Saturday 20 March 2010

Soft Honey Sandwich Bread

I've been trying to perfect a very specific type of bread for the last few weeks. The kind of artisanal bread that is flakily crusty on the outside but soft beneath, and is light, with lots of airy pockets inside. I've gotten close a few times. Each time I think to myself, I'll just make a few small revisions, and the next batch will be just right. And then I make the next batch, and it's...well...not.

Making the soda bread last weekend made me realise how frustrated I was getting with that elusive artisan French loaf. It was so nice to make something that I just knew was going to turn out well. It also made me remember how much I do enjoy a good sandwich. (Especially with cheese; I love cheese.) A nice, soft, everyday bread seemed just the thing to make. And this turned out so wonderfully!

I haven't actually made a sandwich with it yet though; I've been so excited about it that I've simply ended up eating several slices just plain! It is very satisfying and flavourful, soft and tender and not at all crumbly. The honey gives it a very mild sweetness; I personally find it reminiscent of honey-whole-wheat bread.

I should warn you: this bread has a lot of ingredients to measure, so it takes a little extra time to make. Believe me, it's worth it!

Honey Sandwich Bread

Dry ingredients:

3/4 c tapioca starch
3/4 c potato starch
1/4 c soy flour
1/4 c white rice flour
2 T sorghum flour
2 T teff flour
2 T buckwheat flour
2 T sweet rice flour
2 T "garfava" bean flour (Bob's Red Mill)
5 T Expandex modified tapioca starch
1 T chestnut flour

1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp dough enhancer
1/4 tsp pectin (This is commonly used to "gel" jam. You can find it by the canning supplies in many grocery stores.)

Wet ingredients:

1/4 c canola oil
1 whole egg plus 1 egg white
2 T honey

1 cup warm water with:

1 tsp sugar
3 tsp yeast


Pre-heat oven to 375° F (350° F if using a glass loaf pan). Mix together the dry ingredients. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water, add the yeast, and let it foam for about five minutes. Add the yeast-water mixture to the dry ingredients. Pour in the oil, honey, and the lightly beaten egg. After you have thoroughly mixed the batter, put it into a well-greased loaf pan. Smooth the loaf with a wet spatula. Brush lightly with milk (optional - helps browning), and sprinkle a handful of GF oats over top of it.

Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has approximately doubled in size - it should be nearly level with the top of the pan.

Bake for ~ 1 hour. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Allow bread to cool completely before slicing.

Monday 15 March 2010

Irish Brown Bread

It's the middle of March, and that means Irish recipes are popping up everywhere - especially soda bread recipes. Most of these are for a mildly sweet, cake-like bread with raisins. However, soda bread in Ireland is not sweet, nor does it have fruit in it (and it certainly does not have green sugar over top of it, as I've seen in some American grocery stores)! Usually, Irish soda bread has a nubbly wholemeal texture, and is plain enough that it goes equally well with tea at breakfast or with a bowl of potato soup for supper.

This bread, known simply as "brown bread," is also ubiquitous in western Ireland. It can be found at the table of nearly any traditional restaurant or bed-and-breakfast. Because many families have their own way of making it, countless recipes for this bread exist - but they all are based on some very simple ingredients: wholemeal flour, oats, and buttermilk.

I created a gluten-free version by comparing a number of (wheaten) brown bread recipes. The result is a nutty, wholesome loaf; the oats give it a nice chewy texture. It's good with butter or jam, or even topped with some Irish cheese. Enjoy!

Irish Brown Bread

3/8 c Buckwheat flour
3/8 c Teff flour
1/4 c Soy flour
1/4 c Oat flour (be sure it's certified gluten-free)
1/4 c Potato starch
1/4 c Tapioca starch
2 T Garbanzo Bean flour
2 T Sorghum flour
2 T White Rice flour
2 T Expandex modified tapioca starch
1/2 c pin-head oats (again, be sure they are certified GF)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp guar gum
1/4 tsp dough enhancer (optional)

1 ounce unsalted butter (Kerrygold is best)
1 1/4 c buttermilk


Pre-heat the oven to 400° F/204° C. (If using a glass loaf pan, lower the temperature to 375° F/190° C.)

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers. Gradually mix in the buttermilk. The dough will be wet but stiff; beat it until all the ingredients are thoroughly blended.

Spoon the dough into a buttered loaf pan. Smooth the top with a wet spatula. Make 3 - 4 diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until it is lightly browned and the centre is no longer wet. Let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a tea towel. Wrap it up in the tea towel (this keeps the moisture in) and do not cut it until it has completely cooled.