Thursday, December 10, 2009

GF Yeast Bread Trials

I used to make bread. Alot. I used to have it down to quite a science. I read about it. I dreamed of having a Bosch mixer and a grain grinder. I saved articles and collected books on bread making and on the use of whole grain wheat for baking.

Then I got the dreaded homemaking edict that I had to learn to cook Gluten Free. No wheat, rye, barley or most oats. (Oats themselves are not glutinous, but they are often grown on fields that rotate with glutinous grains and are processed on the same equipment.) Gluten is the protein in some grains that creates the nice elastic dough necessary for soft spongy yeast breads. So baking without this important grain component creates many challenges.

Since quick breads such as pancakes and muffins and banana breads are not as time consuming as yeast breads, I started my learning process with these. I quickly came up with several recipes that have become stand-bys.

Cooking regular meals is not hard, unless one is accustomed to using lots of processed foods such as creamed soups. The big thing for us was the pasta. We love pasta.

And here's the thing with Gluten Free cooking, whether baking or otherwise. There are many suitable replacements available. More and more all the time. But the gluten is what holds it all together, both literally and figuratively. For most people, eating is a gustatory and olfactory experience. But what you may not think of until it's gone, is that it's also a tactile experience. And nothing replace the gluten as far as the tactile experience.

Imagine perfectly cooked pasta. Think of the texture difference between corn meal mush and cream of wheat. Take corn and flour tortillas. The flour ones have a "melt in your mouth" aspect one can't attain with corn. Or the creaminess of gravy made with flour compared to the somewhat bodiless aspect of corn starch gravy. And finally, call to mind a hot and steamy loaf of Italian bread, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.

We've found that for the most part, we don't buy the special gluten free products to replace the glutenous ones. We prefer to do without.

I did use some Christmas money last year to get a tortilla press. We've kind of mastered corn tortillas. They are still not wheat flour tortillas, and they are a bit putzy, but they are oh so much better than store bought corn tortillas.

There are also two kinds of pasta I purchase. I like quinoa macaroni and we use the Thai Kitchen stir fry noodles, both in stir fries and as a doable replacement linguine or spaghetti.

But for yeast breads, ah, yeat breads. We mostly have done without for going on five years now. I could claim the dietary high ground of the current health trends and say we don't need the carbs anyway, but I kind of suspect that the low-carb trend will run its course in due time, only to be replaced by something else.

I'm obliged, therefore, to say that I have not yet taken the time necessary to master the art of making good gluten free yeast bread. Periodically Joe will buy a store bought loaf to have on hand for toast or sandwiches, but it's kind of like paying big bucks for cardboard. Not something we want to do often. I also have some Bob's Red Mill mixes I ordered at one point and I make one of those periodically. But again, big bucks for a final product that is slightly less cardboard-like. I suppose that is unfair. The GF Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix is not too bad. But still, it's a mix! What would Grandma Eskew say? And it's not inexpensive, either.

I have recently started trying a few yeast bread recipes. I still don't have my Bosch mixer, but I do have a Kitchen Aid that does the trick. I have yet to perfect the recipe, but here's what has turned out best so far.
GF Yeast Bread

Dissolve Yeast
1 1/4 cups blood warm water or milk
2 packet active dry yeast (2 t)
In a small bowl, combine water and yeast. Stir to dissolve yeast. Let sit.

Dry Ingredients

2 1/2 cups Brown Rice Flour
2 1/2 c sorghum flour
2/3 c coconut flour
2 Tablespoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
Whisk together dry ingredients.

Add Wet Ingredients and stir to combine
Dissolved yeast
4 Tablespoons softened fat of choice (I've been using 2 t coconut oil, 2 T olive oil)
4 large eggs
1 1/4 c potato water (I needed a bit of additional liquid; I'm not sure how much, perhaps a bit more than additional 1/4 c; I added it slowly until the mixer was not struggling so much; just until the dough no longer climbed the beater.)

Once the ingredients are combined, beat on high for five minutes.

