Interesting breads are often off the menu for gluten-dodgers. In fact, those following a wheat-free diet are usually lucky to be offered so much as a gluten-free crumb in most places, much to the constant dismay of my gluten intolerant boyfriend. After sharing a wistful reverie with me, which placed focaccia centre-stage in his most missed breads, I was determined to brighten his plate and create a more exciting receptacle for a slathering of butter.
Gluten-free bread is the perfect choice for the idle or most puny of arm, as there’s no need to knead. Gluten-free dough is far too sticky to get that involved with and, besides, there would be little point. Kneading releases the gluten in wheat flour to make a stretchy, springy dough. As there’s no gluten to work here, kneading would only serve as a particularly messy way to combine the ingredients together.
I set to work trying to calculate a way to recreate that oily, soft dough, peppered with bubbles of air that is characteristic of a wheat flour focaccia. I decided that adding a little bicarbonate of soda to the batter, fizzed up with acid (in this case vinegar, but lemon juice will also do the job) might help the yeast along with creating a nice, fluffy loaf. It turned out rather well, if I do say so myself, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you.
You can top your focaccia with anything you like, from a simple scattering of sea salt, a few spikes of rosemary or a handful of sun-dried tomatoes and olives. I chose onions for mine, because I think they often get a rough deal. Onions seem forever doomed to play second fiddle to another, more starry ingredient, which is completely unjust, given how versatile and delicious they are. I used two small white onions and one red because that’s what I had in, but you can use whatever you like.
Hopefully, this focaccia will cheer the spirits of other gluten-dodgers as much as it did my boyfriend’s. Although I may have made a rod for my own back with this bake. After polishing off the last of the focaccia crumbs, he looked up and, with hopeful eyes, asked, 'Next time, can you try to make a baguette?'