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Monday, April 14, 2014

Back to Basics: Sandwich Bread (GFCF)

2014 has brought evolution to our family and to our kitchen.  We're trying out a gluten-free, casein-free (read: pretty much dairy free) diet in addition to the dye-free efforts we've made over the last year or so.  Between my daughter's dairy sensitivities and my oldest son's ADHD/potential spectrum issues, we're trying whatever might work.

Initially, when we decided to try this GFCF thing, I felt...well...overwhelmed.  Like I might have to quit my part-time job (which I LOVE) and pull Boy #1 out of preschool (which we DID NOT want to do) to make it work.  Because it means giving up my easiest, no-work meals, it means having practically no backup take-out options when I, say, forget to put dinner in the crockpot, it means cooking and providing every single bite my kid is going to eat whether he's at home, school, a birthday party, soccer practice, what have you.

Fainting <--this was me thinking about all of that

Given a few weeks to plan however, I'm back on the prep-ahead, freeze-ahead horse with some new recipes in tow, confidence that we can make this work and hope that it helps my kids and their various *stuff*.

There are many, many, many blogs out there dedicated to GF/CF/Whatever-F cooking out there.  I do not intend to duplicate those efforts.  My focus, as ever, is the prep-ahead aspect.  What works to make in advance. What works to prep in advance to finish later. How to plan and shop and work ahead to make dinner (and lunch and breakfast and snacktime) happen on time, healthfully (as we now define it), and without making your brain explode.

So here we are.  In some ways, doing the same-old-same-old (there are an awful lot of natively GFCF/DF recipes, many on this very blog...if I get a chance to breathe, I'm going to try to go back and add appropriate tags/pins), and in some ways relearning the basics.

Like bread.  The Holy Grail in many ways of GF baking.  When you think of "bread" (yeast breads in particular), you probably have the sense-memory of the chew, the toothsome pull of each bite.  That's the gluten.  Even with a soft yeast bread like a Parker House roll, there's a particular flavor that comes from the wheat.  Yes, wheat has a flavor...you don't realize it until you're eating a roll made without wheat, but wheat has its own distinctive flavor.  Wheat is such an omnipresent grain in our cooking culture that it's like wallpaper...you don't notice it until it's gone.

So the downside to GF baking is that it's just not going to be the same.  It might be close with a really good recipe and set of ingredients, but it's not going to be the same.

The upside, however, once you reset your expectations for the final product, is that there is no gluten to worry about.  No need for extensive kneading or long double and triple rises to develop gluten in a bread, and no worries about overmixing causing too much gluten development (and therefore toughness) in quick breads and cakes.  No pull-back when you shape dough.  No need to let a pizza crust rest before rolling it out.  It's really quite brilliant.

One of the "downsides" to GF bread--namely how quickly it dries out and gets stale at room temperature--is ideal for my purposes.  The solution is to bake bread ahead and freeze it (although so far, the bread I've made is eaten up by my family of 5 so fast, it hasn't needed to last more than 24 hours fresh anyway).

As far as shopping for this goes, you do need some "unusual" flours and ingredients.  Fortunately, it's not hard to find them.  All the major grocery store chains near me carry these items.  Bob's Red Mill is the brand that's most prevalent.  Some stores carry them on the regular baking aisle and dairy case; some have them in a "specialty diet", "organic/natural foods" or "gluten free foods" area.  If you don't see what you need, ASK.  I bet they have it somewhere.

One last thought...the first rule of GF baking is You Don't Talk About... No, that's not it, just kidding.

The first rule of GF baking is Don't Change the Recipe.  You can't just take a gluten-based recipe, sub in some GF flours and have it work.  You need thickeners, binding agents, extra leaveners and a lot of trial-and-error to start generating a workable GF recipe out of thin air.  You also need to be mindful about whether you inadvertently add gluten to a recipe by switching ingredients (there's a lot of hidden gluten in the world).

So I'm not changing anything about the GF baking recipes I try.  I'm going to link to the original recipe found wherever it originally lives on the interwebs, and post my notes about how it worked for me.  With pictures of course.

So off we go.  Please join us :)  And please point out my mistakes...I'm not new to allergen-sensitive cooking, but I am new to this particular (and rawther tricky) branch of food sensitivity.  So I'll try not to screw up, but if I do...holler!

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
Makes 1 8x4 loaf (about 8 sandwiches' worth)

  • 1 ½ cups rice flour
  • 1 ½ cups tapioca Starch
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP xanthan gum
  • 1 TBSP dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 TBSP oil
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cup warm soy milk  (I used unsweetened rice milk)
  • 1 tbsp melted butter or oil (I used melted Earth Balance margarine to keep it dairy-free)
Grease (using a dairy-free fat) and flour (rice flour) a 8x4 loaf pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a stand mixer.  Mix in wet ingredients (except melted butter/oil) and beat on high speed for 3 minutes.

Spread batter-dough in loaf pan.  Put on top of the oven while you preheat it to 350F.  Let it rise about 30 minutes total (mine didn't rise very much, and certainly didn't double in size like gluten bread dough would, but it rose plenty during baking).

Brush the top of the loaf with melted fat.  Bake 50 minutes (mine needed a little more time to completely bake through...about 55-60 minutes total).
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