Spread into greased bread pans and cover with greased aluminum foil. Let rise in warm location for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bake loaves for about an hour covered and then until internal temperature reads 208-212 F. This takes about an additional 1/2 hour. The bread will be doughy if it does not reach at least 208 F.
The trick for me has been getting the loaves to reach the required internal temp. I decreased the liquid substantially after the first attempt. That one baked for about two hours and still would only get up to 205 F. And it was subsequently a bit doughy. But we were hungry and waiting on the bread, so we ate it anyway. But if one decreases the liquid too much, the bread will be dry and cardboardy.

Joe thinks the texture is more cake-like than bread like. He compared it to an angel food, but I think perhaps a pound cake or mock angel food. It has good flavor and holds together well. But it has a very thick crust after the extended baking time. I'd like to tweak it a bit more to get the baking time down, but I'm not sure what to do. The original recipe called for corn starch instead of coconut flour. I had the coconut flour on hand and have been wanting to find recipes in which to use it, so I just traded the two. Probably the coconut flour absorbs liquid differently than the corn starch and probably that is my dilemma. Perhaps I'll replace part of the sorghum or rice flours with corn starch. Or I'll go back to the original and use it as is and work from there.

I am reminded of my friend, Kristi, who when she was a young woman, would choose some culinary skill to perfect. She'd make the same thing over and over until it was just right. Tweaking an ingredient or process a bit each time. She is an excellent cook, too, I might add.

I tend to be more like this old poem, however.
Sad Recipe
I didn't have potatoes so I substituted rice.
I didn't have paprika so I used another spice.
I didn't have tomato paste, I used tomato sauce--
A whole can, not a half, I don't believe in waste.
A friend gave me this recipe. She said you couldn't beat it.
There must be something wrong with her--I couldn't even eat it.
I'm embarrassed to even admit my worst example of this. I was making black bean soup and I was missing several ingredients. I just threw in whatever. But the turning point was probably when I used herbal orange tea instead of orange slices.

What can I say, I was all of about 20 years old. And bold. Ah, yes, bold.


J. Jacobsen said...

Back in my heavy coffee-drinking days, I got into the practice of baking my own bread. It was great with "cowboy beans" (a crock pot of pinto beans cooked with a half-pound of bacon, cumin, an onion, and whatever else sounds good).

Once I thought I'd try something bold. I mixed a little very finely-ground, fresh-roasted coffee into the dough. Nobody liked it. I tried icing the bread to make it more appealing, but that just made it worse. Ah, wasted effort!

I recently began baking bread a little again. The bread machine is so convenient, when it works, but the loaves are gone (or sometimes forgotten) in hours. I had some success experimenting with a sourdough loaf in Erica's silicone bread pan. No measuring of ingredients there, just going by feel. It was a tad doughey in the center. Also, the silicone pans don't really contain the loaf along their long axis, resulting in slices that don't fit in the toaster.

So far, I haven't had to worry about GF cooking, but I appreciate reading about your experiences.

theMom said...

I remember you saying that you'd been doing some sour dough baking when we visited this summer. Have you kept it up?

I was also planning to include in this post, but forgot, that there have been studies that have shown that sour dough fermentation has good results for breaking down the gluten in wheat bread. Under laboratory conditions, of course.

I hope that link works, I'm not much good at this html stuff.

theMom said...

Shoot, it didn't work. Here's the link the old fashioned way.

madhenmom said...

First, I remember several discussions on an NT board about celiacs easing back into bread eating via sourdough. At first, they were fine but then the celiac came back worse than before. That's just anecdotal, but I just wanted to advise you to proceed with caution.

WV: imlavi - how a volcanic superhero introduces herself

madhenmom said...

I grew up 15 miles from town, my mom didn't drive and my dad worked swing shift. So, trips to the grocery store had to be scheduled well in advance. Needless to say, we did a lot of substituting. I assumed everyone did. As an adult, I'm amazed at how many people would never think of straying from their recipe.

WV: Flecal - Never substitute any of this material in any recipe.

theMom said...

I would never try this at home. It's just an interesting thing they can do in the laboratory at this point. They really can get the ppm to test gluten free in the final product.

But it also shows, maybe, fermenting grains can be easier on one's system. Perhaps it will eventually deter the systems of those predisposed individuals from developing celiac disease.