Thursday 28 April 2011

Yeast Bread Techniques, Lesson 2: Baguette aux Céréales - A Theme and Variations

Somewhere in central Paris, perhaps even at this moment, people are lining up outside a certain boulangerie to buy freshly-baked bread. (This applies to many, many bakeries, actually - but there is one in particular that I am thinking of.) Supposedly one can find the best bread by looking for the boulangeries with the longest queues, which seems logical enough; it also very well may be why I happened to end up at this one. You see, generally fresh bread comes out of the oven twice a day, and that is when people start gathering around the bakery doors: first in the morning, and then again in late afternoon before supper. This was mid-day, though, and the small bakery was packed as tightly as a New York subway train at rush hour (though it of course was far more calm and quiet, and smelled much better). I, being rather shorter than everyone clustering near the front counter, didn't get a terribly long look at the array of baked goods. One bread in particular did catch my eye, though - in contrast to the ubiquitous floury, golden baguettes, there were a few long loaves labelled "baguette aux céréales," which were wonderfully brown and flecked with all sorts of seeds and grains. Yum
With its slightly denser crumb and rich whole-grain flavour, this less-known traditional French bread can be made gluten-free with very satisfying and delicious results! Yet while "gluten-free" seems fairly well-understood in France, gluten-free bread is apparently uncommon. That's unfortunate, because I think this certainly measures up to its gluteny counterpart - go ahead, give it a try! This makes a small loaf; if you want to double the recipe I recommend forming two small loaves rather than one large one.

The recipe I've created is actually a variation on my "Whole Wheatless" bread in the first yeast baking lesson. If you haven't read that lesson, please do that first - it explains some of the techniques you will need to make this bread. If you have made that recipe, you will notice that this looks very similar;  some of the proportions are different, though, so read carefully. And without further ado:

Baguette aux Céréales

Step 1: The night before you will bake, combine in a mixing bowl:
1/4 c each brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, & chickpea flour
2 T teff grains (not teff flour)
1 tsp yeast
140 mL water

In a separate small bowl or cup, measure: 
2 T millet grains 

and add just enough water to cover. Let the flour mixture (called the poolish) and the millet soak for 12-16 hours. (The millet grains need to absorb water, but you want to keep them separate from the yeast for now.)

Step 2: Combine in a bowl and blend well:
1 1/4 c tapioca starch
2 T sweet rice flour
1 T + 1/2 tsp psyllium
1/4 tsp Pomona's pure citrus pectin (see note on my Ingredients page)
3/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Combine in a small dish:
1 T certified GF rolled oats, such as Bob's Red Mill (set aside additional 2 tsp for crust)
1 tsp flaxseed (set aside additional 1 tsp for crust)
2 tsp sunflower seeds (set aside additional 1 tsp for crust)
1/2 tsp poppyseeds (set aside additional 1 tsp for crust)

You will also need:
Water (up to 80 mL)
2 tsp grapeseed oil or other light oil (plus a little more for brushing crust)
2-3 tsp buckwheat honey or other dark honey (plus a little more for brushing crust)
3/4 tsp double-acting baking powder
Parchment paper, a baguette pan or baking stone, another oven-safe pan or baking dish, & a few ice cubes (those last two items are not absolutely essential, but very helpful. It will make sense in a minute, trust me!)

Step 3: Work the flour mixture from Step 2 into the poolish from Step 1, first with a soft spatula and then knead by hand. You will need up to 80 mL extra water, but add it gradually as you go - remember, you can always add a little more water if you need to, but you can't take water out if you add too much!
Do not be alarmed if the poolish looks like dijon mustard!

Once all the flour is incorporated, knead in the seed/oat mixture from Step 2 and the soaked millet from Step 1, then knead in the 2 tsp grapeseed oil. Cover the bowl and set it in a warm place to allow the dough to double, probably about 2 hours.

The dough will be smooth and somewhat stretchy.
Step 4: Once the dough has risen to approximately double, knead in the honey (3 tsp will make the bread just slightly sweet). Now take a look at the dough:
See how the dough is a little crumbly and stiff, sort of like
cookie dough? That means it needs a tiny bit more water.
Add water 1-2 teaspoons at a time, kneading it in well.
After working in a couple of extra teaspoons of water,
the dough is smooth and stretchy again.
Learn to recognise the difference between the smooth dough and the slightly dry dough. Small differences like this can have a big impact on your bread! Now press the dough into a flat rectangle on a piece of parchment, sprinkle with the baking powder, and roll up as demonstrated in the previous lesson. Brush with honey & oil and sprinkle on the extra seeds.
A lot of the seed mixture will end up scattered around,
rather than on, the bread. That's ok...
Just gently press the seeds on top to make sure they stick,
and roll the loaf so more seeds stick to the sides.
Now set the bread in the baguette pan, with the parchment still underneath it. (Trim away any extra parchment.) Use a wet knife to cut a single slit down the length of the loaf. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let rise for at least an hour (in the meantime, preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF).
Keep the knife wet for a clean cut.

