gluten-free focaccia with rosemary and sea salt

I’ve been working on a gluten-free focaccia recipe for quite a while but I’ve never been completely satisfied with it. Usually gluten-free bread needs a certain amount of egg in it to help it to rise, but I’m always a little disappointed at how heavy and ‘cakey’ it can be, especially the day after baking.

Then, I discovered psyllium husk. I’d already read a bit about it and its pseudo-glutenacious properties on the internet, so I decided to give it a try. I managed to track a bag down in my local Natural Grocery Store, which is an Aladdin’s cave of organic, vegetarian and vegan foods, beverages, toiletries and cosmetics.

Psyllium husk is usually put into fruit and vegetable juices as a natural way of oiling the cogs of the digestive system and keeping everything moving, if you get my drift. When baking with it, you mix a little with water, give it a stir and leave it to sit for about 10 minutes. The resulting mixture, depending upon how much water you add, ranges from very gloopy and a bit like egg white to a speckly lump of jelly, and you just add it along with your other wet ingredients to your dry ones. I haven’t experimented with it extensively yet but I have a feeling that overall liquid volume probably needs to be increased when baking with it.

It’s quite expensive at £3.99 for 200g (working out at nearly £20 a kilo) but that 200g bag lasts quite a long time and the results it has when used in gluten-free baking are truly worth it. I’ve managed to cut down on the egg content by over half in this recipe and the resulting bread feels much lighter, less ‘cakey’ and much more ‘bready’.

gluten-free focaccia with rosemary and sea salt 2

Gluten-free focaccia with rosemary and sea salt

Please note that the top of the bread has a slightly grainy texture from the psyllium – it isn’t visible inside the loaf, however.

Makes 1 medium loaf

5 tsp psyllium husk
5 tbsp (75ml)  cold water
215g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
120g potato flour
15g tapioca flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp fast-action yeast
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Vitamin C (I used Dove’s Farm)
1 egg white
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
300ml tepid water
1 tbsp olive oil + extra for brushing
couple sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
sea salt

You will also need an electric whisk, a 23cm x 20cm x 4cm rectangular non-stick cake tin, its base and short sides lined with one strip of greased baking parchment, and a couple of supermarket carrier bags or large plastic bags.

First, place the psyllium husk in a small bowl or mug with 5 tablespoons (75ml) of cold water. Give it a good stir and set aside while you measure out the other ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, sift all the dry ingredients (apart from the xanthan gum) and give them a good whisk with a balloon whisk to make sure they are thoroughly mixed.

In a scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg white on high speed until light and foamy (about 20 seconds). Sprinkle in the xanthan gum and continue to whisk until the egg becomes white and marshmallowy. BE VIGILANT! The egg white will take on a life of its own and will start to swarm up the beaters. To avoid it fouling up the motor on your whisk, withdraw the beaters and it will swarm back down again.

Give the psyllium husk a good stir with a spoon. It should have become a fairly solid jelly. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the psyllium jelly, the water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the egg white. Stir in the liquids, using a spatula, with a loose folding motion until everything is well-combined. The mixture should be quite wet and sticky.

Pour the mixture into the oiled cake tin and smooth flat with an oiled spatula or palette knife. Using well-oiled fingers, make deep dimples in the surface of the batter. Form a tent over the tin with a double layer of carrier bags (they always have anti-suffocation holes punched in them) or a single large plastic bag. Leave to rise overnight at room temperature for 12-14 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 190°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle on the fresh rosemary and sea salt. Bake the bread for 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 180°C and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

At the end of the baking time, remove the bread from its tin, carefully strip off the baking parchment and place it on a wire rack. Leave until completely cool before slicing.