Archives for posts with tag: gluten-free bread

gluten-free and dairy-free white crusty bread

I can’t leave gluten-free bread alone. It sounds obvious to say, but I really just want to get it as close to the ‘real thing’ as I can. The brands you can buy have got a lot going for them: they’re light, they remain reasonably fresh and they’re hassle-free. What I don’t like about them, and some brands are more guilty of this than others, is that they tend to dissolve into a gluey mass in your mouth and get stuck in your molars. Oh, not to mention the fact that they’re almost £3 a loaf… I tend to alternate between buying loaves (the M&S loaf is my very favourite, followed by Sainsbury’s own brown multi-seeded and then, if there’s nothing else, Genius multi-seeded) and baking my own.

I can’t get along with the white loaves though. Not only do they have the aforementioned faults but they also have a sweet aftertaste which I find very cloying. Oh, and I suspect that a piece of cardboard would have more nutritional value. So, if I want white bread, I tend to bake my own. I was ecstatic when I discovered psyllium husk several months ago and I’ve been experimenting with it to work out the optimal amount: too much, and the bread can have a bit of a clammy texture. I’ve managed to cut down on the amount considerably, so much so that I’m going to rework some of my previous bread recipes on here to get them as best as they can be.

Something else I’ve noticed with homemade gluten-free bread, is that it takes much longer to toast than commercial brands and there’s always a loud sizzling noise emanating from the toaster. To reduce this, I’ve subbed dried egg white for the fresh one I usually use. I used Dr Oetker which is available in large Tesco stores. A big improvement, I think.

gluten-free and dairy-free white crusty bread 2

Gluten-free and dairy-free crusty white bread

Makes 1 small loaf

1 tsp psyllium husk
1 tbsp cold water
140g + 40g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
75g + 25g potato flour
12g tapioca flour
4g powdered egg white (half a sachet, equivalent of 1 egg white)
2 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 heaped tsp fast-action yeast
1/4 tsp Vitamin C
250ml cold water with 1 tsp of salt dissolved
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
Olive oil

You will also need an electric whisk and a 1-lb non-stick loaf tin.

Begin by placing the psyllium husk in a small bowl or mug with a tablespoon of cold water. Give it a stir and leave it to one side whilst you weigh out all the other ingredients.

Sift 140g of gluten-free plain flour, 75g of potato flour, the tapioca flour, powdered egg white, caster sugar, gluten-free baking powder, fast-action yeast and Vitamin C into a large mixing bowl.

Give the psyllium husk a good stir (it should have become jelly-like). Add this to the mixing bowl, along with the salted water. Whisk with an electric hand whisk for several minutes until the mixture is light and bubbly. Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the top and continue to whisk for another couple of minutes. The mixture will thicken up considerably (watch out that the mixture doesn’t crawl up the beaters and foul up the motor of your whisk).

Sift in the remaining 40g of gluten-free plain flour and 25g of potato flour. Fold in with a metal spoon until thoroughly combined. Pour into the loaf tin, smooth the top with a palette knife and cover with an oiled piece of clingfilm (plastic wrap). Leave in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge about three hours before you wish to bake it. (It should have started to rise slightly). Leave to rise at room temperature then remove the clingfilm.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (I used my top oven which is a conventional oven, so adjust the temperature accordingly). Place a roasting tray at the bottom of the oven to heat up. Before putting the loaf in the oven, throw half a glass of water into the roasting tray to create steam. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is domed and dark golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckle.

Leave to cool COMPLETELY before slicing (this can take a couple of hours).

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gluten-free walnut bread

January marks my gluten-free anniversary and at the end of this month, I will have been gluten-free for three years. So, I thought for this post that I would reflect on a few things I’ve learnt about being gluten-free along the way.

I’ve found that my love of cooking has really helped me accept the restrictions on my diet. It’s helped me to such an extent that I don’t often think of my diet as BEING restricted. I never really relied on ready meals and processed foods before so I don’t eat them now. I think if I had, then I would have found the transition much more difficult. Most meals cooked from scratch are naturally gluten-free anyway and those that aren’t can often be tweaked to be made so. If I’m ever feeling fed up (which isn’t often), I just pick up a copy of BBC Good Food magazine and remind myself of how much food I can still eat.

I’ve learnt that lots of people really aren’t clued-up with regards to alternative diets (and why should they be if it doesn’t affect them?) and that can lead to insensitive comments. I was talking to someone not so long ago about my diet and she remarked, “It sounds ghastly!” I really resented it. I felt like shouting, “Don’t say that! Take a look at my blog! Does my life look ghastly to you? Look at all the scrummy food I eat!!!!!”

I’ve been blogging now for just over a year and I LOVE IT! I wish I’d started it sooner. It’s made me much more creative than I ever thought I could be because I’m always thinking up new things to try and new ways of doing them. I don’t like being given ‘no’ for an answer and if there isn’t an immediate solution for how to achieve something, I’ll sit down and figure it out.

