Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Reader's Baking Success and the Questions He Asked to Get There

I recently heard from a reader who is new to gluten-free bread baking and is really delving into it.  Eric from San Francisco had a lot of great questions for me about why I created some of my bread recipes the way I did.  He also asked me to flesh out some of the bread-making methods I use.  He had a couple of great photos he shared with me and he's been nice enough to let me show them to you!

Eric: Your recipes and methods work well! I cannot believe how well. GF Bread that actually rises and that is workable, who knew?! Thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge. I'm new to Celiac so this has been a really tough time. Baking calms me and your blog has really helped me accept my fate and inspires me to bake more!

I have a few questions, if I may:

1. Regarding baked and uncut bread. How long would it stay "fresh" on a counter? Do I need to cut, wrap and freeze it if unused in the same day? I was hoping to store some baguettes out, uncut for a few days.

Gina: Thanks for the photos!  Your bread looks really great!  I'm so happy you're enjoying my recipes, and that you've had so much success with them.  I'll try to answer some of your questions.

Uncut bread is usually good on the counter for about a day.  If you like the crust to be crisp, store it in a paper bag the first night.  After that, or after cutting it at all, it does better in a plastic ziplock bag.  The ends dry out quickly once cut.  Mine starts to grow mold after about 3-4 days once cut open if kept at room temperature here in slightly humid Oregon.  Baguettes, being skinnier, do dry out a little quicker than big loaves, so I wouldn't expect them to still be completely fresh after the first day, but they would still be edible.  You can usually refresh an older loaf by spritzing it with water and heating it up in the toaster or oven for a bit, whether sliced or uncut.  I do freeze sometimes, but it seems to get freezer burn pretty fast.

Sourdough bread stays fresh and springy quite a bit longer on the counter, maybe 3-4 days fresh tasting and 1 or more weeks without molding.

Eric: 2. It seems in general your bread recipes hydrate the flour around 100% or more. I've been getting better at measuring the water and watching the dough as I add that water taking into account air humidity, but my bread still has a slightly sticky crumb. Do GF breads just tend to be slightly sticky? The breads I bake are cooked to temperature and have good crumb structure, just a little tacky (even at room temp, day of baking.)

Gina: Stickiness.  Try baking the bread for an extra five minutes and see if the crumb is a bit less tacky.  Go by crust color and hardness rather than temp for checking doneness - sometimes the bread reaches temp before it's really done.  It should have a nice deep hollow sound when rapped on the bottom.  If it's still too sticky, reduce the water.  Measure water by weight to get consistent results. Lastly, it's possible that my recipes come out slightly wetter than wheaten bread - I didn't eat bread of any kind for a year after I went GF, so my assessment of the proper texture needed to be adjusted by having other people give me feedback.  Plus, if you overcook it or make it too dry it doesn't stay fresh as long, so that may have influenced my recipe making.  That being said, your crumb photo does look a little on the moist side.  I don't think your dough was too wet to function - the usual sign for that is when you see a layer of compressed, undercooked dough on the bottom of the loaf.  Your bread has great, evenly distributed, open crumb.  I say keep it like this if you want to save it for a day or two uncut, or cook it a little longer if you want a crisper crust and to eat within 24 hours.

Eric: 3. Will you still be posting your gf all purpose flour? I'm really curious what your mix is :)
Thanks again! Keep baking :)

Gina: I've not put a lot of time lately into the AP flour, and may end up reserving it for a cookbook or something if I do think one up.  However, in the mean time I've been using the "pancake flour" - basically the pastry flour mix without the xanthan gum - as an AP flour for gravy and where appropriate.  It seems to work pretty well.  I hope that helps!