Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Request a Gluten-free Recipe!

What kind of recipe would you like to have in gluten-free form?

Last spring I took a poll on my Facebook page asking what kind of GF recipes people wanted to see on my blog.  I had some really intense challenges set before me, things that were highly technical and required a steep learning curve.  You know, the kinds of challenges that I love to take on.  Nine batches of croissants later at 22 hours per batch, and I had my first recipe challenge completed.  That was only the beginning.  I quickly realized that a whole new flour formula would be needed.  Croissants, technically, are a bread, not a pastry, and the ultimate request came from my mom, who wanted Danishes.  Who can deny their mom cheese Danishes?

My gluten-free challenges last year made for some really prolific recipe invention.  I made a bread flour blend, learned how to make laminated pastries, and made the best-looking, fluffiest, hole-i-est gluten-free baguettes you've ever seen.

Here was the list of gluten-free recipes requested last spring:

I got six out of eight of those checked off the list.  The remaining two get moved to my new list, which is growing.

Recipe Request List:

Cinnamon Rolls
Easy crescent rolls
Soft Pretzels
Pain au Chocolat

What would you like to add to my to-do list?  Or, is there something you think I should work on first?  Leave it in the comments!

As an added bonus, I'll promise to post a requested recipe next Wednesday - or at least a humorous status report on my failure to produce instant results.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Traditional Round Loaf (Boule) Bread Recipe

Here's a recipe that uses traditional methods for a traditional round loaf (or boule) with a crisp crust and a chewy center.  I have a bunch of quick and easy bread recipes on this site.  Now it's time for a more traditional take on making bread.  The beauty of my bread flour mix is that the dough can be handled a lot like traditional bread dough; it can be handled, kneaded, and shaped.

You will get better, more consistent results with this recipe if you weigh everything - including the water.  However, I have given you volume measurements just in case you haven't yet bought a digital kitchen scale.

Traditional Round Loaf Recipe

makes one 1-pound loaf

Mix in the bowl of your stand mixer or whisk together by hand:

225g (about 1 cup) warm water, 110-120 degrees
15g whole psyllium husk (or 10g ground psyllium husk)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Add to the bowl:

225g GF Bread Flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast (about half a packet)

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until everything is completely combined and a sticky dough forms.

Remove the dough to a banneton or other lightly floured basket or bowl.  Cover, and let rise 1/2 hour in a warm place.  After it has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Gently knead the dough with lightly floured hands until you can form a ball with it.  Place the dough seam-side up back in your rising basket.  Let rise 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, or until a finger dent doesn't fill in quickly, but only comes halfway back.

When it's done rising, place a dutch oven or a pizza stone and an oven-safe pan in the oven and turn it on to pre-heat to 450 degrees F.  While the oven is heating gently shape your dough, trying not to deflate it.  Place the dough seam-side down on your lightly floured work surface.  Lightly flour your hands.  Gently run your hands along the sides of the dough, tucking the sides under and turning the loaf around as you go to get all edges tucked under.   The top will be more rounded than before and stretched a bit more tightly.    Brush the top with a little water.  Place the dough on parchment paper, cover the dough and let rest for 15-20 minutes while the oven heats.

When the oven is ready and the dough has completed its bench rest, score the top with a sharp blade about 1/4 inch deep in whatever pattern you want.

Carefully place the bread in the hot dutch oven or on the hot pizza stone and cover.  Cook for 15 minutes, then uncovered on the rack until the crust has a hollow sound when tapped on top, usually another 25 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack, or for a crisper crust turn off the flame and cool in the oven with the door propped open.  Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy some traditional gluten-free bread!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How to Make Your Own Gluten-free Bread Flour Blend

My last post on the Best Gluten-free Sandwich Bread Ever generated a flurry of interest and responses. All of them were about wanting to try the recipe.  Most of them, however, were from people who couldn't.  They really, really wanted to.  However, they can't get the unique Gluten-free Gourmand No. 7 Bread Flour.  It's not their fault!  It's just that due to things like food regulations and exorbitant shipping prices I only ship my specialty baking mixes within the United States.  What's a gluten-free baker to do if she lives in Australia (or Canada, or New Zealand)?

Now, I'm all about promoting my beautiful, artisan flours that are lovingly tested in small batches to make sure they have fewer than 10 ppm gluten.  I'm also very dedicated to bringing my customers more recipes to enjoy.  However, my blog didn't start out to sell flour.  I started blogging to share what I know about gluten-free baking, about how rewarding it can be to make something really good from scratch that's perfectly gluten-free.  Something that tastes just how you want it to taste, and feels just how you want it to feel.

