I just made some gluten-free soda farls…

and thought I should do some jotting.

Mother put me up to this the other day, mentioning that she now exclusively eats her own home-made soda farls instead of buying loaves that she can’t finish on her own. It dawned on me that I’d never made soda farls myself, ever. So I went on a quest for a gluten-free version, motivated in part by the imminent demise of my bread machine, which still bakes, but no longer heats during the proving stages. I found some good recipes, among them Living Wheat-lessly, but was hampered by the rundown of the store cupboards before we go off to Sweden on Sunday. Finally desperation drove me to knock something together yesterday lunchtime, when we ran out of bread of all varieties. Hence the following.

The first lot were white, the second “wholewheat” – not really wholewheat, obviously, otherwise I would be in a very bad way atm, but fake gluten-free whole-fibre-ish.

Anyhoo, the flour blend for the first batch was:

8oz Rice Flour
8oz Tapioca Flour
8oz Soy Flour

Sorry about the Imperial units, but this was left over from a blend in a US book, so it’s either cups or ounces I’m afraid. And I have learned to my cost (my nummy, nummy cost) that a US cup has nothing whatsoever in common with my coffee mug.

Mix 10.5 oz from this flour blend with 3/4 tsp baking powder, pinch cream of Tartar, and 1/2 tsp salt.
Rub in 3 tbsp cold butter (I use Stork).
Add 1 tbsp sugar (but see next recipe), mix and put a well in the middle.

In another large bowl, beat 2 eggs, mix in 8 fl oz natural yogurt, and add 1/2 tsp baking soda, whisking like mad.

AT THIS POINT YOU NEED TO START MOVING LIKE BUGGERY. The yogurt and baking soda mixture will start fizzing, and you need to combine it with the flour as if the very hounds of Hell were baying at your heels for the lickings.

It will be more like a batter than a bread dough, so just pour it into a preheated griddle pan (I used a wok – a frying pan would do: as long as it’s heavy-based and has a lid, it doesn’t matter). No oil, no flouring. Keep an eye on it, it should be mostly cooked through in 20mins, but flip it over anyway to finish cooking through. Now, I don’t know if this makes any difference, but it’s what my tribe does: take it out and wrap it in a dishtowel until it’s cool.

It was a bit rubbery – no doubt because I put 2 eggs in instead of one – and too sweet for my liking, although I would consider it as a basis for a fruit soda. There it is on the left – with my home-made blackberry jam in the background, made from berries picked by the Mighty Offspring himself, awww…

The second lot uses this flour blend:

8oz Rice Flour
8oz Tapioca Flour
8oz Quinoa Flour (because I was out of Soy, hah! and quinoa is also a high-protein flour)

The same method – 10.5 oz flour blend with 3/4 tsp baking powder, pinch cream of Tartar, and 1/2 tsp salt, rub in 3 tbsp butter. NO sugar, but instead add a goodly fistful of toasted soya bran, available from Holland & Barrett.

Prepare buttermilk by mixing 8 fl oz milk with 1 tbsp vinegar, then mix in 1 – not 2 – beaten egg, 1/2 tsp baking soda: this will also fizz, but a little slower. You still need to get a wriggle on.

This mix isn’t as liquid, and could probably be formed. I didn’t, though – straight into the preheated wok and away.

It was a little crumbly when I tried to cut it when still warm, but turned lofty and elastic when cold, just like it should be. The lack of sugar was perfect – it was just the right degree of tangy and savoury. The slight bitterness of the quinoa also works well for this faux wheaten: soy flour would be just a bit too soft and waxy. It’s not overly wholewheaty, more like the soft, spongy Ormo wheaten loaves than the nutty bricks of my childhood, but I was going easy on the soya bran for this experiment. Next time, though…

You’ll notice neither recipe uses xanthan gum, guar gum, or powdered milk, which would be quite usual in GF baking: they provide the rubbery, gluey sponginess of, well, gluten. It’s not actually essential that soda bread has this sponginess, though; it doesn’t have that character even when made with wheat. But I did wonder why the second farl wasn’t as crumbly as I’d expect. The first obviously got its extreme sponginess from the accidental egg overdose, but that wasn’t the case with the second. Then I remembered: milk + vinegar + heat = casein plastic!


