Gluten Free Fennel Seed & Pancetta Damper

I must confess, I’m not a natural baker. I’d really like to be, but I’m terminally guilty of going off-piste with recipes – and in baking, that’s a real no-no!

With Silvia Colloca’s latest book, Love, Laugh, Bake! however, I didn’t have as much of a problem – in part because the recipes are actually so short and simple, there isn’t much room for manoevre. Which, if you’re like me, is a very good thing!

I have several friends who prefer to eat gluten free, butwho  love the smell and taste of bread, which is why I wanted to share this recipe with you. As the sun starts to come out, and the evenings are longer, there’s something wonderful about bringing out a loaf of freshly-cooked bread to share.

Gluten Free Fennel Seed & Pancetta Damper

What is damper if not a close relative of Irish soda bread? We may call it different names, but the principle is the same: a quick dough, needing no rising time, that produces a soft bread best eaten warm. The addition of fennel seeds and pancetta turns this otherwise humble bread into a savoury sensation you will not want to miss.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 125 g smoked pancetta, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 400 g gluten-free self-raising flour
  • 125 g (½ cup) thick Greek yoghurt
  • 200 ml water, plus extra for brushing 2 teaspoons salt


Preheat your oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the pancetta and fennel seeds and cook over medium–low heat for 5–8 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Place the flour, yoghurt, water, salt, pancetta mixture and the remaining olive oil in a large bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Shape into a ball.

Place on the prepared tray, then brush the top with a little water and sprinkle with the extra fennel seeds. Using a sharp knife or razor, score the top into eight wedges, then bake for 25–30 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

This bread is best eaten on the day it’s baked.

 Recipe extracted from Love, Laugh, Bake by Silvia Colloca, Macmillan Publishing, RRP $49.99.