It took me years to build up the courage to tackle gluten-free bread.  Then it took another year to perfect my own recipe with my own blend of flours.  That was the Teff Sandwich Bread Recipe which has gotten a lot of good feedback.  I learned so much about bread making while creating that recipe.  One thing I learned was that teff is not very readily available in many places.  I'll get to why I chose teff as my main flour in a minute, but first I want to show you who reads my blog.

Here is a screen shot of my Google Analytics.  I tried to get as close to 1,000 people in this statistic as possible to have a good sample.

Click on the image to see it larger.

I'm continually surprised that only 67% of my readers are in the United States!  Almost 12% of my readers are in Canada, and over 7% are in either Australia or New Zealand.  I can blame my Gluten-free Friand Recipe for that!  And it's no wonder that I have some readers in the UK, considering how obsessed I am with Traditional English Scones.

But enough with the statistics.  The point is that a website is international.  It can't be contained.  I'm really excited to have such a wide readership, and I want everyone to be able to make bread and scones.  That's why for almost every recipe that I have on this website that uses my artisan baking mixes, I also have a recipe that shows you how to blend your own gluten-free flours.

I've been hearing from my Australian and New Zealand readers over the last couple of days.  They really want to try my bread recipes.  They can get the psyllium husk and other binders, but it's difficult to get teff flour.  That makes sense.  It's a specialty flour that's native to Africa.  We happen to have a few farms here in the US that grow it in dedicated gluten-free fields.  Australia may not have such a farm.  So what to do?  Figure out your own flour blend, that's what!  Everyone who has written to me seems eager to experiment, so I'm eager to share what I know.

How to Find the Best Bread Flours

First of all, I want to share my thought process regarding the creation of my first bread recipe.  I wanted to find flours that had these properties:

  • strength
  • flexibility
  • ability to ferment well
  • Has been used in traditional breads
That's how I came up with Teff for my main flour in my first sandwich bread recipe: it's one of the few gluten-free flours that has been used traditionally to make a yeasted bread, called injera.  It's a sourdough flat bread that has been made for centuries in Africa.  Injera is very flexible and spongy, and it's traditionally made with 100% teff flour so I knew the grain would have great properties for making bread.  When you go to create your own blend with flours that are available in your area, think about them in the same terms.

What I quickly verified upon starting to experiment, though I always suspected it from the first bite of gluten-free bread I ever ate, was:

Rice flour is not a good flour for making bread

There, I said it.  Rice flour is typically very stiff, folks.  It's heavy.  It hates to rise.  I love it in quick breads, but not for yeasted breads.  If you live in a place that just doesn't have much else, try to find sweet rice flour, glutinous rice flour, or something with a very fine grind and do some experimenting.

After I decided on these parameters, I decided to make a list of non-rice flours that I thought might make for good bread:

potato starch
corn starch
tapioca starch
arrowroot (I've actually never tried this, but some bloggers swear by it)
bean/soy flours (if you like the flavor)

How to Blend Gluten-free Flours for Bread Recipes

Blending gluten-free flours may be an art form, but you need some science to measure your progress.  I didn't start to get anywhere in blending my own flours until I got a scale and started doing it by weight. There's just no way to measure flour accurately by volume.  Trust me, every time you scoop out a cup of sorghum flour, it's going to be a different amount of flour.  I know, because I've done it and I weighed the results!  It's impossible to be accurate or consistent.  Go by weight.  Take very detailed notes on what each blend contained, your method, and the results.

How you combine your flours is, in part, up to you.  For the lightest, fluffiest bread you will need a relatively high proportion of starch.  For a denser, more whole-grain taste you will want more dark whole grains.  Here are a few suggestions on how to get started.  Keep in mind that my percentages are by weight, not volume.

Light-textured bread with a "white wheat flour" feel:

50% starch, 50% lighter whole grains (grains that are lighter in color tend to have a milder flavor)

Dense, whole-grain bread with deeper flavor, try:

30% starch 70% whole grains

Happy medium:

40% starch 60% mixed whole grains

Mix it Up

Try using at least two starches and two whole grains in your blend to start.  If you can get them, I recommend using an equal portion of potato starch and tapioca starch.  Potato starch seems to absorb too much water while tapioca flour doesn't absorb enough.  Exactly equal portions seems to be the best blend for these two flours; they compliment each other well at this ratio.  If you can get your hands on some sorghum flour, use lots of that.  It may seem like it's going to be heavy and sticky, but it rises well, gives your loaf strength, and has a beautiful, sweet flavor.  

