I don’t typically eat bread. When I was diagnosed 15 years ago, the two choices in pre-made gluten free bread were Food For Life’s White Rice Loaf and Ener-G’s White Rice Loaf. And if you’ve ever tasted them, you’ll know why I pretty much stopped eating bread. Ugh – it was to be used only in emergencies or toasted and slathered in something.
I was diagnosed while in college and went to school about an hour and a half from home. I lived in the dorm initially and the only way I ate bread was if my mother or grandmother made me a loaf when I came home for a visit. Remember, too, that the internet was only an infant and Bette Hagman was the one and only Queen of Gluten Free Baking, and this is only 15 years ago!
When I left college and moved out on my own, my mother sent my (her?) bread machine with me. My husband and I used it periodically but the gluten free breads still weren’t worth it to me. They came out all crumbly with the giant holes from the machine’s paddles on the bottom. Sometimes they were a flop and I didn’t like wasting all those expensive ingredients. And our machine took at least 4 hours to make one loaf and it was hard to find that chunk of time in a week in which to make it and let it cool. Finally I gave up on baking breads. And then my husband started using the bread machine for gluten breads. He enjoyed making his own bread. But eventually the novelty wore off and he stopped making his own too. And then at some point the bread machine went back to live at my mother’s house. That was pretty much the end of my bread making, except for the obligatory loaf for my Thanksgiving dressing.
Even before being diagnosed as a celiac, I wasn’t a big bread or sandwich eater. So all these years I haven’t worried too much about finding gluten free bread. But so much has changed! Bread recipes abound and there are lots of great gluten free bakers out there creating goodies I haven’t tasted in years!
Over the winter, in one of our farming/gardening magazines, my husband read about this cookbook touting a new way to make bread in five minutes a day. And then he would periodically mention that he wanted to start making his own bread again. Then he read that the authors were coming out with a new cookbook and this one had gluten free recipes in it! So I googled it and came upon the website, and after poking around a bit, I broke down and bought the book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, MD and Zoe Francois.
The first time we made the Crusty Boule, using the recipe in the cookbook, we weren’t sure if it was right or not. It tasted good, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t rise much at all and was fairly dense. It also had a slight sour taste. By the way, the recipe in the cookbook does not require you to use a large Dutch oven (which I do not own) the way the recipe on the website indicates. The cookbook, of course, provides a lot more detail and options for using the equipment you already have and I would highly recommend it even if it is just for the gluten free chapter.
The recipe makes 4 pounds of dough and although you can easily make the recipe smaller, we chose to make the whole batch for some reason, the first time around. Not too smart, but there we were. So after baking the first bit of bread, a couple of days later I made another one, with the same results as the first, and then with the final bit of dough I made a pizza crust. The pizza crust was pretty good. But I just felt like something wasn’t quite right with the bread. And not being a baker, I didn’t know where to begin. Is it my equipment? Is it our elevation (5500′)? Not sure. So I poked around on their website again and read through all the comments and decided to try again.
So by the second time around, I had bought a pizza stone to bake it on, hoping it would help, somehow. I mixed up the dough and left it to sit on the counter to rise and lo and behold, this time it actually rose to not-quite-double its original size! The first time we made it, we noticed that it didn’t rise very much but I wasn’t very surprised since it was a gluten free bread, after all. The next day I baked a free-form loaf and it turned out great! I also left it alone long enough to let it cool completely and this may have helped too. In the book they recommend not slicing it before it is cool. But after all those years of not tasting bread fresh out of the oven, the smell was hard to resist. The second time around I was better at resisting! This second batch was still dense and had a slightly sour taste but it was a very tasty, sour taste. If you are looking for a light, Wonder-bread-like gluten free bread, this is not it. This is more European in style in that it is a denser, stick-to-your ribs type of bread.
Also, I cut part of the bread up into cubes and took it with us on our birthday trip to The Melting Pot. It was great!
We have now made 2 batches of the four pound recipe and have enjoyed it a lot. In fact, it only takes us about three, maybe four, days to eat one one-pound loaf. They recommend that you store the baked bread on the counter with the cut side down, not in plastic, but uncovered. This does not help with my self-control issues as I have no problem walking by and just slicing off a bit to nibble on. And since I don’t need the extra calories, we won’t be making this too often. Or else I will have to remember to cut the recipe in half or freeze the dough the way they indicate on the website.
Next up, the slightly sweet Brioche recipe! Or maybe the Naan…. decisions, decisions!