Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review: Gluten Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

For all of you bread lovers out there, this holiday season has a special treat for you:  Gluten-free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a new book in the "Bread in 5" series by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.  Released on October 21st, this book is just for you gluten-free folk, with beautiful, stunning photos of crusty, golden-brown loaves of bread of all shapes and sizes, and a comprehensive list of recipes for everything from baguettes to doughnuts.  I was lucky enough to get an advance copy so I could try some of the recipes and tell my readers what I think.




I was excited to try these recipes because the first gluten-free bread I ever made was from a recipe adapted from one of the original Bread in 5 books and published on Gluten-free Girl.  It wasn't everything I wanted in a bread, but I was impressed that it even worked - and it was tasty!  I had a mixed first run with the new bread recipes in this book, but I soon realized that with some experimentation I could make these recipes do exactly what I wanted.

The first loaves I made came out incredibly dense.  This must be a somewhat common occurrence because there is a whole troubleshooting section of the book dedicated to explaining why this might happen.  I ruled out almost every possible explanation - I didn't smash the dough when shaping, I was using the same flours as the authors (Bob's Red Mill), I weighed everything in grams.  After a few more bad batches, I realized that the dough was just too dry.  I'm still not sure if it was just a matter of humidity in the air, but with one batch I made on a dry day I ended up putting more than a cup of extra water, rather than the extra tablespoon which the book suggested.

The odd thing was that there is no description in the book of how the dough should look or feel.  Describing the dough is typical in most recipes, and especially for gluten-free bread where there is no standard frame of reference for dough texture.  The book also didn't offer a way to diagnose the problem other than trial and error.  I figured it out based on my previous experience with making the Gluten-free Girl recipe mentioned above - the dough was just too stiff to rise.  Once I knew to adjust for that when needed, I had great results.

The lack of a description of dough texture is my main criticism of the book, but I was trying the recipes before some of the additional content was added to the authors' website GFBreadin5.com.  People who are new to the system can take a look at this video to get a better idea of the texture of the raw dough:
http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/2014/10/21/tips-on-great-results-with-gluten-free-dough-were-on-ktsp-tv-minneapolis-abc.  I am sure the authors will be addding more content to the website regularly to promote the book during the holiday season.

I had a few other qualms about Gluten-free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but they weren't major ones, and many of them were calmed after reading more of the recipes and descriptions.  For instance, the basic all-purpose flour mix is very low in nutrients and heavy on white rice flour.  However, they offer a 100% whole-grain flour blend as well, which can be used on its own or in combination with the AP blend.  You can also sub out the white rice flour for brown rice flour in the AP blend for a little more nutrition.  I really liked that they had an option for using psyllium husk instead of xanthan gum.  I tried it both ways and they came out similar, so I've been using psyllium husk on all my subsequent test batches.  In fact, I was impressed with the number of variations that the book gave for ingredients and techniques that could be incorporated into the process.

Small Boule - Early batches weren't perfect, but still good to eat

After I got the hang of it, I was incredibly impressed by the bread that came out of my oven with these recipes.  Even the loaves that were too dense had really good flavor, and it was easy to get the loaves to brown nicely.  I have always been opposed to rice flour in bread blends, but somehow the authors figured out a way to make it work, with the result that you can get a really nice, crispy crust that crackles coming out of the oven - something I've never gotten out of my own rice-free recipes, or anyone else's actually.  That's a major feat, and if you are the type of person who really misses a crisp, crusty bread this book is going to be a must-buy for you.   

The book itself is beautiful - the photo on the cover is inspiring, and it is filled with beautiful full-page color photos that would make anyone drool.  The index leaves something to be desired, as it has proven useless on several occasions for finding recipes or instructions that I knew were there, but the full-color photos were really helpful in finding new kinds of bread to try.  (Another quibble: not enough crumb shots!)  Based on a color photo in the book I decided to try making bagels, which were fantastic and became a staple in my house right away.  It was surprisingly easy to make a batch of these every day or two - which is the whole point of the five-minutes-a-day system.  I like that there's lots of flexibility in the time frames to fit different scenarios.

