I finally gave in and looked at a “real” recipe. The book “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking” has an interesting approach to bread and the newest edition has a chapter on gluten free breads, so I decided to start there. The 5-minute approach is very hands-off so it seemed like a good option for gluten free. A friend has been trying some of the wheat-based recipes in the book and has been pleased with the results, and the book has well defined volume and mass measurements for ingredients which will make it easy to quantify and adjust the recipes.

For my inaugural batch, I would have liked to follow the recipe exactly, but I didn’t have quite the right ingredients on hand, so I did a little improvising. OK, enough preamble, on to the recipe:

Dry Ingredients:
160g brown rice flour
100g sorghum flour
160g tapioca starch
230g potato starch
20g kosher salt
16g yeast
15g xanthan gum
The dry ingredients were combined with a paddle mixer. NOTE: Everything was loose enough that it combined well, but I might prefer to sift the dry ingredients together in future batches.

Wet Ingredients:
600g water
70g canola oil
The book recipe calls for eggs and melted butter… I don’t have eggs or butter around the house regularly, and I forgot to pick them up before baking day, so I used bland old canola oil. It provides some fat and the flavor should be neutral enough to let me evaluate the other ingredients better. The egg would have provided some protein structure, I’ll have to remember to pick up a dozen eggs next time I go to the store.

The water was microwaved just to the point that it felt warm. With the dry ingredients slowly mixing, ~400g of water was added and the dough mixed until it came together. The canola oil was added, mixing continued, and the remaining water was added. The bowl and paddle were scraped down a couple times throughout and after all the liquid was added the mixer speed was increased to thoroughly combine. The resulting dough was quite loose and a bit sticky. Between the fingers, it had a slightly gritty feeling.

The dough was turned out into a glass bowl, lightly covered, and left to rise until approximately doubled, a little over 3 hours in my cool house.

A small loaf pan was oiled (again, no butter or other solid fat to grease the pan…) and filled about half way with the dough/batter, taking care not to overly deflate the bubble structure. The bread was baked at 400F for 60 minutes, then turned out onto a rack to cool.

Procedure Notes:
I did not smooth the top of the “loaf” after putting it in the pan. A light smoothing/glazing with water would make a better looking loaf.
I didn’t really let the loaf rise in the pan before baking, and I didn’t get a very significant bloom in the oven. The dough was quite light, but a little additional rise time before baking might be good.
The loaf released very well from the pan.

Structure and Tasting Notes:
The loaf smelled wonderful while baking, and the crust set and browned very nicely.
Wait until the loaf cools completely before cutting. I was impatient. It didn’t cause a real problem, but the interior of the loaf was a bit gummy while warm. The crust was very nice, and cuts a little better when fully cooled as well. Smoothing the top of the loaf would also help with cutting it cleanly.
The crust has a very nicely developed toasty, nutty flavor. There is a bit of an “off” aftertaste; it’s not bad but it is noticeable. Strong toppings (peanut butter) cover the aftertaste cleanly.
There is a distinct sweetness to the loaf, likely from the sorghum flour. It’s a nice flavor accent but could be undesirable in some applications.
The crumb of the cooled loaf is moist and just the tiniest little bit gummy. The loaf might have been slightly underdone, but I think it was pretty close. I didn’t have a good thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the loaf.

The above recipe makes enough dough for 2-3 loaves, but I only made 1 loaf on the first day. The remaining dough was lightly covered and put in the fridge, I’ll make another loaf tomorrow that incorporates some of the changes noted above.

What effect does a different starch have on gluten-free bread? Time to test that. GFB#03 will use potato starch in place of the tapioca starch of GFB#01 and GFB#02. Since the method used for GFB#01 has already been determined to be a little lacking, I’ll be following the GFB#02 procedure… I mean recipe.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup brown rice flour

3/4 cup potato starch

1/3 cup ground flaxseed meal

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon dry yeast

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup 110F water

All dry ingredients were combined in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle mixer. {This is a change from GFB#02 which used a dough hook. Since I’m not really developing a gluten network by kneading, the dough hook isn’t really doing anything other than mixing which the paddle does better.} The dry ingredients were mixed for ~1 minute, then the water was added. The dough was mixed for 1-2 minutes, then the bowl was scraped down and the dough was mixed for another 1-2 minutes. The dough was transferred directly into a loaf pan {another slight deviation from GFB#02} and allowed to rise for ~1 hour. The risen loaf was put in a preheated 400F oven. For ~40 minutes until the internal temperature was 200F. Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.