The Staff of Life

Or not, as the case may be. If you can’t eat wheat, does that mean you’re dead?

A departure from crafting. But not from creating…??

I can’t eat wheat. I’m not coeliac, it’s just IBS, but I do often eat gluten-free products for coeliacs. However, I’m violently allergic (projectile vomiting, as opposed to the flu-ey symptoms I get from wheat) to buckwheat, a major coeliac staple, especially in brown, high fibre and multigrain baked goods. For some reason, buckwheat is very occasionally listed by other names, including its name in other languages. I recently had a horrific experience thanks to Doves Farm’s Plain White Flour, which lists buckwheat as ‘sarrasin’ – the French word. Oddly, they call it buckwheat on the Brown Bread Flour. Thanks, Doves Farm! Also, as I learned to my cost – or rather my mum’s cost, since she’d bought the stuff in advance of my visiting – these days, not all coeliac foods are wheat-free: those clever clever food scientists have worked out how to remove the gluten from wheat, which can then be used to make gluten-free foods! Great for the coeliacs, not great at all for me. And tbh, the stuff looked as bad as the wheat- and gluten-free food.

Nowadays it’s a lot better for me. At least now I can buy gluten-free food in supermarkets, rather than having to trek into the city centre to go to the big Boots, and food labels now list wheat in the short health warning section of the label. Of course they also plaster the shelves with Look! Gluten Free! signs. My poor mother (who ought to know better, she’s a Trinity graduate, ffs) has been robbed blind buying special gluten-free apples, chicken, lettuce and sellotape for my visits. Recently though, I’ve been getting fed up with the stodgy fare available to me, happy as I am that it’s there. But sometimes I want soda bread. Or a sandwich bread that doesn’t need to be toasted (although I sound a rousing hurrah for Sainsbury’s part-baked baguette). And I’ve never found anything, buckwheat-filled or not, that substitutes for the dense nutty brick that is the Irish Wheaten Soda. Thing is, I’m not a great baker, and I don’t enjoy yeast baking. Stovetop cooking generally I’m fine at, and I’ve mastered roasts now that I have people to cook for, but the results from the oven are disappointing. My cakes, buns and breads don’t rise well, although my pastry and biscuits are surprisingly good considering these are supposed to be harder to make. I used to have a very basic bread machine, but results were not great. When the element died, I didn’t bother replacing it.

However, I’ve heard great things about the Panasonic bread machines, and there are now dedicated cookery books for gluten-free bread machine baking. I ummed and ahhed for a while over the price – £70+ – and then LIDL had a Bifinett bread machine on offer for only £25 which appeared to be more or less identical to the Panasonic in function. So I dispatched Tiny Husband to purchase one, and yesterday I gave it a trial run using Dove’s Farm White Bread Flour (“sarrasin”-free!) and quick acting yeast, and the basic bread-making programme No. 1 as per the recipe for breadmakers on the Dove’s Farm pack, selecting a medium-coloured finish.

The result was fabulous. A squarish well-risen, easily-cut loaf, moist, with a defined but not overly chewy or crispy crust. The centre is not dissimilar in appearance to the sliced pan loaves of my Irish childhood, Knutty Krust and so forth, with medium-sized air bubbles, but with a firmer texture closer to that of British pans (KK slices were sadly limp). It ate well straight from the oven, cooled with butter and with butter and jam, and toasted and buttered this morning. The butter sank in nicely instead of melting into a puddle on top to splatter my work blouse minutes before I have to lasso the baby and run out the door. A little crusty this evening, but I had left it out on the counter, uncovered, since I took it out of the machine.

I’m really impressed. Especially so since the programme I used wasn’t even the gluten-free programme! The only thing that’s inferior to the Panasonic machines is that there’s no facility to add fruit or nuts automatically during baking, though you can set it to beep at the right time. However, this feature has only been present in the last two Panasonic models anyway. I’m looking forward to trying out other recipes – maybe even trying the pasta programme!

Fibre crafts wise, Cillian’s Trellis cardi is finally done, blocked and sewn, and is only sans buttons. It’ll need a re-block. Boobie #2 of the Silk Slip is almost done as well.



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