Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gluten-Free White Bread

While I have no need to bake gluten-free bread, when I got a copy of The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook, by Mary Capone,I knew that I'd have to try the bread recipe. Bread is all about gluten, and the idea of making a bread without that stretchy component intrigued me.

The recipe requires a bit of a leap of faith that it's all working correctly, because the steps seem a little arbitrary and the process is nothing like making yeast bread. Afterward, it all makes sense, but it the middle of it, it seems like a science experiment gone wrong.

The bread in the book is called "Our Daily Bread" and the basic recipe is just that. It's a very plain white bread that wouldn't clash with anything and that would be the perfect background for a sandwich or morning toast.

Our Daily Bread
Adapted from The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook by Mary Capone

2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
3/4 cup potato starch
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 eggs plus 3 egg whites
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Eggwash: 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For a standard sandwich-style bread, lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan with vegetable oil, olive oil, or cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine water, sugar and yeast and stir until dissolved. Set aside for 10 minutes at which point the mixture should have a foamy head; if not, start over with new yeast.

Add all dry ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and blend for 3 minutes to combine thoroughly. Or use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mixing for 5 minutes.

In another small bowl, whisk olive oil, eggs, and vinegar until well blended. add this mixture to the dry an mix well. Add the yeast mixture, and mix again.

Keep mixing; it will take 2-3 minutes for the dough to form in the food processor, and for it to mound up around the blade. If using a stand mixer, it will take about 5 minutes and the dough will build up around the paddle. In either case, it will pull away from the sides of the bowl in ribbons or thick, thready strands.

The dough will be sticky and soft. If you're including any add-ins, stir them in just until combined.

Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spoon dipped in olive oil. Set it in a warm place to rise for about 40 minutes. It will almost double in size.

Slash the top, if desired, and brush with the eggwash. You can also sprinkle the top with seeds or other toppings.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

The Results

When I made this bread, I thought that the toughest taste test would be to make the simplest bread, with no topping and no add-ins that would distract from the flavor of the bread itself. The resulting loaf was very plain. Not bad, by any means, but very plain. Of course, that's in comparison to my usual breads that tend to be more interesting than the usual store-bought bread.

When I served this bread for dinner, my husband didn't notice anything unusual about it, which is a pretty good testament to its similarity to wheat bread's flavor and texture. It would make a great sandwich bread, but it's not the sort of thing that you'd slice and devour plain.

If I was making this again, I think I'd add a bit more salt, as it seemed just a little bit bland. Add-ins that Capone suggest are things like sun-dried tomatoes, olives, garlic, herbs and spices, cheese, or onions. For a sweeter bread, she suggested cinnamon mixed with sugar swirled into the dough, along with walnuts and raisins.

If I was making the bread again, I think I'd go for some grated cheese to add some tang while still allowing it to be a multipurpose bread. Butter flavoring might also be a good idea, if that comes in a gluten-free version.

Experiment done, I'm glad that I don't have gluten problems. But if I did, at least this bread exists. Knowing me, I'd be experimenting like mad to create ever more interesting flavor profiles, just like I do with regular breads.