These Irish Soda Bread Scones are mini versions of the favorite Irish recipe, with a twist. Orange zest, raisins or currants, and caraway seeds are added, part whole wheat flour is used, and they’re brushed with a mixture of orange juice and butter before baking. You’ll love these delicious soda bread scones with tea or coffee or for breakfast, and they’re freezable so you can have one at a moment’s notice!
Traditional Irish soda bread doesn’t really contain any “stuff,” aside from perhaps some raisins or currants, so you can go ahead and consider this a blasphemous recipe. But these are a super fun, miniature way to enjoy a twist on the traditional recipe, perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!
This recipe allows the raisins/currants, caraway seeds, and orange zest to soften up a bit in orange juice before adding to the mixture, allowing the flavors to bloom and everything to soften. The soaking liquid from that wonderful mixture is mixed with butter and brushed on top of the scones before baking. It’s a bit of an extra step that is so worth it!
Let’s get to it.
Why is it called “soda bread,” anyway?
Confession time: until far too recently, I thought that Irish soda bread contained soda. Soda as in: tonic water, beer, or some other fizzy beverage. Turns out, it’s just the baking soda from whence it gets its name. There are some recipes out there that use heavy stout beers (like Guinness) to make it, but it’s not the norm.
These Irish soda bread scones will pouf up nicely from the addition of baking soda, so be sure to allow them plenty of room on the baking sheet!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- All-purpose and Whole Wheat flours – you can use 100% all-purpose if you prefer with 2 tablespoons extra.
- Baking Soda
- Cream of Tartar
- Butter – I recommend Irish butter here, such as Kerrygold!
- Buttermilk – I love using buttermilk powder, see more for notes on buttermilk below.
- Raisins and/or Currants – another dried fruit, like cranberries, or chopped up larger fruits like apricots or dates could be used here if you like.
- Caraway seeds – these are great in this, but can be omitted if you don’t have any and don’t feel like a run to the store to get some.
- Orange – both the zest and the juice are used here.
How to store leftovers
Scones have a tendency to dry out quickly, so I recommend enjoying these within 1-2 days. Store your Irish Soda Bread Scones in an airtight container at room temperature. Freeze any beyond this amount of time. You can flash freeze on a baking sheet, then transfer to a zip-top bag. Microwave individual scones for 20 seconds or so to reheat, and enjoy!
Can I just use regular milk instead of buttermilk?
The key here is that you need it to be acidic so it interacts with the baking soda properly – this is why regular milk just won’t work in this recipe. Otherwise, your Irish Soda Bread Scones won’t rise properly.
Can I substitute anything for the buttermilk?
Yes! I have way too many thoughts on this. Whenever I have purchased buttermilk for specific recipes in the past, a lot of it has ended up wasted- it goes bad before I can think of another recipe to make with it! Someone should start selling it in those small school-lunch sized cartons. There you go, free business idea for you! I don’t know why this doesn’t exist.
Anyhoo. There ARE alternatives. Powdered buttermilk is my best friend – you just mix it with water and you’re good to go! You can also use plain yogurt in the same ratio, or plain Greek yogurt mixed with a little water or milk to make it thinner. Or, you can mix milk with some vinegar (1 cup milk to 1 tablespoon vinegar) to make your own “buttermilk.”
Can I make this into a whole loaf of soda bread?
While I haven’t personally tried it, here’s what I recommend if you want to experiment. If you want to make a loaf, form the dough into a large round-ish loaf, place in a cast-iron skillet, score the top and brush with the butter mixture, and bake for 30-40 minutes.
The parchment paper sheets I’m obsessed with
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Irish Soda Bread Scones (with raisins, orange, and caraway)
- 1 cup raisins and/or dried currants
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 1 tablespoon orange zest from about 1 orange
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice from about 1 orange
- 1 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus a little more to help you roll the dough balls
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons butter divided
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk see notes
- 1 egg
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the raisins (1 cup), caraway seeds (1 tablespoon), orange zest (1 tablespoon), and the orange juice (¼ cup) to a small bowl. Stir together and microwave for 20 seconds or so to warm up, then set aside for 5-10 minutes, giving it another stir now and then.
- Whisk together the all purpose flour (3 cups), the whole wheat flour (1 cup), sugar (¼ cup), baking soda (1 ½ teaspoons), cream of tartar (1 ½ teaspoons), and kosher salt (½ teaspoon), in a large bowl.
- Cut 5 tablespoons of the butter (cold straight from the fridge) into small pieces and add to the bowl. Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut butter into flour mixture, until it resembles coarse crumbs. Tip: If this seems difficult to do, you can use your hands to break the butter up or pulse the mixture in your food processor.
- Drain the liquid from the raisin mixture into another small bowl. Add the buttermilk (1 ¼ cups), egg (1), and drained raisin/zest/caraway seed mixture to the flour and butter mixture. Mix together until the dough just comes together. It may be crumbly and in multiple pieces- this is OK.
- Roll a portion of the dough into a ball about 2-inches in diameter (I used a disher/ice cream scoop to evenly measure each portion). Use a little bit of flour to help you roll the dough so it's not too sticky and so it's relatively smooth on the edges. Place place on parchment covered baking sheet, allowing for plenty of room for spreading (you will likely need to bake two batches).
- In a small bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and mix with the drained orange juice liquid. Cut a cross or x-shape into the top of each one (see notes), and brush with melted butter and orange juice mixture using a pastry brush.
- Bake at 400 for about 13 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
- Storing the scones: These will keep at room temperature for only 1-2 days in an airtight container. Store in the freezer for up to 6 months. Microwave for about 20 seconds to thaw when you would like to have one!
- A small sharp knife or lame can help cut the criss-cross shape into the scone. This can be a bit tricky, and frankly can be skipped if you just aren’t feeling it.
- Other dried fruits can be used as long as they are small in size – dried cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped dates, etc. Use what you have!
- For the buttermilk, I love powdered buttermilk for the convenience. It performs just the same as fresh. You can also use plain yogurt as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio (water down Greek yogurt a bit to thin it out with milk or water). Or, use homemade “buttermilk” by mixing 1 cup of whole milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar.
- This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools:
This post originally appeared on Bowl of Delicious on March 16, 2014. It has been republished with new photos, improved recipe instructions, and more pertinent information.