GF bagels from my own oven


Crumb shot

In the end, this is a book about a new system for making bread rather than a traditional book of recipes. I think it's a great thing for the gluten-free community, because it offers an easy, accessible way to make  really tasty bread at home when you can't find anything good in the store.  Being so beautiful a book, Gluten-free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day would make a great gift, whether for a friend who is new to gluten-free, or for a gluten-free person who already loves to bake bread.  I'm sure it will do well on the stands this holiday season.

In a few days I'll post a recipe from the book - check back soon!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Easy Gluten-free Bread Flour Blend

Over a month ago, I announced that I was discontinuing the sale of all Gluten-free Gourmand flours.  Since then, I have been working to provide my readers and customers with some flour blend recipes so they can still enjoy high-quality gluten-free baked goods.  I have been trying to come up with some flour blends that are easy to make, take few ingredients, and are delicious as well.

I have come up with a blend that substitutes well for my No. 7 Artisan Bread Flour and the No. 4 Rustic Boule Bread flour mixes.  These are flour mixes that can be used for a variety of breads and pizza dough.  Find recipes in the Bread Tab.  Use this entire blend for the No. 7 Bread Flour, or half of the blend for the No. 4 mix.  It's easy to multiply the recipe to make a big batch if you measure by weight. Or, of course, you can make your own bread blend!

I use Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flours for my breads.  They are easy to find here in Portland, Oregon.  However, I chose this group of flours because they should be easy to find and inexpensive in many parts of the world.  If you try this blend with other brands of flour, please let me know how it works for you!

Easy Gluten-free Bread Flour Blend


Makes 450g Bread Flour

Blend together thoroughly:

180g Sorghum Flour
90g Millet Flour
90g Potato Starch
90g Tapioca Starch

Leave separate to blend with the liquid in the recipe:

30g Whole Psyllium Husk

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flours No More

After long and considered thought, I have decided to stop producing Gluten-free Gourmand flours commercially.  While I am proud of that branch of the business, I would like to concentrate my efforts in other directions both personally and professionally.

There are still a few bags of product left which can be purchased here: http://glutenfreegourmand.bigcartel.com/

Once this product is gone I will no longer be offering retail sales of my custom flour blends.  In time I may come out with some new flour blends and recipes that you can make at home.  In the meantime there may be some broken links on this blog and some recipes that don't have a flour blend to refer to.  I will try to sort out as many of those as possible.  A newer, sleeker blog may be able to emerge from this transition.

Thank you for your patience and patronage.

Gina Kelley
Founder, Gluten-free Gourmand

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chicken Parmesan, Gluten-free



I like to eat big.  When I was a kid, just a skinny little thing, family and friends would marvel at the huge piles of pasta I would heap on my plate and top with meatballs.  I mean, I would really pile it on – and at 10 I would pack away more of the dish than most adults.  Italian food was a staple growing up and my mom taught me how to make my grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs, as well as other hearty meals like fresh pasta and home-made bread.  Whatever I loved to eat, I would learn how to make it.

My home-made creations weren’t always perfect.  I am still teased for the time I tried to make eggplant ravioli without a recipe when I was 16.  It took 5 hours.  When we finally sat down to eat at 10 pm, everyone was famished, but I had made some miscalculations.  Each person got about three ravioli.  They weren’t even good!  That was when I learned that eggplant, while delicious, can be spongy and bland when not cooked properly.  Eggplant ravioli was one recipe I never tried again.

Fortunately I didn’t mind the disasters.  Maybe my family did, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to eat.  A lot.  When I found out I couldn’t eat pasta anymore, it was a major blow.  Corn pasta was okay, but it didn’t taste the same.  I ate a lot of bad substitutions when I first went gluten-free eight years ago.  That’s why I was amazed at how good the Jovial Foods brown rice pasta is.  It tastes like the real thing! The Jovial Brown Rice Pasta is some of the best gluten-free pasta I’ve had, and I love that you can get lots of shapes.   Capellini, my favorite pasta shape as a kid, is perfect for this meal, and it’s a shape that’s hard to find GF. 

