The Mother of Invention
If I call this new gluten-free bread an Irish soda bread, traditionalists will snicker. Raisins are not traditional in a “true” Irish soda bread, you see. If a soda bread has raisins in it, it’s called Spotted Dog over yonder, ‘cross the pond in the Emerald Isle (or so I’m told). I never knew this, growing up on the white clapboard wilds of the Connecticut shore. I was blithely ignorant of this quaint canine moniker, despite a hefty streak of familial Irish blood. We ate more pierogi and kielbasa in our culturally eclectic house than Irish soda bread and tea. So my own first home baked Irish soda bread recipe had raisins in it.
And, actually, come to think of it, why the heck not?
When it comes to traditions, I’m the first to admit it… I am an upstart. I wiggle and chafe beneath constraint and “should” like an itchy Catholic school girl with pinching new shoes. I admire traditions. From afar. Well. At least in theory. In an abstract, don’t fence me in, symbolic way. The nod to meaning, and the message, is more interesting to me than formula. When it comes to formula, I usually prefer to wing it.
Which is why I enjoy gluten-free baking.
My skill set groove runs deep on the intuitive side. If a recipe calls for x amount of flour and I sense the dough is too wet, I’ll add more flour until the dough feels “right” to me. Experience helps. No doubt about it. The process of trial and error gives you a feel for gluten-free dough, an inkling about the muffin batter and how it might behave on any given day. Which varies, I hate to tell you.
So I pay attention to elements like humidity, and room temperature. Kitchen fairies. Weather.
Bread dough will behave differently on a hot and humid July day than it will on a windy, cold March afternoon. Your kitchen changes with the seasons, you know. So recipes may have to change a wee bit, too. The amount of milk or gluten-free flour may need to be adjusted. Tweaked a tiny bit toward wet or dry. Or sometimes both. Confusing as that may seem.
Baking gluten-free is more of an art than a science.
I recommend you tune in to your ingredients and learn how they behave. Learn how humidity affects flour- notice it’s dampness. Or dryness. Why?
Dry flours will soak up more liquid.
Damp flours are heavier, and may need less moisture.
A cool and drafty kitchen may require a longer rise time than a hot and sultry one.
A thin metal bread pan may bake the outside of a loaf faster than the inside can keep up.
Your oven may run a tad hotter than you imagined. Or lag behind and never quite pre-heat itself (do your gluten-free baked goods end up gummy in the center?).
Gluten-free baking requires your full attention. A dash of patience. An intimacy with your ingredients. A willingness to adjust. And most of all, developing an intuition you can trust.