Sunday, 23 May 2010
I made the fougasse work this time. And just in time. This weekend is the "Go GF Challenge" - an invitation to non-gluten-intolerant people to try living gluten-free for a weekend, as part of Celiac Awareness Month. And my Love has agreed to take on this feat. (And considering what an avid bread-eater he is, yes, it is a feat.) So I wanted to make something good. Specifically, I wanted to make bread that is good.
And it is.
Is it perfect? Well, no.
Is it a little dry? Yes, but not terribly so.
Will I keep playing with it, and post a revision at some point? Yes, quite probably.
Which brings me to an interesting point, one I've been considering lately.
In trying to replicate traditional breads - a standard that has been set by stretchy, gluten-y dough - I think the true potential of some of my gluten-free baking is being compromised.
Gluten-free dough is wet. Almost always. It is not the sort of thing that holds a shape well. You can turn out a perfectly good, soft loaf of bread, but to get there, you probably had to spread batter into a pan. Wheat bread shapes easily. To replicate that shape with a GF dough (and even to make a dough, not a batter) I've found the finished product often lacks moisture. I'm sacrificing texture to carry on the tradition of appearance.
Alternatively, sometimes I compromise appearance to get a more flavourful flour blend. Sometimes I give up on whatever concept I had in mind, and instead focus on creating something unique. In fact, some of my best results have come from not trying to make any specific thing, like my Honey Sandwich Bread. It will definitely be very good in its own right, but the flavour and appearance won't necessarily resemble any particular type of wheat bread. And in many cases, that's fine.
However, I've written before about my thoughts on traditions. Food traditions. Bread traditions.
It's said that the slits are meant to resemble an ear of wheat, but the design arose more from practicality than pure symbolism: this originally was what bakers would make from leftover dough as their ovens cooled at the end of the day. The slits ensured that even as the oven temperature dropped, the bread would cook all the way through. Eventually it became popular in its own right, and is now a recognisably traditional French loaf.
Here it is freshly baked. Just as it should look.
But I know it could still taste better in some ways. How do I choose, though, between the way the bread of my heritage looks, and how the bread from my memory tastes? I don't think that would be fair, really. To me, the idea of bread - and what it means within a culture - is nearly as important to enjoyment as the taste.
Part of me knows that I am now a part of a different culture - the one of gluten-intolerant people coming together to create (and, of course, share) good food. And the internet is such a wonderful tool for uniting this relatively new community. Yet other parts of me still feel the pull of connection to something older, as if I'm carrying on a story that's been told for generations. Which do I bring to my table? I don't think it's a choice I could make. And honestly, I don't think I have to choose; I believe I can find a balance.
So I keep baking until I find that balance. It will just take time, patience, and a lot of loaves. Many may not be perfect, but they are certainly still good. Good enough to call my own.
So in the meantime...have some bread. Enjoy.
Fougasse with Herbes de Provence
100 g potato starch
50 g tapioca starch
25 g buckwheat flour
20 g sorghum flour
20 g Expandex modified tapioca flour
15 g brown rice flour
10 g chestnut flour
5 g soy flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pectin
1/2 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
100 mL (about 6 T) warm water
1 - 1 1/2 tsp honey
1/2 T yeast
Mix the flours, salt, pectin, herbs, and gums in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg and oil together. Add the honey and yeast to the warm water, and let it foam for a few minutes. Meanwhile, work about half the flour into the egg-oil mixture. Next add the yeast-water, followed by the rest of the flour. If the dough is too sticky, work in an additional tablespoon or two of tapioca flour.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking stone and set the dough on it. Lightly press out the dough with your hands, stretching it lightly outward as you press, and shaping it into an oval. Make 6-10 diagonal slits with a wet knife, and stretch the slits apart with wet fingers. Make the slits large enough that they will not close as the bread rises (see the picture of the unbaked loaf). Brush all exposed surfaces with olive oil. Set the baking stone in a cold oven and turn it immediately to 210 C/400 F. Bake until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes. Allow the bread to cool completely before eating.