Evaluation:

Similar to GFB#02. The loaf didn’t rise quite as much (but not significantly different) and the finished loaf looks virtually identical. The crumb is definitely less sticky/gummy than GFB#02, and I don’t think I get the same aftertaste as with previous loaves, there’s a much cleaner finish to the flavor. The crust is the same.Image

Revisions in the next iteration:

I think the flaxseed meal is making the loaf more dense and moist and causing some of the texture issues I’m trying to fix. I used it because I happened to have most of a bag in the freezer and wanted to use some of it up. I think I’ll try a batch without the flaxseed meal. To replace some of the body that the flaxseed meal provides, I think I’ll bump up the rice flour a bit. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to have to add some other ingredients to the ultimate “best” loaf… from a number of the recipes I’ve found online, it looks like egg, oil, baking powder and buttermilk might be necessary to both improve the texture of the finished loaf and round out the flavor.

My sister has recently developed a sensitivity to gluten. She has never been a big on baking or other “complex” recipes, but has become a bit frustrated with the gluten-free options available in stores, both in quality and price. Although I am no master baker, I told her that I would do a little exploring and see if I could find a relatively simple bread recipe for her. I already tried a pizza crust recipe at her house and we were both quite satisfied with the result… I used a bean-based flour and we didn’t notice any off flavor, but the sauce and toppings on the pizza were strongly flavored so that may have been overpowering any unpleasant flavor from the bean flour.

To hopefully broaden her options, I decided to try a rice-based flour recipe for bread. Rice flours are said to have a more neutral flavor, but they can lead to “gritty” textures… When I went to my local grocery store, they had brown rice flour readily available at a reasonable price so I thought I’d give it a try. To make things more adventurous, I decided to try a longer rise time to let more of the yeast flavor develop.

This will be Gluten-Free Bread #01 (GFB#01). Unless I accidentally make the perfect loaf on the first attempt, I will most likely have many more, but I’m optimistically using “GFB#01” in the anticipation that I won’t need to get higher than “GFB#99” before I get a good result.

Dry flour mix:

1 cup brown rice flour

1 cup tapioca starch

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal

Combined brown rice flour, tapioca starch and xanthan gum and sifted twice to combine. Blended flaxseed meal in well after sifting. (Flaxseed meal was a little too coarse to make it through my sifter.)

Starter:

1 cup flour mix

1 cup 110ºF (43ºC) water

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry yeast

Mixed dry ingredients well, then added water. Mixed well. This starter is more wet than I’d expect a wheat-based starter to be, but that’s what I would expect from a gluten-free mixture. The sugar and salt amounts are estimates, I measured those by eye in my palm. The starter was allowed to, well, start at room temperature for about an hour before moving to the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, the starter was quite spongy. The remaining flour mix and the rest of the yeast packet (~1 teaspoon) was stirred in resulting in a very dry mix. A few additional tablespoons of water were worked in to loosen the dough. The dough mass was still quite dense. It was separated into 2 small oiled loaf pans and left to rise.

After ~2 hours, the loaves had not risen noticeably. The dough seems very dense, and I think these will make some hideous bricks of “bread”. The oven was pre-heated to 420ºF, loaves put in and the temperature dropped to 390ºF. After ~15 minutes, the loaves had set but not risen much. The loaves were baked for ~45 minutes until a wooden pick came out clean. The loaves were moved to a rack to cool.

Evaluation:

For the most part, this was a failure, but an informative first attempt.

Texture – The bread is very dense and has the consistency of a quickbread rather than a proper yeast bread. The crumb is quite moist; this could be a result of the flaxseed meal. I have found that flaxseed meal retains moisture in wheat breads as well so this is not a surprising result. The crust that was in contact with the pan is quite nice with a little bit of color and a nice crunch. The top crust has a crunch but is very pale in color.

Flavor – The bread has a relatively neutral flavor. I can clearly taste the flax, and there is a slight lingering aftertaste that’s not exactly unpleasant but I would prefer a cleaner finish.

Revisions in the next iteration:

Since the flavor wasn’t bad, I’ll focus on texture. Although this bread was too moist, I think the key might be making the dough/batter more moist. After the starter developed overnight, it had a rather light body; if this is baked directly, the dough will set with much more air incorporated which should yield a lighter loaf. The water-to-flour ratio can be shifted a little more in the direction of flour for the “starter”, but not much. I think it’s time to bake again..Image