing bowl. Stir in chopped dates and walnuts.
4. Whisk baking soda into milk and yogurt in 2 c jug. Many older English recipes have you stir baking soda into liquid ingredients so it dissolves. Otherwise you can taste nasty, metallic flavor in your mouth from too much baking soda or baking soda left in lumps. That metallic taste is why so many people don't like soda bread.
5. Stir milk mix into dry mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until mix resembles quite a sticky dough, not a dry dough. I described it as looking like concrete as you mixed it due to color of flours. Very wet to start. Depending on how carefully you measured ingredients and brands used, the flour mix might suck up liquid and be quite dry, needing more of the milk. Weather conditions, humidity all make a difference to dryness of flours. If you think mix is too wet, wait a moment or two. I find that baking powder and xanthan gum almost immediately thicken dough so it is scoopable. You do want it to be sticky, so it is not dry on baking. This dough is dark colored so it is difficult to see if it needs more liquid. Stir to the very bottom of the mixing bowl.
6. Scoop dough onto greased skillet that is roughly 10” across top. You can bake in smaller skillet for thicker loaf. Remember gluten free tends to spread so I always cook it in a ‘container’.
7. Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Even though bread might look cooked, if you break off a piece and it still tastes a bit grainy and bitter soda, it needs more cooking. When thoroughly cooked there shouldn’t be a soda aftertaste. Cook until bread is well risen, hard on top to the touch and sound hollow if you tap the bottom of the bread. Any white specks showing in bread is yogurt not mixed in and that almost always happens.
8. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Rub with butter if you want. Wrap in clean cloth to soften crust if you want. I love the crunchy, nutty flavor crust so I prefer it crisp.
9. Serve with egg and smoked salmon torte or toast for breakfast with marmalade, or straight from the oven hot with butter melting. Also great with cheese.
My Gluten-Free Mix (Rice Free)
- 1⁄2 cup potato starch or arrowroot starch for those with nightshades.
- 1⁄4 c tapioca starch – note there is a difference in tapioca starch from different brands.
- 2 tbsp amaranth or millet flour: Bob’s Red Mill (millet is roughly one third the price of amaranth, is not so nutritious, but is more readily available.)
- 2 tbsp sorghum flour: Bob’s Red Mill.