It was finding good products like Jovial pasta that made me realize that gluten-free could be just as good.  I started to experiment and realized that as long as I didn’t mind some trial and error, I could still make anything I wanted to eat.  I started recording my recipes – and sometimes my disasters - on this blog, Gluten-free Gourmand.  I did all my trouble-shooting for this recipe in creating one of my signature dishes: Eggplant Parmesan.  You can see that vegetarian-friendly recipe here.



Thanks to my success making Eggplant Parmesan, my Chicken Parmesan was delicious the first time I tried making it, and it has been a staple meal in my household ever since.  It seems like it would be daunting, but it’s actually very easy to make, and doesn’t take any particular kitchen know-how – just a little time and some good ingredients.  The Jovial jarred tomatoes are fresh and tangy just like tomatoes from my garden.  The sauce is a quick version of my Grandma’s sauce that I learned to make when I was young, so this recipe is like something my mom might have made for me as a kid – and that I would have eaten a lot of!

Gluten-free Chicken Parmesan


Prep time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

Sauce Ingredients:

3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 shallots
2 cloves garlic (optional)
2 jars Jovial Diced Tomatoes
¾ tsp. salt (or to taste)
Basil or oregano to taste
 
Chicken Parmesan Ingredients:

4 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or enough to coat the pan
¾ cup white rice flour
1.5 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 eggs
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
4 slices mozzarella cheese
12 oz. Jovial Brown Rice Capellini

Sauce Instructions:

 Heat Jovial Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large, shallow skillet (ovenproof if possible) on medium-low.  Slice the shallots and sauté until browned.  Chop the garlic and sauté until fragrant and beginning to turn golden.  Pour one of the cans of diced tomatoes into the pan.  Simmer the sauce to reduce the tomatoes to a paste, stirring often.  Cook the chicken in the meantime.  When the chicken is ready, stir the second jar of diced tomatoes into the sauce and add the salt and herbs.  Stir and heat to a simmer. 

Chicken Parmesan Instructions:

Heat oven to 375.

On the stove, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet on medium heat.  Mix flour and salt in a medium bowl.

Whisk the eggs in a second bowl.

Dip the first piece of chicken in the egg, coating it on all sides. Then coat it in the rice flour mixture.  Dip in the egg again, coat with rice flour again and place in the heated oil to fry.  Repeat the procedure with all four pieces of chicken.  

Turn the chicken over when it is golden brown on the bottom and fry the second side.  When the chicken pieces are well browned on both sides, set them aside on a paper towel. 

When all pieces are cooked, finish preparing the sauce (the last step of the sauce recipe) and then place the chicken pieces on top of the sauce, either in the ovenproof skillet or in a casserole dish.  Top each piece of chicken with a slice of mozzarella.  Bake the dish for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top.

While the chicken is baking, cook the capellini according to package directions while the chicken is in the oven.

Serve the chicken over the pasta with plenty of the sauce.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Quick Pie Crust Recipe



I've been working on this recipe for my mom, who requested an easier, faster recipe than a traditional all-butter pastry crust without any egg.  This crust is every bit as good, and much easier to handle due to the egg.  Plus, it's just in time for making your first strawberry rhubarb pie of the season.

Gluten-free Pie Crust Recipe


Makes one crust.  Double for pies that need a top crust.
mix time: 5 min
rest time: 30 min (optional)
cook time: 
30-50 minutes filled (like apple pie) or 
20 minutes pre-cooked for a custard filling or as a gallette

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Fluffiest Waffles with Blueberry Sauce


When a person first goes gluten-free, she often immediately thinks of all the delicious foods she won’t be able to eat again.  Croissants?  Beer?  Baguettes?  WAFFLES?  What a catastrophe!  Well, catastrophe averted.  I haven’t figured out how to make my own beer yet, but waffles are one thing that no one should ever have to miss with easy gluten-free recipes like this one.  In fact, these waffles are even lighter, fluffier, and more delicious than the wheat version.  Why?  No pesky gluten, of course!  Gluten can toughen waffles if you aren’t extremely careful in mixing.  With this recipe, there’s no gluten worry.  The texture is extremely pillowy, the flavor is full and buttery, and they are easy on the belly. They are even soft and springy the next day.