Test: 5MD gluten-free White
I'm seeing more people, for various reasons, take up gluten-free (GF) eating. I've always been hesitant about trying GF loaves because of head-scratching over the various gums needed to replace the gluten that's not there due to no wheat being used.
In the latest edition of the "Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" series, there's a new chapter on GF baking. Based on how much I like the Francois/Hertzberg techniques in general, I thought I'd give this one a try.
First off, the formula I calculated for the gluten-free crusty boule, based on the weights presented in the book:
Brown rice flour 24.2
Tapioca flour 58.3
Potato flour 17.4
Xanthan gum* 2.3
* - And what, exactly, is xanthan gum? Bob's Red Mill has the most accessible definition:
Xanthan Gum is a plant-based thickening and stabilizing agent. It is named for the bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris, which plays a crucial role in this description. Technically speaking, xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, which is just a fancy way to say "a string of multiple sugars." To create xanthan gum, the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium is allowed to ferment on a sugar. The result is a gel that is then dried and milled to create the powder substance.
I tried an 800 gram (28.2 ounce) boule as a test.
Brown rice flour 73.9
Tapioca flour 177.8
Potato flour 53.1
Xantham gum 6.9
* - I used canola oil.
Here's how it looked post-mix ....
.... and post-two-hour proof ....
"Dough", in the conventional sense, it ain't - think more a dense, almost marshmallowy batter instead of a dough.
Here's what it looked like, shaped on parchment, ready for a one-hour proof (you mould it more like clay - or dense meringue - instead of stretch and form like regular wheat-based dough):
Into a preheated 450 degree oven onto a baking stone for 45 minutes, and here's what came out:
It had the feel of a dense meringue, but still crusty. The most unusual aspect was that instead of a wheaty baked-bread smell, you can smell more of a nutty - almost peanut buttery or roasted peanut - scent. Different, but still pleasant.
After fully cooled, here's what the crumb looked like:
The crumb is VERY soft and delicate, almost a cross between cake and marshmallow. The taste was a touch salty, but that's likely because I used a bit more salt than in most of my formulas. Also, the more delicate flavour of the different flours used here wouldn't mask the taste.
It's not a white wheat-flour boule, by any means, but compared to some frozen GF products I've seen, it's not a bad bread-esque experience. Would I eat it day to day? Occasionally, now that I'm not scared about making it anymore. And if I couldn't eat wheat bread ever again? It would be OK.
If you bake wheat bread, and have loved ones or friends who can't eat gluten, this one is worth a try and yields a reasonably good result. Just remember this is a bit of an analogue, not a replica, of bread.
I'd love to hear from anyone else who's tried this, especially re: how it stands up to freezing and toasting.