I made soda bread with cashew nut milk owing to unfortunately developing some sort of intolerance to the fresh yeast I was using to make our bread! This might prove an interesting story for anyone who, like me, suffers with an immune system with a mind of its own.
When we went into lockdown here in Italy in March I started baking my own bread to avoid going to the supermarket more than was absolutely necessary. I couldn’t get dried yeast, only fresh yeast in cubes. Throughout lockdown and beyond there has been a plentiful supply of this yeast thank goodness. I shudder to think how many loaves I have made since then as I bake every other day. I expect I could work it out, but let’s just say I have made a lot of loaves of bread in the eight months since. As well as cookies and desserts like apple crumble and rice pudding!
Auto Immune Problems
This is the point to mention that I suffer from a range of auto immune diseases. Going hand in hand with those is a whole list of allergies and intolerances including to a range of foods.
A Digestive Problem That Wouldn’t Improve
I had some digestive problems in early March this year when I was really ill for seven weeks with what may, or may not have been COVID. The digestive issues, mainly nausea, diarrhoea and weight loss, persisted and after several months my doctor sent me for a range of tests. Not unreasonably, the assumption was that the problems were connected to my auto immune conditions and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Given the difficult situation with the pandemic. the tests had long spaces between them and took time. Early tests looked at my main organs, in particular my liver and pancreas. Nothing negative came back from them thank goodness.
Eventually, tests suggested an infection might be the cause of my problems and I was put on a course of antibiotics which helped with the nausea. But when I finished the course the main digestive symptoms came back so I was given a second dose of antibiotics.
The antibiotics made a huge difference to how I felt generally, a big improvement, but the main symptom of diarrhoea remained. So more tests.
The doctor suggested perhaps it was my medication I was taking for my various conditions that could be causing the problem. But that didn’t make any sense to me as I only started taking them in September and the digestive problems went back to March. By this stage I wasn’t ruling out anything, however.
Then one test result suggested I wasn’t digesting starch so I was tested for celiac disease, another auto immune condition that did actually fit my symptoms. I began to think that maybe we had found the answer. But guess what? That result came back negative.
At this point, I had lost a total of 10 kilos (about 20 pounds) and the doctor and I were stumped. So, it was time for a rethink. Don’t get me wrong. With my metabolism, losing all that weight would normally be a cause for celebration. But not when you are not actually dieting and the weight loss is unintentional. Then it is actually quite unnerving!
A good friend of mine suggested I look at food as a source for the problem, in particular wheat. I have such a restricted diet anyway that I was reluctant to exclude much more, wheat is on my general ‘watch list’ anyway. But my friend’s argument made a lot of sense.
I discussed it with my Mum who has gone through the ups of downs of my illness and allergies over th years. She said she thought I should be more thorough, as I have done in the past. This is not my first food testing session and I doubt it will be my last. We went back to when I first got sick with the digestive problems in March. We looked at what I had done differently since. Well, the obvious thing was that I was doing more home cooking and home baking because of the lockdown. So we came up with a list of foods that I was eating more off because of lockdown, such as wheat (and chocolate LOL). And those that I had introduced newly to my diet through the home cooking/baking such as fresh yeast, cashew nut milk and a brand of vegetable stock.
The easiest thing on the list to ‘test’ was the fresh yeast – simply by not eating the bread I was baking. I made sure I was still eating the flour I used to make the bread so it was literally the yeast that was excluded. Much to my utter amazement there was a huge improvement within 24 hours. And one week later with no yeast and my problem is largely resolved! I can’t tell you how lucky it is to find the cause of a problem so quickly. Anyone who has had to go through an elimination diet and food testing will understand the relief of a quick resolution.
At some point over the last few months I had developed an intolerance to fresh yeast. This was presumably owing to a combination of circumstances. The virus, getting a bowel infection and my immune system doing its usual thing of ‘throwing its toys out of the pram’. Note I say ‘fresh yeast’ as yet I am unsure about yeast in general. More testing with my diet is required to be sure. With my condition it is an ongoing process! I have fingers crossed I will be okay with Marmite (yeast extract). I already had to give up my lovely Italian coffee a few months ago – enough already!
Soda Bread With Cashew Nut Milk
All of this leads me to the story about how I made soda bread with cashew nut milk. In an earlier blog I talked about how I had discovered the wonders of cashew nut milk as a viable alternative to ordinary milk. I had to think outside the box. I can’t take tolerate soya, almond or oat milk (along with a long list of other food items). Since I wrote that blog, cashew nut milk has been a wonderful contribution to my cooking.
I had to look at how I was going to make bread without yeast. Another friend suggested I make soda bread. Traditionally, soda bread is made with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) instead of yeast, flour, salt and buttermilk.
Buttermilk – Ummm?
Well I immediately met a hitch with buttermilk. I wasn’t sure I could actually tolerate it! But I also didn’t have a clue where you could buy it here in rural Italy. Luckily I found a great recipe for soda bread without using buttermilk.
Yay! Cashew Nut Milk
The author suggested using oat milk, soya milk, almond milk (none of which I can tolerate) as substitutes for buttermilk. But the list also included cashew nut milk – hooray!
The recipe requires a tablespoon of lemon juice, white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. This gives the sodium bicarbonate something to work with. Luckily, apple vinegar was easy to find.
I followed the recipe exactly apart from leaving out the oats. I confess it is my sort of idea of cooking. Just throw all the ingredients in a bowl together and mix it. Much to my delight, it was easy, the bread came out just it should and tastes delicious. It also makes fabulous toast.
As I write my house is full of the smell of baking. I am making ordinary bread for Barnet Boy and soda bread for me. Separate bowls and utensils of course! More food testing to be done but what a result after all the months of illness.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!