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.


  1. TY for gluten-free goodies! Saving ur recipes in my GF cooking folders! Finally a foodie source I can trust - unlike some who fail to mention really impo things like what u discovered: VERY sticky & a batter/dough thats either too thick or too thin... a couple of my experiments w/ GF doughs failed. Tho GF (sweet) crepes I made w/ coconut flour were AWESOME.

    1. Thanks - I don't really know much about GF you can see by the presence of spelt flour in the breadsticks. The recipe originally called for something else, but I was using what I had. Millet flour would probably be good.

      GF baking is so different from what I'm used to that it's hard to think of it as bread sometimes. I'm also not used to having to account for allergies, so I wasn't as careful as I should have been about checking flours, although later research revealed that people with wheat allergies can usually eat spelt, just not those with gluten allergies. It's an entirely different world!