When the loaf has risen, place a few ice cubes in a small baking dish and place this on the bottom rack of the oven. Let the oven get nice and steamy for 10 minutes before putting the bread in the oven. (The steam helps form a nice crisp crust!)

Put the bread on the middle rack of the oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 205ºC/400ºF. Bake for at least an hour, until the loaf is nicely browned. Let cool for about 3 hours before cutting. 

Fresh from the oven!

Sunday 17 April 2011

Gluten-Free Yeast Bread Techniques, Lesson 1: Roll up your sleeves

In the past few years, gluten-free baked goods have improved immensely both in quality and accessibility. There are even 100% GF bakeries in some cities! And I know that for every person buying gluten-free foods, there are at least as many who are baking at home. I've noticed, though, that despite all the gluten-free cookies, cupcakes, and brownies, good yeast breads are still much harder to find.

At first I assumed people just missed the sweet things more - after all, cafes sell scones and muffins to go with the coffee, not dinner rolls. But as I met more gluten-intolerant people, I noticed something else: many people feel that gluten-free yeast bread is too hard to make. It is more complicated than pancakes, of course, but it really doesn't have to be difficult. At all.

Since bread is what I most enjoy baking, I decided to post a series of lessons on gluten-free yeast bread. If you have felt daunted by the idea of making your own bread, I hope you will give it a try! And even if you bake frequently, I hope some of these lessons will still be helpful.

When I was learning to bake gluten-free, all of the mixes and recipes I found made bread from batter rather than a dough. I missed the "hands-on" aspects of baking: kneading, shaping, stretching the dough. I also missed the simplicity: flour, water, salt, maybe a little sugar or honey or oil. Instead, the GF versions required eggs, and often milk, along with fussy flour blends and gums. I (fortunately) have no problem with milk or eggs; that wasn't the issue. I just wanted bread to feel simple again.  

Well, this is that simple bread, made gluten-free. This bread is also one that just about anyone can enjoy: it is free of all the "Top 8" allergens, and is even safe for those of you with sensitivities to potatoes! And did I mention it's delicious?

The taste and texture are nearly indistinguishable from whole-wheat bread. Seriously, look at that crumb!
And it's not at all dry or crumbly - just a nice slice of bread.

If you are used to making batter-based bread, this recipe might seem surprising - especially some of the techniques involved. First of all, put away your mixer! This dough is stiff, so you won't need to beat it vigorously like batter (and it is not strong enough to use dough hooks). This is a completely hands-on process; all you need is a bowl or two, a spatula, and a little time. Like many traditional wheat breads, this bread starts out the night before you'll actually be baking it - this starter is often called a sponge, poolish, or preferment. It will give you the complex, yeasty flavours that make bread so yummy.

First, the ingredients for the sponge (poolish):

1/4 c buckwheat flour
1/4 c brown rice flour
1/4 c chickpea flour
2 T teff grains (not flour)
1 tsp yeast
140 mL water

Combine these ingredients in a large-ish bowl, cover, and ferment for 12-16 hours.

Other ingredients, for adding after the fermenting time:

1 c tapioca starch
2 T sweet rice flour
1 T psyllium husks
1/4 tsp Pomona's citrus pectin (see my "Ingredients" page for an explanation)
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast

3/4 tsp double-acting baking powder

Water - 30-45 mL, as needed
2 tsp grapeseed oil or other light oil - - plus a little more for brushing top crust
2 tsp buckwheat honey** - - plus a little more for brushing crust (Buckwheat honey is a dark, strong honey; it is not like regular clover honey. You can usually find it at a health-food store.)

**If you are vegan, you might try substituting brown rice syrup or molasses for the honey - let me know how it goes!


After the sponge has fermented for 12-16 hours, whisk together the rest of the dry ingredients except the baking powder, and gradually work the dry mixture into the sponge. Start out with a soft spatula, but once most of the flour is worked in - when it looks like the picture below - you will need to use your hands.

Knead by hand to incorporate all the flour. I know it looks
more like cookie dough right now - trust me though, it works!

Sprinkle in a little water as you knead if you cannot get all the flour into the dough. The amount you might need will vary, mostly depending on how well the sponge absorbed its water, so be conservative here - the dough should not be sticky!

Keep kneading...

Soon you will have a smooth, stiff dough.

When the dough looks like this, knead in the grapeseed oil. Cover the dough and allow it to double - about 2 hours.

At the end of that rising period, knead in the honey (and a little more water if necessary). The dough will probably seem a little crumbly when you first touch it; it hasn't dried out, it's just because the network formed by the psyllium and pectin weakened as the dough rested. A few moments of kneading should make it feel cohesive and smooth again. Now press the dough into a flat rectangle on a piece of parchment. This is where the baking powder comes in: sprinkle it over the surface of the rectangle. You will be rolling the dough so the baking powder is on the inside.

