Monday, August 6, 2012

Gluten-free Goodies

I have one word to describe gluten-free baking: sticky. I'm used to bread dough that is cohesive, kneadable, and shapable. Gluten-free dough is none of those things. It varied from batter to a thick, tacky dough.

I didn't take a lot of notes or pictures along the way, because I was too busy visiting and just plain forgot. Other than the bread I made, I only have one picture, and that only because Randy asked if I took pictures of the process. Whoops. I'll make up for it by posting about everything all together.

My GF flour stock: rice, spelt, soy, flax, and tapioca
First, the bread. When I was researching recipes, I looked for recipes that a) called for ingredients I had on hand and b) were simple. This was a bit frustrating, since most recipes call for “gluten-free flour mix” or something similar. That's just dandy if you want to go out and buy some pre-mixed combination. I did not. I had several types of gluten-free flour, and had to find a good mix or a recipe that specified flour types. To compound it, I also had to make recipes corn-free (the one mix I had all the ingredients for called for masa).

I settled on this recipe. I liked it because it was simple...and I had a lot of brown rice flour.
It looks neat, but not like bread dough!

As I watched the batter (I can't call it dough) mix, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it would rise and turn into anything resembling sandwich bread. The consistency was more like banana bread than any other bread I've ever made. I poured it into the loaf pan, for crying out loud!
Ready to rise

It did rise well, however – both times (more on that in a minute). I was surprised with how much volume it gained, since the batter was so loose – I wouldn't anticipate it being able to hold the gasses in like most yeast breads, or at least without something like a lot of beaten egg whites like angel food cake. Shows what I know!

The top does have a neat texture, though
The difference shows up when it's baked, as the loaf doesn't get the nice domed top that normal bread does. It stays pretty flat, and the final product is reminiscent of a sponge in appearance (thankfully, it tastes much better!) and has a light texture. Randy described it as “floofy”. I didn't try it, for some strange reason, but Randy and Megan both approved.
This is my first attempt - the top fell in a bit
Another difference from the bread I'm used to is my ability to gauge doneness. Usually I've got a pretty good eye, but not in this case. The recipe called for using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature. “Bah!” I said. “I'll be able to tell when it's done” I said. Then I cut into my loaf after it cooled and said “Blargh! That's not anywhere near done enough.” I started over, and used a thermometer. The results were much better. Weird how that works out...

One downfall – the recipe says to not store it in the fridge, or it will get soggy, and the shelf life is only three or four days. I know that part of that is the lack of preservatives and high sodium content of store breads, but part is also that I'm used to sourdough which naturally has a longer shelf life.

PART DEUX: Bread sticks
A little later into Megan's visit, I made bread sticks. Ok, I meant to make bread sticks, and made mini-baguettes instead. Impatience mixed with the stickiest dough ever seen on Earth got the best of me.
They're as tasty and healthy as they look

This was a bit more complicated recipe; not only did it call for multiple flours, the dough is much more difficult to work with. I have no pictures because I didn't think to take any, and if I had, I'd have had to wash my hands even more than I did to destickify.

The recipe is multi-purpose – make two baguettes, nine mini-baguettes, or 18 bread sticks. I ended up with 10 mini-baguettes, even though I was aiming for bread sticks. It's completely my fault, too. The recipe called for putting the dough in a gallon Ziploc bag, then cutting the corner to squeeze the bread sticks out (again – bread dough you squeeze like pastry? Weird...)

Again, these are more textured than I'm used to; the flax meal helped.
The problem was that I got frustrated putting the dough in the quart-sized Ziploc and decided that rather than go through the process twice, I'd just force it all to fit. That didn't work out well – I should have just done two batches. The frustration that resulted from my efforts to force the dough to submit led me to cut too large of a hole in the corner of the bag. Since I was committed and NOT going to start over, I just rolled with the giant bread stick idea.

I really should have paid attention to the recipe when it told me to grease any dough I was going to handle, since it wouldn't work otherwise. They weren't lying. This stuff is sticky and uncooperative. It's also delicious. I started with this recipe but made some changes based on the flours I had on hand.

As far as I can tell, gluten-free flours can be interchanged with no difference in consistency, just flavor. I've only successfully made four gluten-free recipes, though, so I could be completely wrong.

And now, the recipes! Hooray!

