Gluten-free. Definitely two words (or is it one word—that hyphen always throws me) I never thought I'd see on this blog. But here they/it are/is. I've tried gluten-free baking a couple of times, just out of curiosity because, thankfully, I don't have celiac, nor am I gluten-sensitive. And a good thing, too, because based on my experiments, I'd be in beeg trouble. Let's just say that the bakes I tried weren't exactly rousing successes. In fact, both efforts got pitched into the trash post-haste. Bad. Very bad. I kind of swore off gluten-free baking as a bad imitation of the good stuff.
Cut to the latest challenge from #TwelveLoaves: New-to-You Flours. Now as someone with a refrigerator AND and entire closet full of flours (including flours I've bought from overseas because I'm just that obsessed…or stupid), there weren't a lot that I haven't tried (some of which I'll never try again, because…yuck). But a bit of Googling turned up a new one for me: sorghum. I'd heard of it as a sweetener, popular in the south, but not as a flour. So despite it's unfortunate name (to me at least—it sounds like you need a quick trip to the dentist—"What's your problem?" "I've got sorghums.") I thought I'd give it a try. Now I had a flour, but what to bake with it? Gotta love the internet—more Googling turned up a beautiful looking bread from the lovely folks that brought us Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day—a gluten-free version that uses sorghum flour in its basic mix. I've got a soft spot for AB in 5, because that's where I started when I took up bread baking again and I've always had great success with the method. Now I had a new flour AND a new book. Life is tough.
I'll admit that I was a little skeptical when I mixed up the flour blend. It's got a cornstarch-like feel that takes a bit of getting used to. And the dough is unlike a typical bread dough—it's more like a biscuit dough and it's got very little (okay, no) stretch to it so it just breaks off. And you can't really shape it like you would a regular bread dough, you just kind of pat it into place and smooth it with wet fingers.
But the resulting bread is surprisingly good. It's REAL bread, not a sad imitation or a gluten-free make-do. In fact, the Dough family taste-testers had no idea it was gluten free and thought it was excellent. And grudgingly, I had to admit that I did too. The crumb may be a bit more dense that most artisan-style breads—no big, airy holes—but the crust is crisp and crunchy and the flavor is excellent—totally NOT what I was expecting based on my previous gluten-free efforts. Not that I needed an excuse, but I've bought a couple more gluten-free bread books and bigger stock of the needed flours and I plan on exploring this whole bread thing further. More stuff, more books and a good bread? I live for this.
Gluten-Free Artisan Bread
Makes 4 1-lb. loaves
- 990g/2 lb. 3 oz. Flour Mixture #1 (see below)
- 1 Tbsp instant or active dry yeast (check your brand to make sure it's gluten-free)
- 1–1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar or honey
- 4 egg whites, plus enough warm water to make 3 3/4 cups
- Add the flour mix to the bowl of a stand mixer, then add in the yeast and kosher salt (to taste) and blend together at low speed.
- Mix the honey with the egg whites and water and slowly add to the dry ingredients with the mixer at slow speed.
- When all of the liquid is added, blend for about 1 minute at medium-high speed. The dough should look like soft biscuit dough when blended.
- Place the dough in a large container (at least 4 quarts, such as a Cambro). Cover the container but make sure it's not air-tight. If you don't have a lidded container, a shower cap works well.
- Let the dough rest at room temperature for 2–3 hours. The dough may not double in size. After the rest period, the dough can be used right away or refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- To bake, dust a sheet of parchment with some of the flour mixture and dust the surface of the dough as well.
- Pull of a 1-pound piece of dough, place it on the floured parchment and shape into a ball. It will probably look somewhat rough.
- Wet your fingers and smooth out the dough, then cover loosely with plastic and let rest for about 30 minutes if you're using fresh dough and 1 hour if you're using dough that has been refrigerated.
- While the dough is resting, place a baking stone in your oven and a broiler tray or other oven proof tray on the oven floor to hold water that will create steam. Preheat the oven to 450°F, checking to make sure the temperature is correct.
- When ready to bake, dust the dough ball with flour and slash with a knife.
- Slide the loaf onto the baking stone and add 1 cup of boiling water to the broiler tray, then close the oven door.
- Bake for about 45 minutes or until the loaf is deep brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Remove from the oven and let cool COMPLETELY before slicing.
FLOUR MIXTURE #1
- 1,020g/36 oz. White Rice Flour
- 455g/1 lb. Sorghum Flour
- 225g/8 oz. Tapioca Flour or Starch
- 225g/8 oz. Potato Starch (NOT potato flour)
- 40g/1.4 oz Xanthan Gum of Psyllium Husk Powder
- Place all ingredients in a 5–6 quart container with a tight fitting lid and whisk together. After whisking, cover the container and shake well. Make sure the everything is mixed VERY well otherwise the xanthan gum may clump and make your final dough inconsistent.
- Store the mix in a cool, dry place and use as needed.
Adapted from Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg
I used Bob's Red Mill flours and xanthan gum since they're readily available in most health food stores and in many well-stocked grocery stores as well.
I sprinkled my loaves with a bit of Maldon's flaked sea salt for a nice crunchy flavor burst.
VERY important to let the baked bread to cool completely otherwise it will be gummy. Don't ask me how I know.
Like most AB in 5 breads, the loaves are small, but a perfect size for baking a daily loaf. You could probably bake a larger loaf but would have to change baking times accordingly. Experiment!
"New to You" Flours: Check Out What the #TwelveLoafers Baked This Month
- 60% Kamut Sourdough Bread from Karen's Kitchen Stories
- Coconut Flour Zucchini Bread from CulturEatz
- Five Grain Loaf with Dried Cranberries & Pecans from All That's Left Are the Crumbs
- Rustic Loaf using Pumpernickel Flour from Hostess At Heart
- Rye Soda Bread from Savoring Italy
If you'd like to bake along with us this month, share your New-to-You Flour Breads using hashtag #TwelveLoaves!