My weird, windowless kitchen makes everything look yellow.
No. matter. what. I. do.  
...Anyway. Spread the baking powder evenly, like so. 
Now, you may be wondering what on earth I'm doing. After all, squashing the dough and then rolling it up is hardly a normal step in breadmaking!

Well, this technique actually serves two purposes in getting a better loaf of gluten-free bread:

1) Rolling up the baking powder in the dough will provide extra leavening. Adding it this late in the recipe means it is still very active when you finally shape the loaf - it will start forming tiny air pockets, helping to keep the bread from being dense! (I will go into this in more detail in an upcoming lesson.)

2) Rather than just squishing the dough into a loaf shape, the rolling method will "align" the crumb - creating a springier slice of bread and a more even crust.
Starting with a short side, roll up
the dough. Just like cinnamon rolls!

Once you have rolled up the dough, gently shape the ends so the spiral does not show. If you are putting the loaf into a pan, lift it in to the pan parchment and all. You can also bake it as a free-form loaf on the parchment if you have a baking stone (place on middle rack of oven). Brush the top of the loaf thoroughly with a mixture of grapeseed oil and honey. Drape a piece of plastic wrap over the loaf and allow it to rise for the final time, about an hour. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF. 

After the loaf has risen, place the pan in the oven or carefully slide the loaf with parchment onto the baking stone. (If you are using a glass pan, lower the temperature to about 190ºC/380ºF once you have put the bread in.) Bake for one hour or so, until the top crust is nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Let it cool completely before slicing.

Even though it's whole-grain, this bread is very soft and flexible.
It's also especially yummy spread with honey.

Friday 1 April 2011

Lavender-Lemon Tea Cakes

There's this local ice cream company that makes a lot of interesting flavours. Sure, they have the usual things like chocolate and vanilla custard, but they also have things like raspberry-honey ice cream and creme fraiche gelato. The other day, a friend brought over a pint of lavender ice cream and I was reminded of just how delightful lavender tastes against such a sweet, creamy background. It also reminded me that I'd had that flavour once before, paired with one of the things that could make it even better - bright, citrusy lemon custard. And while ice cream is delicious any time of year (a fact which has been proven by my boyfriend, who will curl up, shivering, with a pint of Ben & Jerry's in the dead of winter), it doesn't exactly bring spring to mind.

Lemons and lavender, however, do - at least to me, the delicate herbal flavour of lavender and the bright, fresh taste of lemons seem perfect for a sun-filled spring day. I wanted to combine them in something that seemed equally spring-y. Despite the sun, it's still pretty cold it doesn't hurt to have something that goes nicely with a hot cup of tea as well. Somewhere between a scone and a shortbread biscuit, these little tea cakes fit the bill and are sure to bring some sunshine to your table.

Lavender-Lemon Tea Cakes

**(Still only volume measurements for now - getting a new scale soon though!)**

1/2 c brown rice flour
1/2 c white rice flour
1/2 c tapioca starch
3/8 c Expandex modified tapioca
2 T sweet rice flour
1 T millet flour 
1 T chestnut flour
2 tsp potato flour (not potato starch)

2 T sugar
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tsp psyllium husks
3/8 tsp Pomona's pure citrus pectin
1 T double-acting baking powder

6 T (3 oz.) butter, cold
60 mL cream
50 mL milk
3 T light honey
1 medium egg (50 mL) (Can be made without the egg - just increase other liquids slightly)
2 tsp dried food-grade lavender 
1 1/2 T lemon zest (about 2 lemons - I used one Meyer lemon and one regular lemon)
50 mL lemon juice

Mix flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, and psyllium and pectin in a bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the cream, milk, and honey - do not bring to a boil, but make sure it gets quite hot. Stir the lavender into the hot mixture, cover, and allow to infuse for 30 minutes. (After 30 min, strain the liquid to remove lavender, and chill it.) Meanwhile, zest and juice the lemons. 
Lavender buds infusing in the sweet milk mixture

Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until it is in small pieces, then rub it into the flour using your fingers until the mixture looks like small crumbs. Stir in the zest. Next add in the chilled lavender-milk infusion, the beaten egg (if using), and finally the lemon juice. Blend lightly with a spatula until the dough is uniform and soft. On a baking sheet lined with parchment, roll or pat the dough out to a thickness of ~ 1 inch/2.5 cm. Cut the dough into shapes using a glass or a biscuit cutter.

Brush the tops of the cakes with milk and decorate with extra sugar and lavender buds. Bake at 190ºC/375ºF for approx. 20 minutes, or until the cakes are very lightly browned.

Now pour yourself some tea and enjoy! These are also delicious with honey or some sweetened whipped cream.