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Easter Irish Easter Bread with the Chickpea Flour Cookbook

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(Roberta Deen) The soda bread is a welcome addition to the ham, herbed potatoes and asparagus with pavlova for dessert at Easter.   Using  The Chickpea Flour Cookbook by Camilla V. Saulsbury with “Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes to Power Every Meal of the Day” is a workable way to make the meal.
I was interested in the book because I have a sister with a diagnosis of celiac disease and because I was familiar with chickpea flour from catering a few Indian parties and liked the flavor. I had also always enjoyed the middle eastern crispy falafel patties served in pita bread. So it was an interesting venture to explore Ms. Saulsbury’s beautifully photographed book of intriguing and inventive recipes.
I chose the Irish Soda Breads with Everything Bagel Topping recipe because, again, I love both things: soda bread and everything bagels in their original forms. I found Camilla’s recipe to be creative, easy to follow and accompanied by great hints and variations on the theme.  I have included photos in this post (below the dishes) to illustrate each step as Camilla sets them out, carefully guiding the cook along the way. The resulting individual soda breads came out exactly as she pictured them (which is high praise from me).
As you can see in the picture, the breads came out beautifully browned with the colorful dried onion, dried garlic, poppy seed and sesame seed topping. Personally, I didn’t care for the final texture but the bread-starved celiacs at the table loved them.
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The combination of ham and eggs about the most popular on any modern menu, but they also star in Easter ritual dating back to ancient times. This year another classic, Mediterranean cuisine, dresses them both up smartly.

The holiday tradition of decorated eggs to celebrate Easter and the coming of spring is as universal, deep and vital  because it mythologizes that the whole universe created out of an egg. The old Latin proverb, “Omne vivum ex ovo” or “all life comes from an egg” expresses this perfectly.IMG_1279

 Ham is also considered a delicious Easter tradition in America and goes back to ancient times in terms of ritual.

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 It goes back to Noah’s great grandson, Tammuz, who became a mighty king after he was deified by his wife/mother as the “sun-god” Baal. She created a sunrise ceremony to worship him – better known these days as “Easter Sunrise services. She named herself up the goddess “Ishtar” or as it later became known, “Easter.”

When Tammuz was killed, Ishtar decreed a forty-day period to mark the anniversary of his death during which no meat was to be eaten. The event is now known as the source of Lent, which ends with a celebratory meal on thåt first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. (Yes, it is also the Passover holiday!) Ishtar proclaimed that because a pig killed Tammuz, a pig must be eaten on that Sunday. And so we have our wonderful ham centerpiece dish at Easter

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The Soda Bread
The dough mixture is truly a soda bread blend using the chickpea flour and flax seed meal for a texture that comes closer to corn bread than real soda bread but does include the classic buttermilk and baking soda for rising with the addition of eggs and a touch of honey for sweetness. It mixes up very quickly and easily into a soft and somewhat sticky dough. I recommend using a “granny fork” (a heavy duty, old-fashioned 4 tined mixing fork) to blend the dough efficiently. I used a 12-space regular-sized muffin tin and spray greased the cups.  The dough was easily portioned with a regular-sized ice-cream scoop filling the cups almost full (the dough rises but not dramatically so you fill the cups more than with cake or muffin mixtures). It took a bit longer in my oven to fully cook but I think that is due to the density and heaviness of the dough.  The topping can be a bit overwhelming if used with a heavy hand (mine – more is always better) but there are plenty of alternatives offered with the recipe.
 The flower
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The  egg, honey, buttermilk flour blend whisked together
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The resulting dough
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The filled muffin tin IMG_1150 The finished soda bread on white Wedgwood
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 I am looking forward to trying the Cranberry & Pepita Biscotti and the Graham Crackers to use for pie crusts for the gluten-free crowd. All of her categories are full of ideas that are appealing, well worth exploring and easily approachable for the less experienced and challenging enough for the experienced cook. The introduction and the Chickpea Flour Pantry contain a wealth of in-depth nutritional and dietary information as well.
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