Here's a suggestion on how to blend flours for a recipe that calls for 450g flour:

200g sorghum flour
100g whole-grain flour of choice
75g potato starch
75g tapioca starch

Take notes about what you like in each loaf, and what you don't.  Make sure you measure the liquids in the recipe very carefully each time.  Did the bread take forever to cook?  You may have too much liquid.  Did the bread fail to rise much?  The dough may be too dry, or you have too much whole grain or heavy flours in your blend.  Adjust the blend the next time you experiment.


I wrote a whole post on the different kinds of binders you can use here.  I wrote a post on chia, flax, and psyllium husk here.  I've gotten a lot of questions regarding the amount of psyllium husk I use in my bread recipes.  The answer for those who blend their own flours is, it depends.  If you use more whole grains, you may need less binder.  If you use more starches, you may need more binder.  If you're mixing the psyllium with other binders, reduce the amount of psyllium.  The range of psyllium husk you might use for a bread recipe that calls for 450 grams of flour is about 20-50 grams.  Unlike with gums, it's difficult to use too much psyllium husk. Start on the high side and reduce the amount by a little bit every time you try your flour blend to see what gives you the best texture.

What kinds of gluten-free flours can you find in your part of the world?  What kinds of blends have you tried, and what has worked for you?  What has failed?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Best Gluten-free Sandwich Bread Recipe

Whenever I see that a recipe has been made vegan, I'm immediately suspect that it has been made to be flavorless.  This is not the case with vegan bread.  After all, a traditional french baguette is only water, flour, yeast, and salt.  Bread is supposed to be made vegan.  Once you get the gluten-free part down, the vegan part should be easy, right?

Well... it did take me several tries to get this.  For my baguettes and small round loaves I can get it to rise just fine without the eggs.  However, sandwich loaves have more volume and need a little something extra for the vertical lift I was looking for.  Fortunately, by the time I got done with it I'd crafted the best gluten-free sandwich bread I'd ever made.

To make it egg-free, this recipe calls for just a little bit of flax seed to give the dough some extra structure so it can rise well.  It also gives the bread great flexibility, so your sandwiches can stay together.  I ended up liking the flax better than the eggs.  Go figure.

I've been doing all my gluten-free sandwich loaves in a Pullman Pan.  It gives you a much taller loaf than a traditional pan.  It's 4x4x9 inches and often comes with a cover.

The Best Gluten-free Sandwich Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Prep time: 10 min
Rise time: 1 1/4 - 2 hours for two rises
Bake time: 45-55 min

Mix in the bowl of your stand mixer:

350g (about 1.5 cups) warm water 100-120 degrees
30g whole psyllium husk - or - 20g ground psyllium husk
4 tsp apple cider vinegar

When the wet mixture thickens to form a gel, add:

36 g (3 Tbsp) sugar
1 package (7g or 2 1/4 tsp) Red Star Quick-rise Instant Dry Yeast (or similar)
1 Tbsp ground flax seed
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
450g Bread Flour 

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients for several minutes until well-combined.  Turn the dough out into a lightly-oiled bowl to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.  Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured working surface and shape it into a rough rectangle, deflating the dough gently as you go.

Fold the dough like a letter.

Then fold the dough again to make an even tighter, smaller dough package.

Tuck the ends under and place the formed dough in a loaf pan to rise.

Let it rise for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hour, or until the dough no longer springs all the way back when dented with a finger.

Bake the bread in a 450 degree oven for 25 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and cook until done, another 20-30 minutes.  The loaf is done when the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees or the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

You can slice the bread as soon as it cools.  The bread stays fresh in a plastic bag on the counter for at least four days.  After that you can choose to slice and freeze it or store it in the fridge for a few more days.  

Enjoy being gluten-free!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Make Heart-shaped Scones - Without a Cookie Cutter!

I'm not one for buying a million different cookie cutters.  I like to think of myself as way more DIY than that.  I can cut my own heart-shaped scones!  And I'll waste less precious scone dough with my method, too.  I decided that this Valentine's day is going to bring some beautiful heart-shaped scones to my plate, and they should be topped with a raspberry glaze.

To make heart-shaped scones, you can use a traditional scone recipe, my vegan recipe, or the recipe below, a quick and easy egg-free recipe which is another old traditional recipe I love called Cream Scones.  You can even use my Scone Mix.  If you're not into raspberries, you can use any kind of jam to top these or just brush them with cream and serve them plain.  I also have a recipe for a kumquat glaze which is really pretty.

To shape the scones, first cut them out as usual.  Form the dough into a circle, then cut the circle into eight triangles.

Carefully place the triangles onto a cookie sheet.  Cut the edges off the wide side of the triangles, then cut a v-notch in the middle of the scone like this:

With your thumb, make a depression in the center of the scones.  Brush the scones with cream.  Top the scones with your glaze or jam.

