In the past few years, gluten-free baked goods have improved immensely both in quality and accessibility. There are even 100% GF bakeries in some cities! And I know that for every person buying gluten-free foods, there are at least as many who are baking at home. I've noticed, though, that despite all the gluten-free cookies, cupcakes, and brownies, good yeast breads are still much harder to find.
At first I assumed people just missed the sweet things more - after all, cafes sell scones and muffins to go with the coffee, not dinner rolls. But as I met more gluten-intolerant people, I noticed something else: many people feel that gluten-free yeast bread is too hard to make. It is more complicated than pancakes, of course, but it really doesn't have to be difficult. At all.
Since bread is what I most enjoy baking, I decided to post a series of lessons on gluten-free yeast bread. If you have felt daunted by the idea of making your own bread, I hope you will give it a try! And even if you bake frequently, I hope some of these lessons will still be helpful.
When I was learning to bake gluten-free, all of the mixes and recipes I found made bread from batter rather than a dough. I missed the "hands-on" aspects of baking: kneading, shaping, stretching the dough. I also missed the simplicity: flour, water, salt, maybe a little sugar or honey or oil. Instead, the GF versions required eggs, and often milk, along with fussy flour blends and gums. I (fortunately) have no problem with milk or eggs; that wasn't the issue. I just wanted bread to feel simple again.
Well, this is that simple bread, made gluten-free. This bread is also one that just about anyone can enjoy: it is free of all the "Top 8" allergens, and is even safe for those of you with sensitivities to potatoes! And did I mention it's delicious?
|The taste and texture are nearly indistinguishable from whole-wheat bread. Seriously, look at that crumb!|
And it's not at all dry or crumbly - just a nice slice of bread.
If you are used to making batter-based bread, this recipe might seem surprising - especially some of the techniques involved. First of all, put away your mixer! This dough is stiff, so you won't need to beat it vigorously like batter (and it is not strong enough to use dough hooks). This is a completely hands-on process; all you need is a bowl or two, a spatula, and a little time. Like many traditional wheat breads, this bread starts out the night before you'll actually be baking it - this starter is often called a sponge, poolish, or preferment. It will give you the complex, yeasty flavours that make bread so yummy.
First, the ingredients for the sponge (poolish):
1/4 c buckwheat flour
1/4 c brown rice flour
1/4 c chickpea flour
2 T teff grains (not flour)
1 tsp yeast
140 mL water
Combine these ingredients in a large-ish bowl, cover, and ferment for 12-16 hours.
Other ingredients, for adding after the fermenting time:
1 c tapioca starch
2 T sweet rice flour
1 T psyllium husks
1/4 tsp Pomona's citrus pectin (see my "Ingredients" page for an explanation)
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
3/4 tsp double-acting baking powder
Water - 30-45 mL, as needed
2 tsp grapeseed oil or other light oil - - plus a little more for brushing top crust
2 tsp buckwheat honey** - - plus a little more for brushing crust (Buckwheat honey is a dark, strong honey; it is not like regular clover honey. You can usually find it at a health-food store.)
**If you are vegan, you might try substituting brown rice syrup or molasses for the honey - let me know how it goes!
After the sponge has fermented for 12-16 hours, whisk together the rest of the dry ingredients except the baking powder, and gradually work the dry mixture into the sponge. Start out with a soft spatula, but once most of the flour is worked in - when it looks like the picture below - you will need to use your hands.
|Knead by hand to incorporate all the flour. I know it looks|
more like cookie dough right now - trust me though, it works!
Sprinkle in a little water as you knead if you cannot get all the flour into the dough. The amount you might need will vary, mostly depending on how well the sponge absorbed its water, so be conservative here - the dough should not be sticky!
|Soon you will have a smooth, stiff dough.|
When the dough looks like this, knead in the grapeseed oil. Cover the dough and allow it to double - about 2 hours.
At the end of that rising period, knead in the honey (and a little more water if necessary). The dough will probably seem a little crumbly when you first touch it; it hasn't dried out, it's just because the network formed by the psyllium and pectin weakened as the dough rested. A few moments of kneading should make it feel cohesive and smooth again. Now press the dough into a flat rectangle on a piece of parchment. This is where the baking powder comes in: sprinkle it over the surface of the rectangle. You will be rolling the dough so the baking powder is on the inside.
|My weird, windowless kitchen makes everything look yellow.|
No. matter. what. I. do.
...Anyway. Spread the baking powder evenly, like so.
Now, you may be wondering what on earth I'm doing. After all, squashing the dough and then rolling it up is hardly a normal step in breadmaking!
Well, this technique actually serves two purposes in getting a better loaf of gluten-free bread:
1) Rolling up the baking powder in the dough will provide extra leavening. Adding it this late in the recipe means it is still very active when you finally shape the loaf - it will start forming tiny air pockets, helping to keep the bread from being dense! (I will go into this in more detail in an upcoming lesson.)
2) Rather than just squishing the dough into a loaf shape, the rolling method will "align" the crumb - creating a springier slice of bread and a more even crust.
|Starting with a short side, roll up |
the dough. Just like cinnamon rolls!
Once you have rolled up the dough, gently shape the ends so the spiral does not show. If you are putting the loaf into a pan, lift it in to the pan parchment and all. You can also bake it as a free-form loaf on the parchment if you have a baking stone (place on middle rack of oven). Brush the top of the loaf thoroughly with a mixture of grapeseed oil and honey. Drape a piece of plastic wrap over the loaf and allow it to rise for the final time, about an hour. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
After the loaf has risen, place the pan in the oven or carefully slide the loaf with parchment onto the baking stone. (If you are using a glass pan, lower the temperature to about 190ºC/380ºF once you have put the bread in.) Bake for one hour or so, until the top crust is nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Let it cool completely before slicing.
|Even though it's whole-grain, this bread is very soft and flexible.|
It's also especially yummy spread with honey.