I have been curious about gluten free baking for some time. Some recipes are inherently gluten free, like macaroons. I consider them entry level items. A step up the difficulty meter is recipes that benefit from little gluten development, such as quick breads. You probably come across muffin or pancake recipes that urge you to stir gently or the baked good would turn tough. My personal favourite is using buckwheat flour for these kinds of application. The holy grail for gluten free baking is of course bread whose texture and structure depend on gluten development. Those lovely open crumb is the direct result of the elasticity of gluten.
More and more of my friends have chosen a gluten free diet for health reasons. Few are intolerant of digesting gluten but many confess that their overall physical wellness improve. Personally, I choose to maintain a balanced diet that does not exclude any particular food groups. However, the challenge of gluten free baking intrigues me. With the extra time of staying at home last week, I took the chance to experiment with gluten free sandwich bread.
Most of us grow up eating sandwich bread and we have clear notion of its taste and texture. It should be soft but sturdy enough to hold layers of filling. It can be sliced thick or thin without crumbling to dust. It should rise tall above the baking pan to create an attractive dome (unless you’re making Pullman style loaf). The crust should be an attractive golden colour but not too thick. It can taste eggy or plain, depending on your preference. When toasted, the crumb should take on a lovely crunch.
My first two attempts were nothing to write home about. The loaves were heavy like bricks thanks to too much liquid in the batter. Yes, batter. I did not get the pleasure of kneading or massaging the dough. It was like pouring pancake batter into the loaf pan and hoped for the best. I baked one loaf using a garbanzo bean flour blend from Bob’s Red Mill and another loaf using a rice flour blend from King Arthur Flour. The bread was more hearty than airy. It took utmost skill to slice without having everything fall apart.
My third attempt I turned to a positively reviewed recipe from King Arthur Flour. The proportions made a lot more sense and I like that it included xanthan gum to give the bread a less crumbly texture. It worked! The batter resembled cookie dough as promised and it delicately rose to fill the pan. I brushed the baked loaf with butter as soon as it came out of the oven and that gave the bread a nice sheen. But the most impressive part was how the loaf could be easily sliced to thin pieces. I managed to get 18 slices out of a 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf. I heed the warning of the recipe and stored the bread in the freezer so it would not go stale quickly. On the day it was baked, I enjoyed the soft airy slice plain. The eggy taste reminded me of challah and I thought of making bread pudding. The next few days, I simply took a slice from the freezer and made toast for breakfast. I was amazed at how much I enjoy this gluten free bread.
If you are interest in gluten free baking like I am, I highly recommend this recipe. Next item, I plan to make cheese bread or cinnamon raisin bread variation. I’m sure it is a treat that my friends would love to try.