Bake as directed.

Raspberry Glaze:

In a small sauce pan, heat:

1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp sugar

Boil for 5 minutes, then carefully taste and adjust the flavors as needed.  Simmer the mixture while you're preparing your scones.  Don't let it cool or you won't be able to pour it.

Cream Scone Recipe:
makes 8 scones

Pre-heat oven to 425 F. 

Mix in a medium bowl:

1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder (make sure it's GF)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (not necessary if your gluten-free flour mix already has it, or if you are using wheat flour)
2 tsp lemon zest

Add all at once, and combine in a few quick strokes:

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

Turn the dough out onto your cookie sheet and pat it into a circle.  It may seem like it's not sticking together - you can gently pat it and/or let it rest until it becomes cohesive.  Cut the circle into 8 equal pieces.  Follow the pictorial instructions above for heart-shaped scones.  Top with a glaze before cooking or you can also put the glaze on after baking.  Bake at 425 F for about 12 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Enjoy your heart-shaped scones!

Check out the blog Gluten-free Homemaker on Wednesday for more Valentine's day ideas!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Easy Sugar Cookies

With Valentine's day coming up, you might be looking for a treat you can make for yourself - or your loved one, if he likes cookies.  But mostly yourself, right?  Most sugar cookie recipes make an ungodly number of cookies, but I for one never need 3 dozen of these guys.  This recipe is pretty easy and makes about a dozen cookies, so you can still fit into your Valentine's day outfit, sort of.

Are you a gluten eater, or do you have a different GF flour on your shelf?  Just sub out cup-for-cup the flour that you have for my blend.  This recipe is very forgiving!

Easy Sugar Cookies
makes 1 dozen cookies

With an electric beater or in a stand mixer, cream:

1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar

Cream these together for several minutes.  The blend should lighten and look fluffy.  Add:

1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla

Beat until creamy.  Add:

1 1/4 cup Deluxe Pastry Flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Slowly beat the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until everything is well-combined.  Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour, or up to several days.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator and peel the back portion of the parchment paper off, then replace it.  Peel the front piece of parchment paper off and discard it.  (This makes it easier to remove the cookies from the paper after they are cut out.)  Set the rolled-out dough parchment paper side down on a clean work surface and cut out as many cookies as you can.  With a thin spatula transfer the cookies to a baking sheet.  If you aren't icing the cookies you can put a little sugar on top.  You can use the scraps to make more cookies but you may have to refrigerate the rolled-out dough again if it gets too warm to handle.

Bake the cookies for 6-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them to make sure they don't get overdone.  They are ready when the edges are just slightly brown.

Cool the cookies on a rack and ice them or serve them plain.


Need more Valentine's Day treat ideas?  Visit the Gluten-free Homemaker.  She's hosting a blog carnival with a V-day theme!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Quick, Easy Gluten-free Naan Recipe

I had never made naan before last week.  The only reason?  I had no idea how easy it is!  It's really one of the fastest breads you can make.  I can start making naan when my boyfriend calls in the take-out order and have it ready when he comes back with the food.  You don't really need to let it rise - the bread is leavened with baking soda as well as yeast.  The yeast adds flavor, the baking soda adds fluffiness.  The result is a very chewy, flexible flatbread.  Now you no longer have to be jealous if your boyfriend gets bread with his Indian food.  In fact, he'll probably want some of your naan hot off the grill.

Gluten-free Naan Recipe
makes 4 large naan

In a large bowl, whisk together:

250g - about 1 Cup - warm kefir or yogurt
15g whole psyllium husk (or 10g ground psyllium husk)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

When the mixture has thickened, add to the bowl:

225 g GF Bread Flour Blend
12 g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp yeast

Mix everything until it starts to come together, then knead or use the paddle attachment of your stand mixer to combine everything thoroughly.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Divide the dough into four parts and roll out on floured parchment paper.

At this point you can let the dough rise for 30 minutes or you can cook it right away.

Place a dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet on the stove.

Turn the heat to medium-high and heat the dutch oven until it starts smoking.  Be careful - you are working with extremely hot temperatures.  Put in the pan and swirl around to coat the bottom:

high-heat oil or ghee

When the oil is hot, peel the parchment paper off the naan and flip it onto the bottom of the dutch oven. Cook for one minute, covered.  Brush the uncooked side with oil and flip the bread over with a metal spatula.  Cook the other side one minute, covered.  Remove to a plate and cook the rest of the naan in the same manner.

Enjoy your naan with some delicious Indian food!