Gluten-free bread, take 2

I’m teaching a course on bread in about a month’s time, and I have yet to develop a perfect gluten-free recipe to share with students. This one comes pretty close, though–particularly in comparison to my last effort, which was more scone-like in consistency than this batch, and inherited an unfortunate aftertaste from some bad millet flour.

This is freshly-mixed dough, before the rise. I've tossed the ball in a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Next time, I'll shape the loaf from the start, so I don't disturb the structure post-rise.

This version gets its taste from a combination of sorghum, buckwheat, and almond flours.  The buckwheat is probably the most noticeable flour in this bread; it has a strong flavor that I like, but it can be swapped out for something else if it’s not to your taste. The almond flour provides moistness, and I believe the sorghum is responsible for the relatively light texture of the bread. It has a mild flavor, so it’s a good choice as a base flour for baked goods.

Here's the dough post-rise. It feels kind of spongy when you press on it. It does not rise much, especially not in comparison to normal bread, and will not rise much in the oven, either.

To create the spongy structure of the bread without gluten, I used a chia seed slurry (ground chia seeds, boiling water) and added in some psyllium husk for good measure (which I first read about here).  Both ground chia seeds and psyllium husks mimic gluten by creating gel-like strands when mixed with water; these strands reinforce the structure of the rising bread and give it a nice crumb, which can often be difficult to achieve with gluten-free flours.  You can also use a flax / linseed slurry if you prefer, and can supplement with xanthan gum as noted below.

Gluten-free buckwheat bread

Makes 1 small loaf.

I’m calling this buckwheat bread because buckwheat is the defining flavor of this loaf. Feel free to swap one or more of the flours below for equal weights of other gluten-free flours; just try to swap in flours with similar qualities to maintain the texture and consistency of the loaf.

Required equipment: 1 mixing bowl, 1 small bowl, 1 spoon, 1 scale (Yes, this is required if you want to try gluten-free baking).

Optional equipment: A cast-iron dutch oven. If not, a baking pan and some parchment will work.

Chia seed slurry

  • 15 g. ground chia seed
  • 30 g. boiling water

In a small bowl, mix together the ground chia seed and water until it forms a consistent slurry. Set this aside; when you’re ready to use it, it should feel kind of like silly putty.

Dry ingredients:

  • 25 g. almond meal (I use this because of its high fat content; you can swap in millet flour or something along those lines if you prefer.)
  • 125 g. sorghum flour (also known as jawar atta; look for this at Indian food markets or Fiji Market in Newtown, if you live in Sydney.)  You can use 125 g. teff or 75 g. brown rice flour + 50 g. millet (thanks for the recipe tests, Mom!)
  • 50 g. buckwheat flour
  • 40 g. potato starch
  • 30 g. tapioca flour
  • 15 g. psyllium husk
  • 5 g. instant yeast (This is a bit less than a typical packet.)
  • 3 g. salt (1/2 t.)
  • If you don’t mind using xanthan gum, 1/2 t. does help the rise a bit, and you can add it to the dry ingredients.

Wet ingredients

  • 7 g. honey  (Use an unprocessed sugar or a light molasses if you prefer; it doesn’t add to the flavor of the bread but helps feed the yeast.)
  • ~250-270 g. warm water (This quantity will vary depending on the flours you use, the humidity, etc. Use enough so that the mixed dough is soft and tacky; it should feel sticky, not smooth.)

The procedure:

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together thoroughly.
  2. Add the honey and chia seed slurry, then mix in the water. It’s best to start with less water than you think you’ll need, and keep adding more until the dough comes together. I use my hands for this step–I just keep mixing the dough together (kind of like kneading, except you’re not building up the gluten framework) and adding small quantities of water until it feels right. For this dough, it’s right when the dough is sticky and you have no more dry flour in the mixing bowl.
  3. Once the dough is mixed, lightly oil a bowl (even the one you just used for mixing), or, if you prefer, a loaf pan.
  4. Shape the dough into whatever shape you desire.
  5. Lightly oil some plastic wrap and cover the shaped dough. Let rise for a couple of hours.  It won’t rise a lot, but will feel spongy when you press gently on the loaf.
  6. About 20 minutes before baking, put your clean cast iron dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 500°F / 260°C, or as high as your oven will go.  If you don’t have the dutch oven, just preheat the oven.
  7. When the oven’s preheated, lift the lid (carefully!) off the dutch oven and place the risen bread inside. Put the lid back on, put the pot back in the oven, and lower the oven temperature to 450°F / 230°C.  If you don’t have the dutch oven, just slide the bread in the oven on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or in a loaf pan.
  8. About 15 minutes after you place the bread in the oven, remove the dutch oven lid (or simply turn your loaf, if you aren’t using the dutch oven).
  9. Continue baking for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust of the bread has taken on a nice brown color.  At this point, tap the bottom of the loaf. It should sound like a muted drum when it’s finished; if it doesn’t, give it a bit longer.
  10. Once the bread is done, place on a rack and let cool.
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Filed under baking, baking tips, buckwheat, experiments, gluten-free

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