Gluten-Free Bread, Draft 1 (originally published August 9th, 2011)

This post was originally published on my personal blog, and copied here.

Being a total bread fiend, going gluten free freaked me out.  One of my friends even asked me how I was going to deal with not being able to bake bread anymore (that’s how important it is to me)!  Naturally bread baking was something I had to figure out.  Early.  Immediately.  Especially after the weekend I had.  No more processed GF food for me, thank you.  I’d much rather bake my own.

Well, I did it.

First try, actually.  But I can’t take most of the credit, because I followed the gum-less and gluten-free baking directions on Gluten Free Girl.  Specifically to a) use a 70/30 ratio of whole grain to starch, b) let your GF bread dough texture be thin, c) to add some fat to help make the texture softer, d) keep your bread small, like rolls, and e) use a slurry of flax seed in place of Xanthan gum.  Using these principles, I adapted my Basic Bread recipe.  I was, frankly, scared to death.  But I’m lucky.  Smarter, more patient folk have gone before me.  I figured if I was sitting around here feeling sorry for myself yesterday and trying to heal I needed to do something to keep myself occupied (since apparently every construction worker within a five mile radius was working in my neighborhood – between the buzz saws and the roofing nail guns, there was no way I’d get any sleep).

This is a work in progress bread, nonetheless.  I know I used too much teff flour in my blend.  It’s got a bit of an aftertaste that’s pleasant but strong.  I’ll probably use more amaranth and sorghum next time (I adore all these ancient names though and it feels a bit romantic to be working with them!).  And I just now realized I forgot to add the salt entirely (I’ve got it in the recipe because I think it benefits from just a bit, but you may not need as much as I’ve indicated, since it took me eating two rolls before I realized it).  But the texture?  It’s bread.  Not gluten-free bread.  Not that weird too-chewy too-sweet rice-based stuff.  Real bread.  And it’s good.  I know this is a kind of a crappy photo (what’s new?  even with my good camera I’m no food photographer, unfortunately!), but even so you can see all the nooks and crannies in this bread!

Gluten free bread that actually has a breadlike texture!

A word about my flour mix, before I get into the recipe.  At the suggestion of Gluten Free Girl (whose site is currently my favorite out there), I made my own mix of several whole grain flours.  You can read more about her 70/30 ratio at the link above.  It involves using a scale.  I only have an ancient mechanical one (I think we’ll finally have to bite the bullet and get a good digital scale now) but I basically just threw in a half a pound of one flour, a half a pound of another, a quarter of a pound of this, and a quarter of a pound of that.  I think my whole grain mix was mostly teff and amaranth, but it also used sorghum and brown rice.  For starch, I used all arrowroot.  It’s supposed to be the easiest starch to digest, and flavorless.  I will probably experiment with other starches in the future but for the time being it seems to have done a nice job.  I whisked together all my flours and my starch until the mixture looked homogenous, and stored it in a large sealable container.  They’re considerably darker than all-purpose flour and have an incredible smell.  Wheat flour can’t compare.  If for some reason my experiment turns up empty and I can go back to eating wheat, I still want to bake with this mix.  That’s how beautiful it is.

Elisa’s Gluten Free Bread (adapted from my Basic Bread recipe, with a ton of guidance from the GlutenFreeGirl website)

  • 2 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed (you can buy flax seed meal at Trader Joe’s and most health food stores), steeped for 5-10 minutes in 2 tbsp boiling-hot water
  • 5-6 cups 70/30 gluten free flour mix (see above)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Several tbsp of seeds, if desired (see my Fluffy Grain Bread for notes), or nuts, raisins, or herbs

If you haven’t baked bread before, you might want to check out my Basic Bread Recipe for directions and notes.  I have a lot!

In a large bowl or your stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, and water.  Let this mixture sit for 5 minutes to “proof”.  You’re waking up the yeast and they’ll “bloom” by coming to the surface and creating little bubbles.   This is what you need to see in order to go on to the next step.

Once the whole surface of your bowl is covered in yeasty bubbles, start adding your flour.  Add a cup at a time and mix in.  Something a few blogs said is that gluten free flours clump more easily if you put them all in together, so mix well and mix often.  Halfway through the process, add your salt, your slurry, your egg, and your olive oil.  If you’re adding seeds or nuts or raisins or herbs, do it now.  I added some millet and amaranth seeds to about half of my dough and I loved the crunch.

Continue to add your flour until your bread dough is still quite thin.  You almost want a batter, not so much a bread dough.  I added 5 cups of flour to mine.  I have a suspicion that 5 1/2 cups would be better, but I can’t confirm it since this was my first batch (I know, bad blogger, posting without trying another batch… but it was so worth sharing!).  If you try this, please let me know.  I think that the trick is finding that balance between having a dough that’s too thin that it can’t hold together in a breadlike structure and having a dough that’s too thick and dense.

Cover and put in a warm place for an hour before dishing out into greased muffin tins (or if your bread is thick enough, making rolls).  Let rise for 20-25 more minutes.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your rolls).  Enjoy.

Your bread will have a gorgeous bready texture.  No, really, it’s true.  It tastes yeasty and is soft and breadlike.  It doesn’t brown as easily as regular bread (but if you brush it wish an egg wash it’ll be prettier) and it doesn’t puff quite as much as a regular bread loaf (although I do think that part of my experience was that I didn’t add quite enough flour, so the rolls weren’t able to build on themselves, structurally).  They’re still bread.  Real bread.  But gluten free.  And the best part is that it doesn’t have anything in it that you didn’t put there.  Don’t do eggs?  Use an egg subsitute.  Don’t like potato, rice, or garbanzo bean flour?  They’re in almost every commercial GF product.  Don’t use them at home if you don’t want to!  Don’t do salt?  Leave it out (I accidentally did!).  Need to stay away from sugar?  The sugar in this recipe is there to feed the yeast, so your rolls won’t rise quite as much.  But you can definitely leave it out without any ill effects.  Obviously I’m just scraping the surface of GF baking.  But this was an awfully nice start!!!

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