Whether you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, exploring Irish food, or just want a healthy, fun addition to your table, these Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls will brighten your day and fill your belly with goodness.
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As someone who is part-Irish and spent many years in Boston, St. Patrick’s Day should be a big deal to my family, but, honestly, it just isn’t. Growing up, we never went to the parade and there was definitely no green-tinted foods or beverages, but what we did do was use it as an excuse to have bangers and mash (aka, Irish sausages and mashed potatoes) or corned beef, and soda bread was almost always on the table.
Because I always like to tinker with recipes and try to make them healthier, I decided that I wanted to try to make a whole wheat version of Irish soda bread. After some trial and error, and a couple of rounds with brown sugar that I found to be too sweet, I landed on adapting the Bon Appétit recipe from 1999 (including taking out the brown sugar to cut down on the sweetness). This version was an instant hit with my family. In particular, they loved the crunch of the walnuts and the depth of flavor and slight sweetness from the molasses. So, I wanted to share my version with you!
What is Irish Soda Bread?
Irish soda bread is truly a bread of the people. Its origins in Ireland go back to the 1830s, but it really took hold during the potato famine when it was one of the few foods people could feed themselves as its most basic form only requires four ingredients: flour, salt, acid (in this case buttermilk), and baking soda.
In addition, it is a “quick bread,” meaning that it requires no rising time because it uses baking soda rather than yeast as it’s leavening agent, which makes it easier for people to prepare when they are shorter on time (this recipe takes 45 minutes from start to finish). It also means that it is a dense and crusty bread, perfect for slathering on butter or dipping into stew.
How to Make Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls
This version of Irish soda bread is very easy to make and because the dough is formed into rolls rather than left as a whole, it bakes in less time!
For this version of Whole Wheat Soda Bread Rolls you will need the following ingredients:
- Whole wheat flour
- All purpose flour
- Unsalted butter
- Baking soda
- Molasses (not black strap)
- Buttermilk (or yogurt and milk or milk and lemon juice, details below)
Don’t have buttermilk?
Don’t worry, there are a number of replacement options for when you don’t have buttermilk:
- 2 tablespoons of milk combined with yogurt to equal 1 cup
- Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar with milk to equal one cup and then let it sit for 5-10 minutes so that it “sours”
Wanna skip the walnuts?
No problem! You can leave them out or replace them with raisins, currants, or dried cranberries for a slightly sweeter version.
Why can’t I use Black Strap Molasses?
Black strap molasses is much more bitter than regular molasses and will not give you the slight sweetness that makes these rolls so appealing.
In keeping with the simplicity of the recipe, the equipment needed for these rolls are very likely all things you already have. You will need:
- Baking sheet
- Two mixing bowls
- Wooden spoon
- Whisk or fork
- Sharp knife
- Parchment paper or cooking spray
How to Make the Dough
In a large bowl, whisk or stir together the flours, baking soda, and salt.
Cut the butter into small cubes, add it to the dry ingredients, and then blend the butter in with your hands until the mixture resembles a fine meal.
Chop your walnuts, if necessary, and then mix them into the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, molasses, and egg. Then, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until the ingredients come together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times, just to make sure it forms a nice, cohesive ball. Then flatten the dough into a disc and cut into six pieces
Form each piece into a ball and then flatten slightly to form a 3-inch round. Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of each roll (this will allow steam to escape). Place the uncooked rolls onto your baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
I like to serve them slathered with butter and, sometimes, jam or marmalade.
A Note on Size:
This recipe will make 6 large rolls. If you want smaller portions, you can instead divide the dough into eight parts, form your rolls, and then bake them for a little bit less time, about 20-25 minutes. Again, you’ll know they’re ready if they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Make These with Your Kids!
As you know, I am a big fan of getting my kids into the kitchen. I believe it teaches many important life skills and is an opportunity for us to spend fun and engaging time together. And these whole wheat Irish soda bread rolls are a great recipe to make with kids because it is very simple and tactile. In fact, the best way to mix the dough is with your hands!
For toddlers, you can have them help you scoop and measure out the ingredients, mix the batter with their hands, knead the dough, and form the rolls.
For younger elementary kids, you can have them measure out the ingredients on their own, read the recipe aloud, mix the batter with their hands, knead the dough, and form the rolls. (When I first started making these nine years ago, my then-five-year-old had a great time mixing in the butter, kneading the dough, and forming the rolls. I still remember him talking about how much he loved the feeling of the flour on his hands.)
For older elementary kids, have them do all of the steps listed above, but also, with your assistance, let them cut the tops of the rolls, and use the oven.
And by middle school, kids should be able to make these on their own!
Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls
- 2 cup whole wheat flour I like the white whole wheat from King Arthur Flour, use wheat/gluten-free, if needed
- 1 cup flour use wheat/gluten-free, if needed
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes
- 1 cup walnuts chopped, or use raisins, currants, or dried cranberries for a sweeter version
- 1 cup buttermilk or use 2 tablespoons of milk combined with yogurt to equal 1 cup or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar mixed with milk to equal 1 cup, which you leave sitting for 5-10 minutes to allow it to thicken
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp molasses NOT black strap molasses
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt.
- Add in the butter and blend in with fingertips until it resembles a fine meal.
- Mix in the walnuts.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and molasses.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Flatten into a large disk and cut into six pieces. Form each piece into a ball and then flatten slight to form a 3-inch round. Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of each roll.
- Place on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Serve immediate or store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
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