Raisin Soda Bread Scones
a slightly sweeter, small batch alternative to Irish soda bread
Soda bread always seems better in theory than reality. It’s not really bread in the sense that you can make a sandwich with it, at least not my expectations of a sandwich. I’ve tried to convince myself with many lackluster lunches, although it does pair well with fuller bodied soups and stews. In the coming days you’ll see plenty of recipes claiming to be authentic or traditional Irish soda bread but what we’ve come to know as Irish soda bread here in the U.S. is quite different mainly because American versions tend to be sweet and made with white flour instead of whole grain, so be weary when you see recipes touting “authentic” and “traditional”.
Eleven years ago is when I started dabbling in soda bread, inspired by a rye verison in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. You can find my oat variation on that recipe here and then a variation Heidi made of it here. It’s taken me all those years to accept two things: I will never finish an entire loaf of soda bread and my kids are not huge fans of it. This year I decided to tackle both of those issues. I began thinking about making mini loaves of soda bread but that left me feeling like they’d be mistaken for scones.
Scones, however, weren’t such a bad idea. My kids love scones so I thought this was an avenue worth exploring. It would mean compromising on the sugar, adding more than I would if making regular soda bread. I also decided raisins would be a nice addition. I still have a stash of my homemade raisins from last fall, and they are unlike any other raisin you’ll ever taste. I know, I realize I sound precious writing “homemade raisins” because who bothers to make their own but I tried it out of curiosity a few years ago and have now ruined myself for store-bought raisins forever.
A few things to note about making soda breads in general. The less you handle the dough, the better. A light touch results in that scraggly looking, crisp crust. In reading comments of my own recipes and many others online, I’ve seen many complaints about the dough being too wet. I call this the buttermilk factor.
I find the consistency of buttermilk to vary greatly between brands in the store and what you may find at a farmstand or farmers’ market from small dairy farms. So, what kind should you buy when making my soda bread recipe? Choose a brand that’s full-bodied with a thick consistency, similar to pourable yogurt. If you can’t find a buttermilk like that, and notice the one you’re using is on the thin side, then hold back a third of the amount called for in the recipe. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out once you put it in. You’re looking for a stiff, sticky dough that roughly holds its shape once mixed. If it slumps in the bowl, easily spreading out to the sides, then your dough is too hydrated.
Knowing how inconsistent buttermilk brands can be, and how crucial it is to get the dough right for soda breads, I decided to control that variable by using plain Greek yogurt for these raisin soda bread scones. I’m a fan of always using full-fat dairy products but you can use any percentage you have in the house, just make sure it is plain, unflavored Greek yogurt.
In the case of these scones, the dough is drier than regular soda bread. Upon mixing, it’ll look scraggly and crumbly. Don’t worry. A few quick, decisive kneads in the bowl, maybe 30 to 45 seconds worth, and it’ll come together. Warm from the oven with a thick layer of salted butter, these scones were the soda bread of my dreams, even if it’s universes apart from traditional soda breads.
One thing I do not compromise on when it comes to soda bread—or soda scones in this case, is only using baking soda as the leavener. You’ll find recipes that call for baking powder but you’ll never find me making them. The magic produced combining baking soda and a tangy, sour milk (be it buttermilk or yogurt) is the heart and soul of soda bread.
I hope the weekend provided some restful moments, and the week ahead is a gentle one for us all. –xo,j.
p.s. you’ll notice a couple of new features. Look up top, and you’ll find tabs to help organize the recipes for easier reference. It’ll take me time to get things sorted to their proper categories, so please be patient. Also—and very exciting news ( I hope!) is that I’m now adding a printer-friendly option for each recipe moving forward. The link labeled “printable version” after each recipe title should take you to a Google doc that will allow you to print the recipe should you find that helpful. Again, it will take me time to add this to previously published recipes. Happy baking!