Irish Soda Bread Muffins
My first taste of Irish soda bread was an accident. I was on my way to an early-morning class and stopped into a little campus café to grab breakfast. In my pre-coffee stupor, I picked up a triangular hunk that I thought was a scone but turned out to be a wedge of Irish soda bread. If only all mistakes could be this delicious—it was love at first bite! Today’s Irish Soda Bread Muffins boast the same subtle sweetness, buttery crumb, and bewitching texture of Irish soda bread but in the form of easy-to-bake, extra-easy-to-eat, and conveniently portable muffins.
If you’ve never tried Irish soda bread, you are in for a treat. Don’t expect life-altering flavor complexity or a tastebud explosion—soda bread’s beauty is its simplicity. Classic Irish soda bread recipes combine wheat flour (I used whole wheat for the recipe, though all purpose is more traditional) and buttermilk and are made to rise with baking soda instead of yeast. It also often contains caraway seed, whose flavor is more savory and reminds me of rye bread, and some recipes also call for dried currants, which taste like an enchanting cross between a raisin and a cranberry.
The resulting soda bread is lightly sweet, and its texture is beguiling. It’s unquestionably soft and tender (no hockey pucks here) yet dense enough to feel wholesome and satisfying. Because Irish soda bread isn’t overly sweet, it’s ultra versatile too. I love it paired with a piece of cheddar or steamy bowl of soup as much as I do slathered with butter and jam.
I bake some adaptation of soda bread every St. Patrick’s Day (usually my favorite whole wheat Irish soda bread recipe), but this year, I thought it would be fun to try baking Irish Soda Bread Muffins instead. As much as I adore a good loaf of soda bread, I think I might love the Irish Soda Bread Muffins even more! They have a similar flavor and texture to Irish soda bread but are even quicker and easier to prepare.
Also, since the recipe yields 12 tidy Irish Soda Bread Muffins instead of an entire loaf, they’re easier to manage and transport. You can grab one for a quick breakfast and snack on the go, individual muffins provide built-in portion control, and they are simpler to serve, because you don’t need to fuss with slicing.
In playing around with how I could make these Irish Soda Bread Muffins healthy without compromising their flavor, I found that what worked best was to use Greek yogurt instead of the buttermilk. Like buttermilk, yogurt is acidic, so it reacts with the baking soda and ensures that the Irish Soda Bread Muffins rise. Because it’s thick and creamy, it does also a fantastic job of keeping the muffins moist and tender without a need for an of excess butter or oil.
Plus, while I almost always have a big container of Greek yogurt in my refrigerator, I rarely have buttermilk, so using yogurt means I can bake a batch of these Irish Soda Bread Muffins without a special trip to the store.
Along with yogurt, another ingredient you will always find in my refrigerator is Phil’s Fresh Eggs. Headquartered right across the border in Illinois, Phil’s is completely family owned. The chickens are humanely raised, fed an all-vegetarian diet, and the egg quality is outstanding. I notice a clear difference in the eggs’ taste and yolk color compared to standard eggs. The shells are harder to crack, which to me signals that the eggs came from healthier, happier chickens. I’m proud to be working with Phil’s this year to create a series of fresh, healthy recipes, including these Irish Soda Bread Muffins.
Although I originally conceptualized these Irish Soda Bread Muffins for St. Patrick’s Day, they are wonderful year-round. If you don’t care for currants or caraway seed, feel free to replace them with another dried fruit you do enjoy. Orange zest and dried cranberries would be wonderful folded into the batter, and I suspect that blueberries (or chocolate chips) would be utterly delicious also.
For a little extra burst of sweetness and crunch, I topped the Irish soda bread muffins with a sprinkle of coarse sparkling sugar, but if you want to keep the muffins on the even less-sweet side, feel free to omit it.
Tools I used to make this recipe:
Irish Soda Bread Muffins
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour — use white whole wheat flour for a milder flavor
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder — I recommend aluminum free
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon caraway seed
- 1 large Phil’s Fresh Egg — at room temperature
- 1 cup nonfat milk — plus 1 tablespoon, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter — melted and cooled to room temperature
- 1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt — at room temperature
- 3/4 cup dried currants
- Optional: 2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and caraway seed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, butter, and Greek yogurt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients into it. Stir just until combined. Fold in currants.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups and sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar, if using. Bake the muffins for 13 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to a rack to continue cooling. Enjoy warm, topped with butter, jam, a slice of cheese, or on their own.
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (of 12)) — Calories: 194, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 83mg, Carbohydrates: 34g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 17g, Protein: 5g
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