4.01.2011

i took to the kitchen


I had one of those days recently.

The kind that rise up out of nowhere.

I never saw it coming. Josh's family was here, we started the day at our favorite local breakfast joint, everyone was pleasant and relaxed. The sun was out.

There was no warning, when the phone rang, that the news would knock the wind out of me, scramble my insides, send my adrenaline-charged mind racing to do damage control. Priorities immediately shifted, I canceled the rest of the days' commitments and sat myself down at the desk to plan and think and map out our defense strategy.

The thing is, two hours later I realized that I had done all I could to respond and prepare, and yet the nervous energy was still clattering around in me, leaving a swirling wake behind me that the boys were surely picking up on.

So, practically without thinking, I did the only logical thing. I took to the kitchen to bake.

And I didn't bake just any ol' thing, something quick and easy and sugary, designed to satiate a mid-afternoon craving. No, I needed to do something substantial, something nourishing, something hearty and grounded and real.

I needed to bake bread. And bake bread I did.

Funny that when people talk about the meditative and soothing aspects of bread baking, they're often talking about all that kneading and punching down. We don't get to do that with gluten-free bread dough. No point in kneading something that doesn't have any gluten to develop in the first place, right? Plus, trying to knead a tacky, sticky batter would just be a messy, frustrating, fruitless endeavor. Very un-meditative.

Yet still I find the process to be extremely calming. I've been working on the recipe for this site for a while now, so I gave my mind permission to dive into thoughts of flavor and texture and aroma, analyzing and comparing the qualities of all the different flours I've grown to know and love over the past few years. And because I bake primarily by weight, there was the familiar, rhythmic pattern of weigh, tare, weigh, tare, watching the flours pile up into little mountain ranges in my mixing bowl, lovely in their complementary hues of yellow, brown, tan, and white.

When I was done, two wonderful, unexpected things had occurred. For starters, I realized I had let go of all my anxiety. I felt fine, really and truly, and knew that I would be able to handle any subsequent curve balls calmly and productively, without panic. That was a tremendous feeling.


But even more wonderful was the external, visible result of my afternoon of baking. Bread. Bread that smelled divine; nutty and wholesome and healthy. Bread with a crisp, crackling crust that broke open unevenly to reveal a soft, chewy crumb inside. Bread that I couldn't get Kalen to stop asking for.

In the world of gluten-free breads, there are a lot of ways, a lot of words, that people use to convince those around them that the bread is not only gluten-free, but good gluten-free. Gluten-free bread can be a tough sell, and rightly so. I could give you a lot more of my words, but coming from someone who doesn't eat gluten-full bread, mine is not the most authoritative voice. Josh, on the other hand, knows good bread. And here's what he had to say about my gluten-free version: "This is good bread. It tastes just like a hearty, whole-grain wheat bread." Thank you.


And lest you worry too much about that bad day I had, it cleared out almost as quickly as my mood did. It was a little misunderstanding, some poor communication, an overreaction. Twenty-four hours later had things straightened out and better than before. For which I am grateful, because it means that my lasting memory of that day can be all about bread, and nourishment and de-stressing.

It's all good, friends. It's all good.


Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Bread
Yields 10 rolls or two small boules

I started thinking about this bread when Michael Ruhlman posted his recipe almost three months ago. Then Shauna/Gluten-Free Girl got in on it, with delicious results. How could I resist learning from the two of them to come up with my own, outstanding-if-I-do-say-so-myself, version?

15 grams ground flaxseed
15 grams ground chia seed or Salba®
70 grams boiling water
18 grams (1 Tbsp) active dry yeast
21 grams (1 Tbsp) honey
8 fluid oz water, warmed to 110ºF, divided in half
125 grams Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
100 grams gluten-free oat flour
60 grams light buckwheat flour
60 grams corn flour
55 grams gluten-free rolled oats
50 grams almond flour
40 grams millet flour
40 grams teff flour
25 grams sorghum flour
30 grams dry milk powder
10 grams (2 tsp) kosher salt
2 large eggs, beaten
40 grams (3 Tbsp) canola oil
egg wash, for brushing over bread
rolled oats, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the flaxseed, chia or Salba® and boiling water and mix to create a slurry. Set aside to cool.

In another bowl, combine 4 fluid oz of the warm water with the yeast and honey and stir to combine. Set aside to proof, about 10 minutes. Mixture should double in size and be bubbly and foamy. If it isn't, your yeast is too old and you'll need to start over with fresh yeast.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the flours, rolled oats, milk powder, and salt. Whisk to thoroughly blend.

Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and add the cooled slurry, proofed yeast, beaten eggs, and canola oil. Mix on low speed to blend. With the mixer running, slowly add the remaining 4 fluid oz warm water (which may need to be reheated if it's cooled down too much), until your dough is thick and tacky. You may not need all of the water depending on the humidity of your kitchen and the moisture content of your flours.

