Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Afternoon (gluten-free) Bread

I had intended my next post to be on the second Thai Bodywork training weekend, but
since I got distracted baking bread, I thought why not share it with y'all?  I will still get to the Thai bodywork training, look for that update soon.  

Saturday afternoon.... it was brisk but sunny, I had just finished doing some yard work, and stock was simmering on the stove top.  It was cozy in the kitchen, and I was feeling a bit peckish.  What I wanted was some fresh warm bread smeared with butter.  In regards to snacks, homemade bread is about the worst for immediate satisfaction.  But it had been ages since I baked bread, and with the fall weather plus the aroma of the stock, quite soon I had all the ingredients assembled for gluten-free bread.    

As I've mention previously, I try to mostly have a gluten-free diet.  More on that another time.  (I will eventually get back to all these "another times.")  Gluten-free bread baking is quite similar to regular bread baking, maybe easier.  Certainly a little faster.  Of course the flours are different, but otherwise the ingredients are mostly the same.  

One addition in gluten-free bread is a binder such as xanthan gum to provide thickening in lieu of gluten.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and some other grains, that give baked goods structure and contribute to the chewy texture.  I've also found that many gluten-free bread recipes include a small amount of vinegar.  From what I've read, this helps give the rising dough a little more "oomp," provides a small amount of the sour flavor of wheat, and contributes to the dough elasticity.  

Technique-wise, there are a few differences for gluten-free bread baking.  Instead of kneading the dough to develop the gluten, the initial phase is basically to combine all the ingredients and to incorporate air into the dough.  Gluten-free dough is much wetter, more like a batter than a dough.  I find a dough scraper the best tool to get the mixture from bowl to pan.  There is only one rising, and then into the oven.  

Top-left, going clockwise - The dough is quite tacky, use lightly dampened fingers to spread.  Once the dough is relatively flat, sprinkle a little bit of oil on the surface, and use the back of a spoon to smooth the top.  Dough after it has risen.  Score the dough before baking.

It turned out the bread wasn't ready until dinnertime.  So much for my snack!  But it  made a delicious addition to our dinner, and I'll have it for weekday lunches.  Give this recipe a try.  It's pretty easy and straightforward, way better than the store-bought gluten-free breads (not even in the same league!), and less expensive than a box mix.  

Have a great week!


Our Daily Bread
from The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook by Mary Capone

Makes one 9"x5" loaf, 12 large dinner rolls, 8 panino (sub) rolls, or 2 boules

It took me years to create this recipe to honor the memory of the great Italian breads of my youth.  Like a loaf of Italian white bread, the texture is wonderful.  It's spongy, moist, and elastic, holding together nicely when toasted or even when dipped in sauce.  Adding a variety of ingredients to the basic loaf will allow you to keep this brand new.  Since this bread is without any preservatives, refrigerate any unused portion.  Freeze unused portions or turn them into Mary's Gluten-Free Bread crumbs.  

2 teaspoons sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2-1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
3/4 cup potato starch
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 eggs plus 3 egg whites
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water


1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease one loaf pan with olive oil or cooking spray.  For dinner rolls, lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  For panino rolls, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  For boule, lightly grease two 4" cake rounds.

2)  In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar and yeast.  Stir just until dissolved. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in warm area for 10 minutes.  Mixture will form a foam head about an inch.  If mixture does not foam, your yeast is not viable or your water was too hot or too cold.  At that point throw out your yeast mixture, and start again with fresh yeast.

3)  If using a food processor, add all dry ingredients:  flours, xanthan gum, and salt, directly to the processor bowl.  Blend in processor to mix flours together, about 3 minutes.  If using a heavy-duty stand mixer, add to the mixer bowl, and mix with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes until flours are well blended.  If using a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and whisk together until well combined.

4)  In another small bowl, whisk olive oil, eggs, and vinegar until blended.  Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix.  Add yeast mixture to dough and mix.

5)  The kneading or mixing process takes different amounts of time depending on the machine you use.  For mixing by hand, this process will take about 10 minutes.  For heavy-duty stand mixer, 5 minutes.  For those who use the food processor, it take s about 2-3 minutes for the dough to form.

6)  When is the dough formed?  When using a food processor dough will begin to mound up in the center around the blade.  When using a heavy-duty stand mixer it will build up in the paddle.  In either case, the dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl in ribbons or thick strands (almost like cotton candy threads) when ready.  Dough will be sticky and soft.

7)  Transfer dough into prepared baking pan or muffin tin.  For panino, shape batter into 3"x4" football-shaped rolls.  Smooth the top of the dough into desired shape with a spoon dipped in oil.  Place in warm area to rise for 40 minutes.  Dough will almost double in size.  If using a warming oven, place baking pan inside uncovered, making sure temperature is not greater than 80 degrees.  When finished rising, score and varnish top if desired.

8)  For bread loaves bake for 40-45 minutes, or 20-25 minutes for panino rolls, until a crust is a golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Note from Tara:  Since I had already brushed the top of the dough with olive oil, I did not brush the risen dough with anything else prior to baking.  If you prefer, brush with the one egg combined with the one tablespoon of water.  

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