It was a sad day in the Glazebrook household when my husband, Rob, learned he had a gluten allergy. It wasn’t so much the limits on food that posed problems (although, we’ve forgotten more than once that barbecue sauce and soy sauce can harbor gluten), but the loss of hobbies: Rob and I loved to bake bread, and after a few disastrous attempts at swapping gluten-free flours into standard recipes, we gave up baking together.
So when our food editor, Hannah, asked me to test the book Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Minneapolis chef Zoë Francois and New York doctor Jeff Hertzberg, Rob and I were stoked. After a few “practice” loaves, we’re now turning out small boules and baguettes that are light and flavorful.
The book lays out a smart bread-making process: One day, you mix a large batch of dough and let it rise. (This takes more than 5 minutes, alas.) Then you store the dough in the fridge or freezer. Whenever you want to bake bread, you pull out a small portion of the dough, let it rise a bit more and pop it in the oven. (This part is very fast, if you don’t count the rise time.) What results is a lovely loaf of bread.
However, making gluten-free bread isn’t quite the same as making traditional bread. Here are the six secrets for delicious bread without the gluten:
1. Bring home flours. Tapioca flour, brown rice flour and sorghum flour—this baking guide recommended a mix of all three, plus a touch of xanthum gum as a stabilizing agent. The mix does a pretty good job of replicating standard bread flour, and we found all of these ingredients in the health-food section of our grocery store.
2. Batter is better. Gluten-free bread dough doesn’t look like dough until it rises. Before then, it looks like a thick, pourable batter. If you’re used to baking traditional bread, your instinct might be to add more flour. But that’s a bad idea; the resulting bread will thick and tough. In gluten-free breads, the batter-look is what you want.
3. No kneading. Keep your hands off! When you stir the dry and wet ingredients together, the mixing creates big beautiful air pockets in the batter. Without gluten to help sustain the pockets, kneading collapses them, leading to a dense, tough loaf. So the goal is to work the dough as little as possible.
4. Eggs are natural leaveners. The breads in this book are all yeast-risen, and the yeast does a pretty good job. But some of the recipes call for beating a few eggs into the batter, which we found gave the finished bread a little extra lightness.
5. The bread won’t rise in the oven. What goes into the oven is more or less what comes out. Your finished loaf may not look as sky-high and full as a traditional loaf, but when you slice into it, you’ll find a tender loaf with plenty of air pockets.
6. It’s best fresh. When it’s still warm from the oven, and the scent of bread hangs in the air, these loaves are soft and light with a crisp crust, and full of the traditional yeast-bread flavor. After a few days, though, the bread tends to start getting dry and chewey. We’ve found that the best approach is to make small loaves frequently, so there’s always tasty, tender bread that everyone can eat.
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