Sunday, January 16, 2011

King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Bread Mix Review

I have to confess that I'm not very good at following directions.  In fact, I almost never cook anything exactly as instructed, and I am pretty savvy about when and where to skip steps or make substitutions.  When I saw that the King Arthur Gluten-free Bread Mix called for three eggs I was tempted to change the recipe entirely, but I was afraid that if it didn't turn out I wouldn't be able to legitimately review it.  So I started off to make the bread as directed.

I threw in the three eggs, warm water, and 4 Tbsp of walnut oil.  I mixed with an electric mixer as instructed.  I added the flour one cup at a time.  Somehow, in the middle of it all, my subconscious took over and I ended up doing things my own way by sheer force of habit.  Sure, I added the three eggs, but I skipped another step entirely.  And it still came out.

I've been making a lot of gluten-free bread recently, and I've figured out that you can completely skip the second rise with GF breads.  In fact, it can improve your bread to skip that second rise.  Gluten-free dough often isn't resilient enough to come back completely from being punched down, so I simply don't do it.  It shaves quite a bit of time off making a loaf.  Besides, the whole purpose of knocking down the dough and stirring or kneading a second time is to make sure your yeast is evenly distributed throughout the dough.  If you've made most gluten-free breads by their instructions, you've already beaten the heck out of it, so your yeast distribution has already been taken care of.

This bread rose higher than any gluten-free bread I've baked.  I let it rise for about 45 minutes, which is when most GF breads I've made have maxed out.  This loaf even kept rising in the oven, which I haven't been able to get other GF breads to do.  When it came out after 50 minutes of cooking, the top was nicely rounded and browned.

The instructions say to let it cool on a rack before cutting, but it didn't say for how long.  I was semi-patient, and let it cool for about 25 minutes before enjoying a warm slice.  It had a nice, resilient texture and the bread holds together better than most GF breads, making it ideal for sandwiches.  With all the eggs and oil, the dough comes out fairly rich, but it's not as dense as most GF breads I've tried.  Where flavor is concerned, however, I am afraid that the King Arthur bread mix is a little lacking.  It's great as a substitute for white sandwich bread, but as a slice of bread to be eaten on its own with a nice slab of butter, you might go for something else.  Would letting the dough rise a second time have given it more of a traditional yeasty flavor?  I doubt it, but perhaps next time I'll be more patient.  (See the comments below for more discussion on this topic.)  Knowing how well it rose I might trust it to spring back from a knocking down.  Knowing me, however, I'll probably be tempted to change something else - I just can't help it.
The King Arthur Gluten-free Bread Mix is mostly a blend of rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch.  This blend of flours is great for giving the dough elasticity and the bread lift, but none of these flours has a lot of flavor.  The mix also has emulsifiers and xanthan gum for texture and elasticity.  The box comes with its own yeast packet.  King Arthur has done a very good job at developing a very neutral bread product that keeps well and will be very practical for sandwiches.  However, I have to wonder what a little sorghum flour would do to the bread for adding flavor and substance.  I might try adding a pinch more sugar, salt, and yeast for flavor and see if that affects how it rises.

Have you tried King Arthur Gluten-free Bread Mix?  What did you think?  I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Butternut Squash Pie

I love pumpkin, but for some reason, I've never liked pumpkin pie. I've tried to get into it, but it's been over thirty years now and I have to admit that I've been unsuccessful. I have, however, found a solution: Butternut Squash Pie.

I make this pie as more of a custard than your standard pumpkin pie. I go a little light on the seasonings and the sugar. Butternut squash is naturally sweet so you don't have to add a ton of sugar.

Butternut Squash Pie Recipe
(A clever substitute for Pumpkin pie)

Have a (gluten-free) pie crust ready to bake. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. With a cleaver or other dependable knife, remove all the seeds and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes:

1.5 lb butternut squash

Roast the squash on a baking sheet or roasting pan until it feels done when poked with a fork. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Puree the squash in a food processor. In a large bowl, whisk:

3 large eggs

Whisk in:

2 1/2 cups of the butternut squash puree
1 cup cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt

You may use a cooked or uncooked pie crust for this recipe.  Pour the squash custard into the crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes, depending on the depth of your pan. The center of the pie should still seem jiggly when you pull it out of the oven. The pie will cook through and set as it cools.  Let it cool completely, then refrigerate it for at least two hours.  Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.