1 ¾ cups warm water
1 packet (2 ¼ t) yeast\2 ½ cups brown rice flour*
2/3 cup corn starch
2/3 cup dry milk powder
1 T xantham gum
1 t salt
2 T vegetable oil
2 eggs

Combine water and yeast in a small bowl to proof
Whisk the dry ingredients together
Add remaining ingredients
Using an electric mixer, mix dough on med-high for five minutes (use paddle attachment of stand mixer)
Lightly grease a 9”x5” loaf pan and pour the batter in, spreading evenly.
Cover the dough lightly with greased foil or plastic wrap and let rise for one hour or until dough is just over the top of the loaf pan.
Preheat oven to 350
Bake for 55 minutes or until internal temperature is between 208-211 degrees
Cool on a wire rack.

*Every gluten-free blog, recipe, and advice column I read stressed that when measuring GF ingredients, you have to use a spoon to fill the measuring cup, then level it with a straight edge (back of a butter knife). Apparently, scooping the flours directly with the measuring cup can compact them too much and mess up the recipe.

1½ Cups Cornstarch
½ Cup Spelt Flour
2¼ Cups White Rice Flour
¼ Cup Soy Flour
¼ Cup Flaxseed Meal
1½ Tablespoons Xanthan Gum
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Package Active Dry Yeast
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Honey
1/3 Olive Oil
2 Eggs
1 Egg White
1¾ Cups Warm Water (110-115°F)
  (9) mini baguettes (½ Cup of dough each), or
  (2) baguettes (half of dough per baguette), or
  (18) bread sticks (¼ Cup dough each)
Place cornstarch, flours, flaxseed meal, Xanthan gum, salt, garlic powder and yeast in mixing bowl; mix. Add, vinegar, sugar, honey, oil, eggs, egg white and lastly the warm water; mix (slowly). Increase speed to high and beat for 4 minutes.

Coat two cookie sheets with cooking spray.

Work with the amount of dough necessary to form a single baguette, mini-baguette, or bread stick - whichever you prefer (half the dough, ½ cup dough, or ¼ cup dough) - at once.

Place dough on cookie sheet (allow room for the baguettes or bread sticks to expand as they rise).
Spray all exposed batter generously with cooking spray (this will help you form the baguettes - without cooking spray, dough will be sticky and extremely difficult, if not impossible, to work with).

With hands, form dough into long thin ropes, with thickness of shape depending on which variation you are making. Repeat as necessary making enough loaves to use all your dough. For mini baguettes and bread sticks, putting the dough in a gallon bag and snipping the corner can help ensure consistency in size.

Sprinkle tops of baguettes with salt and add any other desired topping (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc). Allow to sit in a warm, dry location (free of drafts) covered loosely with plastic wrap for 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375° and bake (middle rack of oven):  
  35 minutes for baguettes, or
  25 minutes for mini baguettes, or
  20 minutes for bread sticks.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I Am the Lorax, I Speak For the Trees

I wish you would believe I drew this, but you won't and I didn't.

Randy's sister is in town for the week – hi, Megan! - so I neglected to write the regular Monday post, but that doesn't mean I've been slacking. Next week will be a gluten-free bonanza – bread, muffins, and bread sticks. Maybe even drinks served in hollowed-out pineapples. It's been a good week.
I made gluten-free bread - quite the different experience
Then these GF blueberry muffins, which were delicious!
Then we had pineapple drinks, and I coincidentally forgot to take pictures of the GF bread sticks. 

I did want to make sure I didn't totally skip all posts this week, so here's the regular Thursday garden update.

Baby bean!
It's a week for small successes. Our beans are finally starting to show up. We had tons of blossoms, but no beans showed up. I was getting discouraged, but then a few tiny little beanlettes showed up. These things are everywhere; I'm looking forward to eating them. I'm even more excited because we'll probably have enough to make pickled green beans, which I love.

The pumpkins are still winning the production race – there are now well over a dozen pumpkins started...on just one plant. We have three. Time to start looking up pumpkin recipes!

Itty-bitty pumpkins!
Future pickle!
The cucumber plant has decided to join the party, and has several small cucumbers on it, with more blooms coming out every day.

Similarly, the squash has eight or so small squashes growing.

[insert witty caption here]
Even the poor broccoli and cauliflower plants – the plants that Zoey helpfully weeded a week ago – are still alive. Six of the original eight, anyway. Most of them are a bit beat-up and rough around the edges, but alive is alive! 
The photographer should learn not to cast shadows like that...