A while ago on a wet afternoon I had the kitchen to myself, so it seemed to be time to test some ideas. There are a number of challenges in gluten free baking: croissants, flaky pastry and phyllo pastry. I have developed a recipe for croissants. It does use a little xanthan gum, so, even though I can make them, there is more work to do if I want to eliminate the need for gum. In hindsight, flaky pastry is not really that difficult. I have a few recipes that work well, and there is no gum in my flaky pastry. One challenge remains: phyllo pastry.
Other pastries are easy because they are relatively thick - at least 2mm. Phyllo, is thin, so thin that it is difficult to make a sheet that doesn't tear under its own weight. This 'phyllo' is just under 1mm thick, not paper thin. There is no gum, just millet flour and tapioca flour. One day, perhaps another rainy day, I'll try this again, and perhaps I'll go all the way and make baklava or strudel!
Last year I started playing with raw honey from the Tasmanian wilderness. With the right techniques it is possible to ferment the honey and produce a leaven for bread making. Recently I returned to working with the honey ferment. Dough made with it behaves a little differently from sourdough and dough made with a baker's yeast poolish. It doesn't rise much during fermentation. At first, I thought the yeast wasn't working, then I noticed a little expansion. In the oven, however, the story was quite different. Suddenly the dough came alive and it was expanding as I watched.
I have been working with two flour mixes, tapioca and one other. Over the past few weeks I tried amaranth. Last week I used that mix for hot cross buns.
Today I used quinoa in one, and brown rice in the other. Another curious behaviour of the dough is that it becomes quite solid during the bulk ferment, and again during proofing. As the dough is kneaded it becomes softer and pliable. After kneading for a minute or so, the dough can be shaped.
The flavour is light and slightly sweet. The sweetness is not from the sugars in the honey alone, as only a small amount is used. I suspect that enzymes in from the honey cause more sugars to be produced during the fermentation.
The crumb is more open than other many other gluten free breads I have made. The honey yeasts seem to remain active longer and at higher temperatures than baker's yeast and wild yeasts in sourdough. I suspect a cooler, longer bake will result in a more open crumb.
Some time ago I found black rice at the local supermarket. It milled well, and 'Emperor's Batard' was the result. Since then I have found red rice, grown in Thailand, in the same supermarket. This time the rice was not so easy to mill - well that is an understatement! It was quite a problem. Instead of flour I ended up with a mix of cracked rice grains and fairly coarse flour. I borrowed a hand mill, and after carefully cleaning the mill and running some other seed (millet) through it, I tried the red rice. This time I managed a super-fine flour, like talcum powder.
So, with the coarse mill I made a prefement, based on a millet starter. The red rice hydrated and fermented quite well. When I made the dough I included some of the fine red rice flour, as well as some very fine red sorghum flour.
The result was quite satisfactory. good oven spring. Unfortunately I got distracted and left it in the oven a little long - but that provided a really crunchy crust!
The crumb has a grainy texture from the cracked grains of rice, but as it was well hydrated, it is smooth and easy on the palate. The fine flours brought it all together into quite a pleasant bread. Flavour is interesting - it is reminiscent of Russian Caravan tea, with light, earthy smoky overtones. Quite a satisfactory and unique gluten free sourdough.
There are so many new techniques to develop and explore, but sometimes just using a reliable recipe in a new way makes a tasty treat. Cheese pull-apart bread has been on my mind for a while. Yesterday I bought a small block of very tasty vintage cheese.
I guess the variations with Rice Bread are endless ... leave the olive oil in the recipe and add a few olives and perhaps some sundried tomatoes, or prosciutto; sprigs of fresh rosemary and crushed garlic; whatever you like!
It's great to have a few flexible adaptable recipes. When I was looking at stollen recipes it occured to me that my Rice Bread recipe would make an excellent dough to use in stollen. The recipe was developed for making free form bread, and is quite adaptable. After researching online and in bread making books I settled on Jan Hedh's Yule log for inspiration.
Instead of placing a stick of almond paste in the middle, I chose to roll the almond paste flat and roll it up with the dough.
A few years ago we made liqueur from home grown green gages. drinking the liqueur is like drinking nectar. We still have some that is a little cloudy, so it was an obvious contender for use in soaking the fruit. The flavour worked well with cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, almond and lemon.
The stollen is delicious, much better than I had expected for a first bake of a new recipe.
The Rice Bread recipe is available in my store.
