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First gluten-free bread

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

First gluten-free bread

This past week, I've been enjoying my lunchtime sandwiches made with my first-ever gluten free bread.  It's been a learning experience, in a good way.  The flavor is pleasant, albeit not the least bit wheaty.  I think I'd like it better without the buckwheat flour but that's purely a personal taste issue.  The crumb is moist and slightly spongy, with just the faintest hint of grittiness.  The texture is fairly close-grained, with plenty of small bubbles of fairly uniform size.

Perhaps I should back up a bit.  My sudden interest in gluten free bread has nothing to do with a personal health issue.  Rather, I've been asked to teach a class on gluten free baking at CCKC and have, somewhat grudgingly, agreed to do so.  Grudging, because so much of the present gluten free craze is driven by faddish self-diagnoses and probably has no medical basis.  Only somewhat, because I'm perfectly willing to help people who truly suffer from celiac disease and want to develop baking skills and prepare safe foods.

So, here I am, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't and, more importantly, why.  This first bake is a case in point.  From my reading here on TFL (thank you for your shared experiences and wisdom!) and from other sources, it seems that guar and xanthan gums aren't well-tolerated by some celiac sufferers.  Chia and flax seeds offer some binding power for gluten free breads and certainly bring additional nutritional punch.  However their ability to form stable gels isn't always enough to support the demands of a sandwich style loaf.  Eggs can be used in some baked goods but there are many who have egg allergies, too.  The new binder on the gluten free block is psyllium husks.  It provides enough gas-capturing capability with a heat-stable gel to produce some reasonably good breads.

You may have already encountered psyllium, without even knowing it, in the form of a laxative.  Don't panic!  Even though I've eaten this bread made with psyllium all week long, it hasn't caused any, um, problems.  Psyllium's ability to absorb as much as 20 times its weight in water, forming a firm gel, is what makes it so effective in both laxatives and breads.  Having learned that, and a number of other facts, I searched for recipes that featured psyllium husk as the binder, rather than gums.  Turns out there aren't nearly as many out there on the web, yet.  The one I eventually selected to experiment with is from The World of Gluten-Free Bread blog.  One factor in my decision to use this recipe was that it seemed to be in the sweet spot for hydration levels and flavor in Juergen's experiments with different flours and ratios (see his Google doc here).

The recipe calls for a mix of sorghum, millet and buckwheat flours.  While shopping, I found the sorghum and buckwheat flours but not the millet flour.  Having seen a number of recipes that included brown rice flour, I took a chance on substituting that for the millet flour.  The other substitution that I made was potato flour in place of the potato starch that the recipe calls for. Luckily, things turned out quite well in spite of those two substitutions. 

The dough requires a different process than a typical wheat bread.  The first step is to mix the water and psyllium husk until a gel forms, perhaps 2-3 minutes.  Then the other ingredients are added and mixed for several minutes.  Since my KitchenAide mixer's condition is not especially robust, I chose to mix everything by hand.  Some of the recipes I found call for several minutes of kneading, so I followed that advice.  The dough texture was, not surprisingly, quite different than a wheat dough.  It was somewhat firm and rather elastic.  Nevertheless, it was kneadable.  One piece of advice that I saw somewhere along the line was to treat gluten free dough more like a rye dough than a wheat dough.  That seems to be good advice.  The dough wasn't nearly as sludgy or slimy as rye dough can be, but there were some similarities.  

Unlike many gluten free breads that are batter-based, this bread is given two rises, the first after mixing/kneading and the second after shaping.  At the end of each rise, the dough felt puffy and aerated.  Unlike wheat doughs, there's no such thing as getting a tight sheath on the outside of the loaf during shaping.  I definitely need more practice and understanding to achieve a smooth outer surface.  

Unlike the recipe's direction to bag the dough after covering it with cling film, I simply used the cling film with no noticeable drying of the dough.  From prior experience, my opinion is that the oiled cling film leaves a haze on the baked crust.  It's a relatively small price to pay for protecting the dough from drying but I'd like to find a method that results in a more eye-pleasing result.

The dough was enough to fill a 4x8 bread tin.  I would have liked to push for more volume but small bubbles were beginning to appear on the top surface.  In rye doughs, that means the fermentation has passed the point of the dough's ability to hold the gas.  With that in mind, I bundled the pan into the oven just as soon as the oven reached temperature.

Not surprisingly, there was no oven spring.  Fortunately, there was no collapse, either.  The only area of some concern for me during baking was that the bread took forever to reach 200F.  At the end of the prescribed baking time, the internal temperature had only reached 145F.  It took another 30 minutes of baking to reach 200F.  My oven is fairly accurate in its temperature settings, so that wasn't the problem.  Gluten free breads tend to be very high in hydration (this one is nearly 100%), so that's a factor.  Although I expected that the recipe's bake time would be fairly reliable, it wasn't my experience.

The bread was allowed to cool to room temperature before slicing.  The crust was initially quite crunchy when first sliced but softened to a pleasant texture after a night in a plastic bag.  The crumb is very moist but still firm, with the distinctive purple/gray shading of the buckwheat flour as seen here:

Kinda looks like a rye bread, doesn't it?  It has a similar heft, too.

 

I wanted to see how flexible the bread was, so I trimmed the crust from a slice that was about 1/4 inch thick.  Surprisingly, it had quite a bit of flexibility.  When I finally pushed it to the point of cracking, it was virtually doubled over.  Even then, it held together:

For anyone accustomed to wheat breads, it won't win any beauty contests:

Nevertheless, it tastes good, it hasn't dried out or turned crumbly, and it makes a decent sandwich.  I haven't tried toasting it, so don't know how that might work.  If I couldn't have gluten-containing breads, this would be a pretty good thing.  