Turn the dough out into a well-oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for an hour, or until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. If you have one, place a pizza stone in the oven while it's preheating. Otherwise, use sheet pans.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured board, gently pressing to deflate it. Divide it into 10 pieces for rolls, or in half for 2 boules. Using wet hands, gently shape the dough into rolls or boules and place them on parchment paper. Cover with a towel (or plastic wrap) and allow to rise for 10-15 minutes more.

Uncover the dough, and brush the surface with egg wash. Sprinkle with oats, seeds, etc. to garnish. If making boules, use a serrated knife to slash an 'X' in the center of the loaves.

Transfer bread, still on parchment, to the oven, placing it directly on preheated pizza stone/sheet pan. Placing a pan of hot water on the floor of the oven will help the bread develop a really lovely thick, crackly crust.

Bake until bread is a rich golden brown, and makes a hollow sound when you thump the bottom. Depending on the size (rolls vs. boules), this should take anywhere from 30 to 70 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Bread is wonderful warm, but is also great at room temperature within the first two days. After that, your best bet is to toast it, which revives it a bit. It also freezes well, wrapped airtight, for up to three months.

21 comments:

  1. Oh, Tara! I'm glad everything ended up ok. The bread looks amazing!! Maybe this will be the recipe that gets me to try measuring ingredients by weight. I'll be back in town on the 7th and would love to get together!

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  2. Looks like bread I'd see in a french bakery. The oats on top realy sell it! I have to respect the opinion of your husband, also. Good GF bread is hard to come by. I can almost taste that preserve on the plate -apricot? I can't see the label. Love my warm bread with a wad of dairy-free butter and a thick jam or preserve, homemade or store-bought, it is simply the comfort food of the hearth.

    Guess I better stop avoiding home baked bread and put all those flours in my pantry to use VERY SOON! I used to bake wheat breads and pie crusts and pizza years ago from scratch, and I suspect I am not finished mourning that process. Bringing out the articles of bread-baking magic, knowing I will not pound, knead and already know the results will be good,has kept me in a state of avoidance on the risen breads. Muffins and bannana nutbreads were no problem. On the upside, who wants to punch and knead for 10 minutes, anyway?

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  3. Sammy - Thanks, it was stressful for only a short time, but still! And yes, you've got to get a scale. I would have thought Richard would have converted you long ago! Definitely give me a call when you get back - I can't wait to see you, although it may end up being after Wylie's surgery.

    Silky - Thanks, that's quite a compliment! I'd love to think it could stand up to artisan French bread, but I'm happy just to know that it's good and reminds Josh of wheat-based breads. And I wonder if jumping back into baking could be just what you need to end your mourning for gluten and get good bread back into your life? Let me know if you try it! Oh, and the preserve is a blood orange marmalade by Stonewall Kitchen. Very tasty, especially for store-bought.

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  4. This looks really good. I am constantly looking for gluten free bread that is hearty and has good texture. However, I am allergic to tree nuts, is there something that I can substitute for the almond flour? Thanks

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  5. TJWMD - Hello! The almond flour is definitely not essential to the recipe, so replacing it should be fine. If you want a substitute, I'd suggest amaranth flour. In large quantities it tends to overpower, but in small amounts (like the 50 grams of almond flour in the recipe) it lends a lovely, nutty back note to baked goods. It's also incredibly healthy, so a nice thing to incorporate into your baking in general. However, if you're looking to make the recipe just a bit less complicated, I'd leave the almond flour out and simply increase one of the other flours by 50 grams. The sorghum, buckwheat, or millet would all be good candidates - just choose one you like the flavor of! Hope this helps! :)

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  6. oh my these rolls look divine! I'm looking forward to trying them out. Thanks for the great recipe.

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  7. emm- You're welcome! I hope you do try them, and let me know what you think!

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  8. What an amazing & multigrain gf bread!!

    Those bread rolls look so apetizing & I realy love all of the different flours you have used in here!

    I do have a question: We can't buy gf pastry flour over hre in Belgium, could I use another gf flour instead???

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  9. Sophie - Thanks so much! To answer your question: we don't have gf pastry flour over here, either (that I know of, anyway); I make my own blend, which I use in a lot of my recipes. Here's the link to the post that includes the pastry flour recipe: http://abakinglife.blogspot.com/2010/02/unintended-consequences.html
    It's waaaayyyy down at the bottom, so just scroll to the end. Also, it's just a ratio, so you can use whatever measuring method you're most comfortable with. And if you want an even easier option, any commercially-available gf all-purpose flour mix should work, as long as all it contains are flours (no gums, leaveners, etc.) - just pick one you like! Do let me know if you try the bread!