Linked with blogging has been the discovery of a vibrant gluten-free community in the Twittersphere. I felt very isolated before I joined Twitter. I didn’t know anyone who ate like me. It was great to ‘meet’ people who have the same dietary issues as me and who understand what it’s like. There is always an interested/sympathetic ear and a lot of active tweeters also have blogs. Check out my links page for my favourites.

I’ve come to accept that some gluten-free foods will not be exactly the same as their glutenicious counterparts, such as bread. Gluten-free bread does not have that tender candyfloss softness and lightness that you find in wheat bread. I’ve learnt not to expect it and I’m no longer disappointed when I don’t achieve it – I appreciate gluten-free bread for what it is: fresh homemade gluten-free bread is most definitely not the weird-tasting cardboard that a lot of people would think: it’s fragrant and delicious with a rustic texture.

I shied away from making bread for a long time and had some notable disasters in the early days. I almost gave up but I don’t like being beaten and I’ve enjoyed the intellectual challenge. I’ve also been spurred on by the fact that I’m really not keen on that brand of gluten-free bread that everyone raves about. I find that it dissolves into a gluey mass in my mouth and clogs my teeth. If you haven’t already, do check out my recipes for flatbread wraps, sunflower and linseed loaf, focaccia with rosemary and sea salt and stromboli. I’m currently working on recipes for tortillas, pitta breads, schiacciata (traditional Tuscan flatbread) and croissants for this blog and LiveGlutenFree has just published my latest recipe for them:

naturally gluten-free cheese and chilli mini cornbreads

Naturally gluten-free cheese and red chilli mini cornbreads

This walnut bread has a beautifully nutty flavour, has a wonderfully domed top (it won’t look like it’s risen much when you come to put it in the oven but it continues to rise whilst baking) and it slices cleanly. I’ve found with homemade gluten-free bread that when toasting, it takes a little longer than normal bread. Also, it’s much damper (listen to it sizzling in the toaster!), which I put down largely to the egg content, although I think the psyllium also has a part to play. After it has been toasted, it pays to allow the steam to escape for a few minutes before buttering to avoid it going mushy. I just leave it in the toaster for a few minutes. In the past, I’ve advocated freezing gluten-free bread, but I’m no longer convinced of its suitability: I think the ice crystals make it too wet and it goes a bit claggy, even when toasted. I’ve started making smaller loaves which I use up by toasting from Day 2 onwards.

gluten-free walnut bread 2

Serving suggestion: Toasted gluten-free walnut bread with grilled goat’s cheese and honey

Gluten-free walnut bread

Makes 1 small loaf

4 tsp psyllium husk
4 tbsp cold water
100g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
80g gluten-free brown bread flour*
100g potato flour
12g tapioca flour
2 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
Heaped 1/4 tsp Vitamin C
Scant teaspoon fast-action yeast
1/2 tsp salt
50g walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 egg white
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
50ml warm milk
250ml warm water
25g butter, melted

You will also need an electric whisk, a 1lb loaf tin and a couple of supermarket carrier bags or a large plastic bag.

Mix the psyllium husk with 4 tablespoons (60ml) of cold water in a small bowl or mug and give it a good stir. Set aside.

Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, Vitamin C and yeast into a large bowl. Give it all a good mix with a balloon whisk and then add the salt and chopped walnuts. Give it another stir to evenly distribute the nuts then make a well in the centre.

In a scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg white with an electric whisk for about 20 seconds until it becomes light and frothy. Sprinkle over the xanthan gum and continue to whisk until the egg becomes white and marshmallowy. BE VIGILANT! The egg white will suddenly take on a life of its own and will start to swarm up the beaters. To avoid fouling up the motor on your whisk, make sure to withdraw the beaters and the egg white will swarm back down them again.

Give the psyllium husk a good stir. It should have become a solid jelly. Give it a good stir and scoop this into the well in the flour mixture. Then pour in the milk, water, melted butter and egg white. Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients with a loose folding motion until you have a very wet and sticky batter. Scoop the batter into your lined tin and smoothe the surface with an oiled spatula or palette knife. Form a tent over the tin with the carrier bags and leave to rise at room temperature overnight (for about 12-14 hours).

When you are ready to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 190°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Bake the bread for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180°C and continue to bake for another 30 minutes.

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.

gluten-free sunflower and linseed bread

Aahhh, bread: the Holy Grail of gluten-free baking. Something that is so simple when you are in league with the devil have gluten on your side, becomes a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, when it decides it hates you. I know, I know, that’s Churchill’s take on Russia, but you get my meaning…

I have struggled with gluten-free breadmaking, I’m not going to lie. I have already regaled you with my early woeful attempts to master the art. I almost gave up. But I’m stubborn, me, and I really hate it when something or someone gets the better of me. I decided that I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. This recipe started off as an adaptation of my flatbread recipe but has undergone so many changes that it’s no longer recognisable as such. I have been tweaking this for months and months, trying new flour and starch combinations and ratios, increasing and decreasing fat, milk and liquid and I’ve never been satisfied.

