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.

TTFN
K

 

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