If anyone has any tips or suggestions, I'm open.  I really want to understand how this stuff works.  Right now, I have one attempt and one success but no clues as to why it turned out the way it did.  I'll keep experimenting so that I get a better grasp of the hows and whys.  My students rightfully expect value for their tuition, so I need to be prepared to give them good information.

Paul

Comments

Mebake's picture
Mebake

That looks very good, Paul. For a dough like gluten free, it sure was a success. It will be excellent for toast, i tried it. 

As to the pale crust, all you have to do is gently brush the proofed dough in the pan with some oil (use a natural bristle pastry brush or silicon), and the loaf will have a nice golden finish. Greasing well the pan with the oil also adds color to the loaf.

All the best,

Khalid

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I had some for breakfast this morning. ;-)

Thanks for the tip on browning.

Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

Like trying to make bread with triticale. It isn't that it is done well, it's that it is done at all.

I was working with gluten free for awhile and tended to concentrate on forms of baked goods where we don't tend to want highly developed gluten. 

I always feel like I'm doing some kind of mad scientist work with the gluten free baking. I don't enjoy working with the dough, so I put the whole project on hold until I had more time available. Which for some reason I don't as of yet. I'm wondering how I kept the gardens going in May and went to work. We'll see.

Congrats on a gluten free sandwich loaf!

Pat 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

GF is a very different world, as you note, Pat.  I like the results with psyllium, which strikes me as a bit less of a mad scientist approach than xanthan or guar gum.  Still, it feels so peculiar; kind of like learning to drive on the left after years of driving on the right.

Two new test bakes of the same recipe with different flour combos (sorghum/brown rice/millet and sorghum/brown rice/quinoa) are cooling now.  We'll see how those turn out.  If they are good, I think I'll consider this to be a reliable recipe.  The next step would be to move on to scones or other small breads.

Wow, you've already parroted my dad's line of "I don't know how I ever found time to go to work."  I think he first said it a few years after retirement, not a few months.  Good to know that you aren't turning into a puddle of goo in front of the tube.

Thanks,

Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

in whatever you come up with in your final formula.

Here's where having a mill comes in handy - whatever grain you feel like making into flour, you can do it. I did blinis for Easter and I will say that absolutely fresh buckwheat flour is much better than the shelf conditioned stuff.

There were many people that were concerned that I'd be bored in retirement. I'm currently going through the phase of "Well, since I'm not "working" anymore, there's no reason why the X (insert: garden, house, closet, etc.) isn't perfect." Who would have guessed - me - a perfectionist. :>) I was hoping to do "goo in front of the tube" but apparently don't have it in me.

Have fun with GF!

Pat

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

like Lucy's fake pumpernickel she made for Ploetziade 2.    If it tastes as good a SD then I'm sure it will catch on and people can quit faking their gluten intolerance issues..... when it is really global warming or possibly global cooling behind it all:-)  I'm thankful we don't have any reason to make it yet.

It sure looks good enough to eat.  Well Done and

Happy baking Paul.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

The texture is quite different; more like a firm, slightly chewy cake.  Pumpernickel, on the other hand, tends to be denser and requires a lot more chewing.

This is good to eat, so I'm happy in that aspect.  Especially since I'm not a fan of buckwheat, ordinarily.

The GF SD thing is on the list of stuff to try.  I'll keep you posted on how that turns out.

Paul 

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

I've tried Psylium too and got a strange coloured result but it clearly does the trick of being the binding agent and it feels much healthier to kick out the Xantham Gum and other stuff. I still need to experiment more with it but I've not had cause to for some time as I only bought the stuff for my Aunt who is a Celiac whom I don't see very often. I think I read somewhere at the time that there are different Psylium products. The one I have is dark coloured. I was using a recipe from the BBC site but which I adapted with whatever gluten free flours and similar products I had. It certainly turned out an edible loaf but like yours, it wouldn't have won any beauty prizes !

I am keen to arrive at a good GF loaf though. I have found that lots of GF/Celiacs like the Genius brand of commercial GF bread and one has to admit that it looks and feels incredibly like normal bread so we have a long way to go to produce something like that.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

What is your objection to xantham gum? It is simply a by product of fermentation (that's right, those little yeasty beasties are cranking out that awful xantham gum while raising your bread) that has useful stabilization properties. Do you also object to guar gum or powder, agar agar, carrageenan, gelatin or pectin? These, too, are stabilizers derived from natural sources, guar beans, seaweed, animal collagen and fruit.

cheers,

gary

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I've no quibble with xanthan gum; not sure what el panadero's position is.  BTW, it's a bacterial fermentation that produces the gum, not yeast.

Anyhow, having seen numerours references to people becoming sensitized to xanthan gum, I figured a recipe that didn't rely on xanthan would be a way to stave off at least one possible source of misery for my prospective students.  I also chose to steer clear of eggs for the same reason, since many more people have egg allergies than have celiac disease.  While I don't think that it is possible to eliminate every potential source of food-induced problems, I don't want to rely on ingredients with documented issues. 

As for psyllium over other gels and stabilizers, it appears to have better (i.e., purpose-specific) qualities for yeasted breads.  Since I'm still at the front end of my research, I may learn something different as I go along.  It is important to me that I find out as much as I can so that I can present my students with options and strategies, not just a recipe.

Paul

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Quote:
BTW, it's a bacterial fermentation that produces the gum, not yeast.
I knew it is a fermentation by-product, and my bread-head just naturally went to yeast as the protagonist. :shrug:
SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

You may find some very tasty recipes for your GF baking by just googling some Paleo/Caveman Diet recipes.

Sylvia 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

That gives me another area to explore.

Paul