Here are the things I've learned these last few weeks while experimenting with a gluten-free diet:
~ No matter my discomfort level, I need to stop apologizing at restaurants and such for asking whether something might be gluten-free. I am personally one of those jerks who has been assuming that the rise in GF diets is primarily a fad (though I certainly have always understood the horrific condition that is celiac disease), and though for some people it might be, and although I was dragged into this experimentation screaming and spitting and kicking, ultimately whatever I decide to eat or not eat isn't anything I should be apologizing to people for.
~ Wheat is the primary grain used in close to 100% of the breads and baked goods you see out there because the gluten - particularly in the strains grown today - produces a quick and reliable rise and lovely crumb. That doesn't mean that all the alternatives out there can't be worked with and aren't grains - they are grains! Just because wheat has been bred to be this gluten-rising-powerhouse doesn't negate the nutritional and structural benefits of other grains. And in the right hands with the right recipe....
~ With only a tiny bit of thought and planning - TINY, I tell you! - one can eat GF pretty much all of the time without seeking out recipes that provide (often piss-poor, sorry to say) substitutions for gluten.. simply by choosing a recipe that naturally doesn't include wheat or gluten. This is super easy with dinners and lunches. Desserts are less easy simply due to things like cake and puff pastry, and (American-style) breakfasts are the worst because of muffins & pancakes and such. For weekday-I'm-not-going-to-commit-the-time-breakfasts, I've found Van's cereal & waffles (get the ancient grains ones - the other have NO fiber) to be more than satisfactory.
~ Given the above, it does remain true that I've always been a sweets-and-carbohydrates slave, and the only way I've not GONE CRAZY and immediately run out and eaten cupcakes or sourdough on a regular basis is sometimes having those Van's waffles or seeking out other gluten-substituted baked goods. It's been pretty abysmal, I admit. At this point, I've given up on hamburgers (which I've only recently eaten for the last few years because I used to be vegetarian) because there could be bread in the meat and because even the much-touted Udi's GF buns were a major disappointment to me (sorry, Udi's and Udi's fans).
Over the last few weeks, I've done some research and gathered some supplies (sorry to say, but if you're interested in this sort of venture, it's gonna involve some heavy start-up costs, ingredients wise) and today I finally made my first homemade gluten-free loaf of bread. I went with America's Test Kitchen because although they can be incredibly annoying if you ever get a subscription to them and then decide to cancel, I still trust them quite a bit in the world of cooking, particularly with the science of baking.
Multigrain Sandwich Bread
(The America's Test Kitchen Gluten-Free Flour Blend)
24 ounces (4 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup) white rice flour
7 1/2 ounces (1 2/3 cups) brown rice flour
7 ounces (1 1/3 cups) potato starch
3 ounces (3/4 cup) tapioca starch
3/4 ounce (3 tablespoons) nonfat milk powder
Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for up to three months.
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
11 1/2 ounces (2 1/3 cups plus 1/4 cup) ATK Gluten-Free Flour Blend
4 ounces (3/4 cup) Bob's Red Mille Gluten-Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal
1 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) nonfat dry milk powder
3 tablespoons powdered psyllium husk
1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted sunflower seeds
- Spray 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with vegetable spray. Whisk water, eggs, oil, and honey together in bowl. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour blend, hot cereal mix, milk powder, psyllium, yeast, baking powder, and salt together on low speed until combined. Slowly add water mixture and let dough come together, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium and beat until sticky and uniform, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add sunflower seeds, and mix until incorporated. (Dough will resemble cookie dough).
- Using rubber spatula, scrape dough into prepared loaf pan and press it gently into corners wtih wet hands; smooth top of dough and spray with water. Tightly wrap double layer of aluminum foil around pan so that top edge of foil rests at least 1 inch above rim of pan; secure foil collar with staples. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has risen by 50% (1/2 inch above rim of pan), about 1 hour.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Remove plastic and spray loaf with water. Bake until top is golden, crust is firm, and loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 1 1/2 hours, rotating pan halfway through baking.
- Transfer to wire rack and let bread cool in pan for ten minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours. Serve. (Once cooled, bread can be wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)
If you're a baker like me, you already know that to mess with the ingredients in a baking recipe is to court ruin. This is ESPECIALLY important to remember/adhere to with this recipe. I've already written far too much above so I'm not including the reasons ATK uses the ingredients they do and in the proportions that they do but be clear that they have good reason (and it's all thoroughly explained in the book) for each ingredient and they all contribute to the success of this loaf. This definitely includes following the (annoying but necessary) tin foil collar (or you'll have dough on your counter even before it enters the oven). It definitely didn't take a full hour for this dough to rise sufficiently, though I did note that it didn't really seem to rise much further in the oven so next time I'll leave it on the counter a bit longer for a taller loaf. Also, I measured for both the GF flour blend and the bread itself by weight.
And I found it a (surprisingly, to be completely honest) immense success. I am overwhelmed and really rather shocked how how well this bread turned out. The ONLY alteration I made to the recipe above was to eliminate the sunflower seeds because I very much do not like sunflower seeds in my bread. My dough seemed wetter than the suggestion that it would "resemble cookie dough" but this didn't seem to prevent the loaf or slices from looking any different than the photographs in the book. The slices are structurally sound but not hard or dry. The crumb is very nice, the moisture impressive.
I'm going out onto a wild a fragile limb here to claim that I find this bread to be at least as delicious as some "regular" bread recipes I've made and maybe even better than a couple. Tomorrow is a (sad) Monday morning, but I'm already excited about getting to eat a fried egg with a slice of toast for the first time in weeks.