Monday, March 16, 2009


My Grandmother made homemade white bread once a week, every week. It was tender and chewy. The crust was buttered and had a flaky crunch. A slice with butter on top, just out of the oven or cooled off, practically melted in my month. I remember being set up on the kitchen stool and made to watch. My parents would send me over to help her, but she enjoyed the process and the bit of pride that came with just how truly good she was at cooking. I take those days of chit chat and cooking lessons, where I had to learn by watching, with me every time I go into the kitchen.

I had mentioned in my Breakfast Cake post that I was intimidated by the task of learning how to make gluten-free bread. I felt unguided. Recently, the leader of our local Celiac support group encouraged me to give it a try using Bette Hagman's, the Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread. I borrowed the book from the library just in time for Karina Allrich,The Gluten-Free Goddess's, blog posting of her bread recipe. This was followed up with an accidental gluten contamination. The attack, it caused, was so severe and the pain was so intense that moving gluten out of the house (I.e. hubby's bread) is becoming a life and death situation. I was duly inspired to give bread a try.

I started by asking Karina Allrich about changing the sorghum and potato flour of her recipe with rice and tapioca flours. She told me that sorghum was springier than rice and that the texture would change. Since it's the protein in glutenous bread that gives us spring and texture, I consulted the chart in Bette Hagman's book. Sure enough, rice flour has four grams of protein less than sorghum flour. So taking Ms. Hagman's advice I added a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin to compensate for the difference. This protein in not in vegan gelatin, so the bread is not vegan.

I had to make another change in Ms. Allrich's recipe; egg replacer is made with potato starch. Since the reason I cut out potato flour in the first place is because I can't have any nightshade product, I would have to use an egg or tofu. Although I'm not trying to avoid soy, I decided to leave it soy free. A final note on using egg instead of egg replacer is that one tablespoon of oil is usually added to recipes using egg replacer, so I reduce the four tablespoons of oil to three tablespoons of oil.

At this point it is obvious that a simple change in flours wasn't in the science. These are a lot of changes and I had to make it by hand instead of by machine as Ms. Allrich had. I thought the changes over carefully and gave gluten-free bread a try. My first batch rose too fast. I knew it was too high and overproofed. I tried to carefully scrape the edges of the batter off hoping to reduce the possibility of it spilling over the sides. I was sure it would fall after it went into the oven. Well, it spilled over the sides during baking anyway, ended up sunk in, and came out gooey in the center. Oh, but the crust was the stuff I remembered.

After not having bread in a year and a half, this was beautiful. I toasted slices of it in the oven. We had it for supper with our poached chicken and vegetables. Even my Hubby was eating it. Okay he didn't like the chicken, but he ate several slices of the bread. We drizzled honey over it and ate it for desert. We ate it as French toast the next morning. We were out of it by time lunch was done, so I rushed to the kitchen counter to try again.

My change was with the oil. From my experience with making rice pancakes, I learned that unless I cut the oil in half from my old whole wheat recipes, the rice cakes came out gooey. I tried again with only one tablespoon oil. I need low fat anyway.

It rose too fast, sunk in the center during cooking, and came out, not quite, as gooey. We made chicken salad sandwiches with it and topped it with pumpkin butter. We ate it with chicken soup and chili. Toasted it and drizzled honey on top.

The local Celiac support group leader suggested less water. My daughter, Lisa was helping me and insisted I stop, but I added just a little too much water. The bread came out not as sunk in the center and the gooey center leaned more toward tacky. Liz and Hubby had it toasted with eggs and bacon, while I ate it toasted with pumpkin butter on top.

We were out of millet flour and were running low on brown rice flour. I rushed off to the health food store for millet. At home I ran the millet through my Kitchen Aid grain grinder and made a new loaf of bread before setting the rice to grind. I used just one cup of water. It was now a thick homemade cake batter instead of a thin box cake batter and took twenty minutes to rise. It looked so beautiful when I put it in the oven to bake, that I found myself unable to make a new batch of pumpkin butter fast enough in anticipation of the perfect loaf. Everything about it was the same as before just a little less. It was slightly sunk in the center. And just a little less tacky, but we ate more than half of it before our older children arrived for Friday Family Night.

