One of the most flavorful Irish Soda Bread you’ll ever taste! Made using a combination of spelt flour, brown sugar, yogurt, beer, nuts, and raisins. For convenience, adding baking soda helps the dough instantly rise, making the recipe quick and easy.
You can’t serve corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day without thick slices of Irish soda bread! The recipe is seriously the easiest loaf you will ever make as there’s no yeast which means no waiting for it to proof. All you have to do is mix, knead, shape, bake and devour!
This version switches up the traditional recipe by adding a little sweet, nuttiness, and boozy notes. Guinness adds richness and depth to each bite! Your hungry guests won’t even realize the difference in texture, and you’ll look like a superstar pulling out a warm crusty loaf from the oven, just as the timer for the corned beef summons.
How does the bread rise without yeast?
Irish soda bread is a type of quickbread, similar to buttermilk biscuits or muffins. There is no proofing like allowing the yeast to ferment and produce gas bubbles to help the bread rise. Instead, it uses baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as a leavening agent.
The baking soda reacts with liquid from the beer and acid in the yogurt creating carbon dioxide gas bubbles, similar to yeast fermentation. The hot oven temperatures help the reaction occur rapidly, and the proteins in the dough set and lock-in those bubbles for soft and tender bread.
Use spelt flour for more flavor and texture
Have you tried spelt flour? It’s a species of wheat, Triticum spelta that can be ground into a whole grain flour with a nutty, sweet flavor, without any bitterness. It’s also high in protein and fiber, but when added to baked goods isn’t too heavy, yielding soft and tender products.
In this recipe, the flavor of the spelt flour complements the walnuts, fruit, and bitterness of the beer. Spelt has a moderate amount of gluten-forming potential, so it works great in baking applications or blended with other flours.
Can you use different types of flour?
If spelt flour is not stocked in your pantry, you can use other types of flour like all-purpose, white whole wheat, whole wheat, rye, and even gluten-free flour. You can also try blending various types of flour together to create a lighter taste and texture.
When substituting, just note that flours with more bran tend to soak up more water, and the opposite for the more refined varieties. Adjust the dough with more or less flour as you work and knead the dough.
Yogurt creates a tastier bread
This recipe uses yogurt to deliver a more complex flavored acidity from the probiotic fermentation in the dairy. The acids help to activate the baking soda, forming bubbles in the dough. It also provides more creaminess from the fat in the milk-making the bread more tender.
You can substitute buttermilk, however, you may need to add more flour due to the consistency being less thick compared to yogurt.
Beer works wonders for quickbread
Adding in Guinness or any type of stout beer to the bread mix gives an amazing roasted flavor with a slightly bitter note. To balance that bitterness, there’s a touch of brown sugar in the mix. The effervescence from the stout, plus the reaction of the baking soda and acidity in the yogurt with liquid, makes the bread light and tender while helping the loaf rise.
Switch it up by adding nuts and fruit
Traditional Irish soda bread can be simply made with hints of licorice from caraway seeds, or more savory like my bacon cheddar Irish soda bread. In this recipe fruit and nuts add interesting bursts of flavor and texture.
I use chopped walnuts, but pecans would make a lovely addition. Raisins add a slight tartness and sweetness, I use a mix of golden and Thompson varieties. Currants or dried cherries are nice swaps too. When the first slice of bread is cut, it reveals these attractive bits as an intriguing surprise.
Knowing when the bread is ready
Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness in the thickest part of the loaf. When the internal temperature reaches 180°F (82ºC), the bread is ready. Also, give the bottom of the loaf a quick tap to hear if it sounds hollow.
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Forming the dough into smaller portions
This recipe yields a pretty large loaf, perfect for feeding a crowd, however, it can be easily divided into 2 or 4 smaller rounds, or even individual rolls. Keep a close eye on the bake time and appearance change using the internal temperature to gauge when the portions are ready. Instead of using a baking sheet, smaller sizes can be baked in a cast-iron skillet, which makes the bottom crunchier.
Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups (480 g) spelt flour
- ¼ cup (50 g) dark brown sugar, packed
- 2 teaspoons (9 g) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) kosher salt
- ½ cup (80 g) raisins, roughly chopped
- ½ cup (45 g) walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 cup (240 ml) greek yogurt, plain
- 1 cup (240 ml) stout beer
- Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 400°F (204ºC).
- In a large mixing bowl combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, raisins, and walnuts.
- Add the yogurt and beer. Stir until the dough comes together into a ball. If the dough seems too wet, add a tablespoon more flour at a time. The dough should be slightly sticky but easy to shape.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead into a rough ball, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Shape into a 12-inch long by 4-inch wide loaf, transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle dough with a little flour and use a sharp knife to make 4 diagonal scores across the surface.
- Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped or the internal temperature reaches 180°F (82ºC).
- Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack, or serve warm.
- Buttermilk can be substituted for the yogurt.
- Whole wheat, white whole wheat, all-purpose, gluten-free, and rye flour can be substituted for the spelt flour.
- Coconut or granulated sugar can be substituted for the brown sugar. Honey or maple syrup can also be substituted but should be mixed in with the beer and yogurt.
- The dough can be shaped into 2 smaller loaves or individual rolls. The timing will be shorter, check the internal temp of the bread, it's ready when it hits 180°F (82ºC).
- Apple cider can be substituted for the stout beer.
- I used half golden and half Thompson raisins.