Tuesday 15 June 2010

Some Bread for the Table

Can you believe this is gluten-free? 

Look at the way the surface stretches apart, revealing the soft, porous bread beneath. The crust, dusted with extra flour to really bring out the artisan-loaf appearance, is crisp but not hard. The interior is tender and springy. The flavour itself is understated - at first it may seem even a little bland - but this just makes it perfect to be complemented by some rich farm butter. 

This is another bread using the cold oven technique. Thanks to the relatively large amount of yeast, the bread slowly rises as the oven heats. This results in an evenly-baked loaf - it doesn't brown too quickly or leave the inside underdone. There is another part to the method, though, that is unusual for gluten-free bread: it has two risings. This is not for the sake of kneading (as is the case with wheat doughs); rather, it helps the flavour and texture of the bread whilst giving the yeast time to multiply.

As with most wheat-based artisan breads, this bread is best when very fresh. That is no problem though - simply gather a few friends around your table and provide some butter, herbed olive oil, or cheese...this loaf will disappear very quickly! It would also be very good shaped into smaller rolls, which may help it last longer as well.

"Pain de Ménage" (Homemade Bread)

Dry ingredients:

150 g potato starch
35 g white rice flour
25 g garbanzo-fava flour
25 g Expandex modified tapioca starch
15 g buckwheat flour
10 g sweet rice flour

1 tsp each of xanthan and guar gum
1/2 tsp pectin (used for making jam; can be found with canning supplies)
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Ener-G egg replacer (helps with binding and leavening)

Wet ingredients:

2 eggs, beaten
100 mL warm water: add 1 tsp sugar and 1/2 T yeast
30 mL oil (I used canola)


Blend all the dry ingredients together with a whisk in a mixing bowl. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let it foam for a few minutes. Next add the eggs, yeast mixture, and lastly the oil to the flour mixture, and "knead" with a soft spatula until dough is smooth. If the dough seems too stiff, sprinkle in a little more warm water until it is springy. Now cover the bowl with clingfilm and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes. This allows the yeast to multiply and develop the flavour of the bread - two things GF bread generally misses out on by having only one rising. (If you want an even more developed yeast flavour, you could try adding an additional rising.) At the end of this time period, squash the dough down and tip it out onto a baking stone covered with a piece of lightly oiled, lightly floured baking parchment. Gently roll the ball of dough in the flour (I used tapioca and potato starch) so it has a visible dusting of flour. Work in some more starch if the dough seems too loose and sticky. Stretch the surface so it is smooth, and tuck any rough edges underneath the loaf. Shape it into an oval, brush it with oil, and dust with a little more flour. Now cut the slits in the top using an oiled knife.

Place the loaf in a cold oven and turn it immediately to 204° C/ 400° F. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a rack.