I need to get something off my chest.
I'm getting tired of rustic, artisan bread.
That feels like a really bad thing to say. As if, by saying it, I'm also implying that I'd like to throw out all the artisan cheese, and the small-batch organic fruit preserves, the heritage pork, the farmer's market bounty, and everything else the current food revolution has brought our way.
No. Obviously not. I love all of it, and the whole truth is that I'm not actually done with gluten-free artisan bread, just finding myself needing more. More flexibility. More versatility.
You see, I love the hearty, rustic breads I've learned to make over the past couple of years. I love the yeasty, nutty smell they exhale into my kitchen while baking, the chewy toothsome texture, the feeling that I'm being good to my body by feeding it all those different whole grains. Slices of them toasted and slathered with butter, nudging my morning eggs away from the center of the plate, are perfect. Alongside (and dunked into) a bowl of steaming, thick soup, they're comforting. And they make great cheese toast.
But sometimes, when I decide to give up some pride and be honest with myself, I'll admit that I don't really like those breads for sandwiches. Or French toast. They're useless for bread pudding, and they don't make good croutons. Versatile they are not.
But, stubborn one that I am, I resisted taking the next step and actually doing something about it, so loyal was I to artisan crusty boule.
It took the challenge of the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally to give me the kick in the pants I needed to finally admit that sandwich bread — soft, bendy, mild-flavored, adaptable sandwich bread — was urgently required.
This bread can be folded. It can be twisted. It can be sort of scrunched in your fist, which you might find yourself doing unthinkingly when your children energetically launch into their 708th fight of the day. And then it boings back to its original shape.
Writing it out like that, it almost sounds too weird. Like it's rubber bread, and might bounce off your plate. I assure you, it's not rubbery. Or tacky or gummy or sticky. The interior is dry, with a nice crumb, not at all dense or coarse. The crust is firm and crisp, just enough to provide a good contrast to the loaf's tender insides. (It doesn't come close to the crust on that epic crusty boule from my childhood, the one so hard it knocked a not-yet-loose-tooth out of my mouth and flung it across my grandparent's kitchen, pinging it off the refrigerator before I had time to realize what was going on.) And it happens to taste really good, like a faintly sweet honey-oat bread.
The fact that it compresses gently when you take a bite of it, then springs back up, reinflating itself, should just be the icing on the cake.
Except that, in the often-frustrating realm of gluten-free sandwich bread, it suddenly seems like the most important thing in the world. The novelty will wear off eventually, I imagine. But until then, you can find me reveling in soft, untoasted sandwiches, tender, eggy French toast, and, especially, plain ol' bread and butter.
Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread
Yields one standard 8½ x 4½ inch loaf
I am so grateful to this month's host, Karen, of Cooking Gluten-Free, who challenged us Rally-ers to come up with our best versions of gluten-free bread. I know I wouldn't have made time in recent weeks for bread experimentation without her motivation! There is a great group of bloggers participating in the Rally this month, so be sure to check out the links to all the other entries that Karen has posted on her site!
This recipe makes such a lovely loaf of sandwich bread, I know that I'll probably be sticking to that for a while. However, I did try baking it as a boule, the dough shaped and risen on a piece of parchment, then put — parchment and all — directly onto a hot pizza stone in a 425ºF oven for 45-50 minutes. It was wonderful. Its adaptability is yet another reason I love this recipe!
The ratio for this recipe is approximately 4 parts flour:3½ parts liquid:1 part egg
100 grams tapioca starch
63 grams light buckwheat flour (I use this brand; darker buckwheat flour will yield a different result)
53 grams brown rice flour
40 grams certified gluten-free oat flour
1 packet (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon psyllium husk powder
110 grams whole milk, heated to 115º-120ºF
110 grams water, heated to 115º-120ºF
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
Lightly grease an 8½ by 4½ by 2½ inch loaf pan and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all dry ingredients and mix on low until thoroughly blended.
Gently whisk together the remaining ingredients and, with the mixer running, slowly pour the wet into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until combined, then increase speed to medium and beat for one minute.
Scrape the dough into the prepared loaf pan, and use wet fingertips to smooth out the surface. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 2-2½ hours, or until the dough has risen to the top of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Remove the plastic wrap, and bake the bread for 55-65 minutes, or until the bread makes a hollow sound when you thump it on the bottom. (I took my loaf out of the bread pan for the final 15 minutes of baking, and set it directly on the pizza stone that lives in my oven, because I wanted a crispier crust. Leave the loaf in the pan if you prefer a softer crust.)
Cool bread completely on a wire rack before slicing into it. (This is the hardest thing in the world to do. I suggest you leave the house and go run errands. Or at least occupy yourself with a complex project with the kids!) Wrap airtight, and store at room temperature.
Posted by Tara Barker at 8:00 AM