Well, if I'm going to serve it with supper then I had better make another loaf. My oldest son arrived in time to (help) polish off the last of the loaf made with fresh ground millet, he, also, helped Hubby eat a third of the loaf I was to serve for dinner. I pulled it from the oven flat on top and with very little tackiness. It was gone before the evening was over.

The next morning, I wanted to see if I could simply replicate the last loaf's flat top and barely tacky inside. Hubby insisted that I keep experimenting to see if I could get rid of the tackiness. I decided that it needed to rise higher, so I added a teaspoon of yeast. What I forgot to take into consideration was the weather had turned cold. Instead of rising in twenty minutes it took more than an hour. Given the previous wet batches having a tendency to fall if risen above the pan edge I put it in the oven before Hubby wanted me to. But, it was flat on top and barely tacky inside. It wasn't even cooled off before the decision was made, by him, for me to make another.

This time Hubby insisted that I let it rise higher before putting it in the oven. Also, he wanted me to use half an egg, then he went into something about how to figure out half an egg by using a turkey baster. I asked him why I couldn't just put an egg in a measuring cup, beat it up and measure out half of that. He thought I was a genius. He had been telling me for a couple of days now that I should be running around claiming I was a genius. I thought he was saying that to encourage me. The day before, I did, however, have a slice of it with me while I was running errands. It was for eating when my blood sugar fell, but I was taking it out to show people. Sunken top and all. People who can eat gluten tried to understand my excitement, but still had trouble understanding how good a sunken, tacky slice of bread is.

For my next loaf, I forgot to put in the apple cider vinegar, which is used as a dough conditioner. It didn't rise well. Then I decided forget the ½ an egg business. I just could not get the top to rise round like a regular loaf. It is really a function of gluten. While I can get a rounded top on my muffins I'm not getting one on my quick breads, or cakes either. Perhaps it's a matter of knowing more cooking science.

Well, after all the experiments it turns out that I am so sensitive to fungus that I can't have yeast. I guess making bread without yeast will be even more science for me. I don't mind. I am now having a great deal of fun. Learning is fun. We should never be intimidated by it, but inspired by the freedom it brings to our lives. Give Gluten-Free bread a try.

Basic Rice Bread

Mix together in a medium bowl and set aside:

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
½ cup millet flour
2 teaspoons Guar or xanthan gum
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dry yeast

Then mix the liquid ingredients:

1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 egg

  • Using an electric mixer, mix the liquid. Save some of the water aside to allow for the adjustment of the batter's thickness.
  • Add the dry ingredients. Mixed for a couple of seconds, stop and scrape the sides down, then mix for two minutes more. When it comes to adjusting the consistency of the batter lean towards thick. If it takes less then 20 minutes to rise, the likelihood of a sunken center is greater.
  • Scrape the batter into a greased and floured glass bread pan (I'm told that gluten free bread doesn't do as well in metal pans.)
  • I let rise it for 20 minutes in my gas oven, then let it rise 10 minutes more on the counter top while I preheated the oven to 350°.
  • Bake for 35 minutes
  • The inside is tacky, but disappears within a couple of minutes after cutting.
  • I find that an electric knife works best for cutting without squishing.

P. S. One day I mixed the batter with a half cup of soy milk instead of water. It looked like too much liquid so I stopped there. When I poured the batter into the pan it had thickened to a dough and wouldn't rise. I thought of another thing my grandmother did with bread dough. She called them dough boys. She would Flatten rounds of dough, deep fry them, butter them, and then dip them in sugar. They are as good as they sound.

When I served dough boys to my sons, who were teenagers at the time, they dubbed them lumpy bread and made sandwiches out of them.

So, lumpy bread is what I made with this batch of rice bread that wouldn't rise. And yes, it was very good!