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  10. Hey Tara, what would you recommend I use in place of the teff flour? We don't have it here in Aussie :-( This is going to be my first gf bread recipe to try out once we get into our own house.
    Also, in reply to your question about my gf pizza recipe if you haven't seen my answer, use both potato starch and corn starch in the recipe. It gets so confussing when most of the world know those flours as starches, except for NZ!

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  11. my darling lemon thyme - Hi Emm! Hmmm, about the teff. There really isn't a good gf replacement for it. It's quite distinctive, in both color and flavor. (I've heard, for non-gf, that a combo of whole wheat & rye make a good substitution. Which explains a bit why teff is so good at lending a wheat-like flavor to baked goods!) For this recipe, I'd suggest increasing the buckwheat, millet, or sorghum flours by 40 grams, to make up for the lack of teff. Or you could replace the teff with another flour of your choosing - quinoa, brown rice flour, etc. It will change the bread a little, but it should still be good! And I'm flattered and honored that you would want to christen your new home with my recipe. Thank you!

    And thanks also for the starch/flour clarification for your pizza recipe. Certainly a confusing issue, if you're trying to write recipes for an international audience!

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  12. Looks so good! Any suggestion to replace the dried milk? We are dairy free as well. Thank you!

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  13. Knittymama - The bread should work fine if you simply leave the dried milk out. You could also replace some of the water with your favorite dairy-free milk. Also, I know that soy milk powder exists, and although I have no experience with it I would think it would be a nice addition to bread. Basically, the milk powder is in the recipe for flavor and to help get a nice brown crust, but it's not a crucial ingredient. Good luck!

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  14. This post is a wonderful dense one. I used to LOVE bread baking. No, I used to be passionate about bread baking, I blogged about it, I even created a special site just about bread. I've baked sourdough breads by the dozens in my kitchen, enjoying every little bit of it.
    And then, we learned my eldest girl was gluten intolerant. And then that my two youngest were even more severely gluten intolerant, though not celiac.
    That was March 2010, I put my natural sourdough starter in the fridge and almost stopped baking bread. Almost, only, because I tried a few times to build a GF sourdough but my heart was not in the process, too much preoccupied by the hard everyday coping with my kids health issues...
    And now, a year later, I feel I'm free, again, to go back to real bread baking, and your post, so beautiful and to the core of what home bread baking once brought me, is going to help me to go back.
    Thank you.

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  15. Flo - I'm so pleased that my post might help you regain your bread-baking passion. I've had mediocre success making gf sourdough bread, but I know Dr. Jean Layton/Gluten-Free Doctor has mastered her technique. It's definitely on my list of things to conquer! I'd love to hear that your family is enjoying homemade sourdough bread once again. Good luck!

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  16. Hey thanks for that Tara. I've often wanted to ask someone from the U.S about teff flour. I hope to one day get to use & taste it, as it sounds amazing! I'll let you know how my bread goes once I make it :-)

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  17. Emm - I'm pretty sure you can order teff flour online, from Bob's Red Mill. I've heard it's not on lists of items banned from being shipped to Australia. But it's a pricey grain to begin with, and with international shipping, it might end up being crazy expensive. Good luck with your baking!

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  18. Hi Tara,

    I love your blog. It is wonderful. I just saw you new pasta recipe and can't wait to try it. I am ready to try this bread recipe and I had one question. Can I bake this bread in a bread pan?

    Happy baking,
    Loyda
    Texas

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  19. Loyda - Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying this space. As for the bread, I'm sure it will work in a bread pan, but I'd advise a small-ish one (and so you may end up needing two bread pans, or do half the dough as rolls or a boule). The bread is dense enough that I imagine a large loaf of it would take forever to bake, and might dry out too much. But give it a go, and I'd love to hear about your results!

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  20. Hello! I just made these and mine turned out really dense with a strong yeast flavor. I followed the recipe exactly, so I can't figure out what I did wrong??? I only added 2oz of the leftover water in the end...do you think this might have had something to do with it? I am new to gluten free bread making, and so far it seems that I just don't have the magic touch:) Thanks for your help! By the way, your's look beautiful and delicious!

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  21. Lacy - I'm so sorry to hear that the bread didn't turn out for you! It's hard to say exactly what the issue could have been, not having been in the kitchen with you, but I've got some ideas. For one, you may have used too much water. Gluten-free bread dough needs to be MUCH wetter than regular bread dough, which takes some getting used to. It's more like a thick batter, really. Also, a strong yeast flavor can be a sign of over-proofing, so your dough may have risen too long. This would also have caused it to deflate, resulting in denser bread. If you decide to try it again, please do let me know how it turns out! Thanks, and good luck!

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