Jan Hedh's book is 'Artisan Breads - Practical Recipes and Detailed Instructions for Baking the World's Finest Loaves', Skyhorse, New York, 2011. ISBN 978-1-6-61608487-5
A while ago I bought a jar of organic honey from a stall at Salamanca Market in Hobart. The honey was collected in some of the pristine old forests in Tasmania. It is a strongly flavoured, rich honey. Organically produced, cold extracted, unheated, unprocessed, pure raw honey. (www.miellerie.com.au)
Apart from enjoying the wonderful honey, I had an idea. Some time ago I read just a few words about honey yeast. The gist of the idea is that in raw, organic honey there are yeasts that remain dormant. If the honey is diluted with water the yeasts can be activated. I found a few more words about honey yeasts in issue 3 of 'Bread Magazine'. So, keeping it simple I worked with honey and water, then when I could smell the yeast activity, I took some of the water and added it to a mix of flour and water (50/50 brown rice flour and water). It was more than 24 hours before I saw the first activity in the preferment, so I left it longer. Eventually I could see some tiny bubbles forming in the preferment. Next I mixed a dough, similar to my baguette dough. Fermentation was still slow, so it was another overnight bulk ferment, before I shaped the dough and left it in a banneton to proof.
Eventually it went into the oven; and that is when the excitement began! Ok, I am a bit obsessive about bread. The dough had only been in the oven a few minutes when I started to see the oven spring expanding the loaf. Usually there is a little movement in the first 10 minutes, then a little more until 17 minutes. This seemed pretty rapid!
I had to wait a few hours for the loaf to cool before I could see what the crumb was really like. I was not disappointed. For a first loaf using a new technique I was very pleased.
Overall, only a few tweaks needed to refine this recipe. The flavour captures the richness of the Lake Pedder Nectar. With this honey yeast loaf I can demonstrate, once again, that gluten free bread does not need to be boring!
Early last year I posted on this subject. The best I could manage then was a pumpernickel style buckwheat. Now, there was nothing wrong with it. The bread was moist with a grainy texure and a mildly fermented flavour. Sliced thinly, it was a superb, flexible bread for use with savoury toppings.
It was good, but I was sure I could do more with a single flour. Recently I took up the challenge again.
This bread relies on some traditional breadmaking techniques: fermenting, scalding the flour.
The crust is soft and the crumb is light, soft, open and moist, but not gummy. The buckwheat and molasses flavours work well together creating a slightly sweet, rich bread.
Over the past few months I have been working through the bread making books in the State library (Tasmania). I have added a few of the best to my own library. I find it fascinating to gain insights from bakers of regular bread and pastry. Every now and then I pick up an insight worth experimenting with in gluten free baking. Most bakers who dabble with gluten free bread insist that the dough should be a batter. Now, you can't do much with batter. But if you make dough, even sticky dough, you can use some basic kneading techniques. With gluten free dough you are not trying to develop the gluten, so kneading is no where near as demanding. A little kneading is useful for improving the structure of the crumb. In regular bread making wet doughs, like ciabatta, must be handled gently. Some bakers use a dough scraper to stretch and fold the dough. That technique works quite well with some of my wetter gluten free doughs.
Today I use one of my new bannetons with a buckwheat and rice sourdough. Until recently I have used a cloth lined dish to proof sourdough. So it was fun to start using a banneton. The loaf in the photo is today's buckwheat and rice boule, made on a buckwheat and rice starter. Now, you can't do that with batter!
We are on a family holiday. My older daughters might dispute that description as they slave away at their university studies. Just before we left home the latest edition of Bread Magazine was published. ( bread.insanelyinterested.com ) I have been reading this brilliant little magazine for over a year now. Yes, it is all about gluten based bread, but it is always interesting and provides some fascinating insights about bread.
Before we left home I decided to see how we could survive without out usual home made fare of bread, pastry and pasta. The latest edition of Bread Magazine has a feature article on flatbread. So, I decided it would be interesting to try my hand at flatbread with little more that a frypan and very basic ingredients.
First, I mixed a stiff dough of 1:2 tapioca:fine rice flour, with half a teaspoon of instant yeast and just enough water to bring it togehter into dough. Then I let it rest for an hour before shaping 3 small rounds about 1cm thick and 5 cm diameter. They were left to prove on a well dusted plate for another half hour before I heated the frypan, added butter, set off the fire alarms and finally cooked the bread.
Not too bad as a first attempt. Could have used a little more water (perhaps a scald as well), and perhaps a little more yeast - or a poolish if there is time. Technique and timing to be worked on, and, aside from the fire alarms ( I did get a message to reception before they called the fire brigade!) not a bad staple. I am sure it would work better with buckwheat, or perhaps quinoa in the mix, but my challenge was to work with what was readily available in a tropical sea-side holiday town.
Most of the work I have done making gluten free bread has has been focussed on making bread like real bread. Bread that tastes, looks and feels like bread. But, what if there were distinctive, gourmet, gluten free bread varieties?