It was starting to become my Moby Dick, though, and I finally thought, enough is enough. I’ve been trying to recreate a glutenous loaf but what makes a glutenous loaf a glutenous loaf is…well, the gluten and no amount of xanthan gum is going to produce that. Commercial brands are light and fluffy but that’s because they’re mainly starch and have little nutritional value. I find that they stick to my teeth and undergo some kind of alchemical change to cement in my digestive tract.

This is the best loaf I’ve come up with so far – it’s not light and fluffy – but it’s moist and flavoursome and smells delicious coming out of the oven. I’ve subbed some of the plain flour for buckwheat to boost the nutritional value and I’ve added sunflower seeds and linseeds to give the digestive system something to fight.

One of the problems I’ve found with making gluten-free bread has been that by the time I’ve mixed the ingredients, left the batter to rise, baked the loaf and allowed it to cool, it’s mid-afternoon, I’ve already had my breakfast and lunch and now don’t need bread again until tomorrow morning, by which time the loaf is no longer fresh. So this time, I mixed the ingredients late (it was about 10.30 last night) and left the tin of batter to rise by a cold radiator overnight, but which I knew would be coming on at about 6.00-6.30 this morning. By the time I went down at 8.00 this morning, the loaf was beautifully risen and ready to go in the oven. It was baked and cool enough to cut by about 10.00 so I had a lovely late breakfast of boiled eggs and soldiers (!) and then I had some more for lunch. If you don’t have a radiator that comes on by itself like this, you could easily leave it out overnight and then pop it in the airing cupboard a couple of hours before you need it. Cooling it before cutting is really important – if you cut it too warm, it’ll go claggy and horrible. I must confess I did cheat somewhat and stuck it outside the back door for 10 minutes to speed things up a bit.

As with all gluten-free bread, it’s best eaten fresh on the day of baking and toasted thereafter. You can also rejuvenate it in the microwave for a few seconds. Any bread that I don’t think I’ll eat in two days, I slice thinly and freeze. Make sure you separate each slice with a piece of greaseproof paper before bagging.  One tip for toasting – wait a couple of minutes before adding butter/spread to allow the steam to escape – you’ll get a crisper result.

gluten-free sunflower and linseed bread

Gluten-free sunflower and linseed bread

Makes 1 medium-sized loaf

240g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
135g potato flour (starch)
50g buckwheat flour
25g tapioca flour (starch)
10g skimmed milk powder
1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp + 1 tsp xanthan gum
3 tbsp linseeds
3 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tsp fast-action yeast
25g butter, cubed
1 1/2 tbsp runny honey
1-1 1/2 tsp salt*
1 tsp cider vinegar
150ml boiling water
200ml cold water
2 medium eggs, separated

You will also need an electric whisk and a non-stick, 1.3l capacity loaf tin.

First, grease and line your loaf tin with a strip of parchment that is long enough to line the base as well as the two short sides, leaving a couple of inches either end for ease of lifting.

Sift the plain, potato, buckwheat and tapioca flours into a large mixing bowl, along with the milk powder, baking powder and 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum. Sprinkle in the linseeds, sunflower seeds and fast-action yeast. Stir with a large balloon whisk to distribute all the ingredients uniformly.

Put the butter, honey, salt and vinegar in a heatproof jug and add 150ml boiling water and set aside. Put the egg whites into a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk for 15-20 seconds until light and frothy. Add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum and continue to whisk. The egg whites will go white and marshmallowy. YOU MUST BE VIGILANT! All of a sudden, the egg whites will seem to take on a life of their own and will begin to swarm up the beaters like something out of a 1950s black-and-white B-movie. Make sure you lift the beaters clear and they will crawl back down again but if you’re not careful, they could end up fouling up the motor of your whisk. When they begin to crawl, they’re ready. Set aside.

Go back to your butter, honey and vinegar mixture. Give it a quick stir with a balloon whisk to mix all the ingredients then top up with 200ml of cold water. Add the two egg yolks, lightly beaten and give it a final whisk.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Add the butter, honey, vinegar and egg mixture and then scoop the marshmallowy egg whites on top. Gradually fold everything together until you have a sticky batter. I tend to use a spatula for this as you can scrape all the flour off the sides of the bowl. Tip the batter into the lined loaf tin and smooth down with the spatula (it should come up to about a centimetre to a centimetre-and-a-half below the rim of the tin). Cover loosely with a sheet of oiled clingfilm (plastic wrap). Set on a baking (cookie) sheet and place near a radiator (that you know will come on in the morning). Leave overnight to rise.

Check the loaf in the morning – it should have risen about a centimetre-and-a-half to two centimetres above the rim of the tin and have a domed top. If it hasn’t, leave for a while longer in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly). Remove the clingfilm from the top of the loaf and bake for 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when you knock the base with your knuckle.

Remove from the oven and take the loaf out of the tin using the greaseproof paper straps. Remove the paper and leave on a cooling rack until completely cool before slicing.

* I used 1 teaspoon of salt and I don’t think it was quite enough.

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