Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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Bake Better Bread

Gluten-free bread doesn’t have to be dry and taste-deficient – here’s how to make it rise and shine

Making gluten-free bread at home assures you of a product that meets your dietary needs. You can add your own creative touches, producing a distinctive loaf.

But if your efforts fall short and your loaf has a less desirable texture or taste, or is less wholesome when compared with commercially made gluten-free breads, you may be getting discouraged.

Fortunately, markets are offering a greater variety of gluten-free flours that may compensate for the wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut or triticale you’re eliminating from your baking.

In addition, new books from baking experts provide solutions to gluten-free bread challenges.

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  • 5 tips to know before going gluten-free
  • “The options for gluten-free flours and [baking] mixes have grown exponentially in the last several years,” writes Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for Oldways and The Whole Grains Council, Boston, Ma.

    The Whole Grains Council, which offers a Whole Grains Stamp to qualified products, saw an almost three-fold increase in submissions of gluten-free flours and baking mixes in the last three years compared with the first three years (2005-2007) the stamp was available, according to Harriman in an email interview.

    “We have better products,” says Carol Fenster, an authority on gluten-free cooking and baking.

    As an example, Fenster says sorghum used to be dark in color and have a strong flavor.

    “Now we have a sweetish sorghum flour. It works so well I use it in many of my flour blends,” says Fenster, author of “Gluten-Free 101” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

    Her gluten-free flour blend calls for 1-1/2 cups sorghum flour or brown rice flour; 1-1/2 cups potato starch or cornstarch and 1 cup tapioca flour.

    You also have more opportunities to boost the nutrition content of homemade gluten-free bread.

    Rice flour is a popular substitute for wheat flour, but it’s “pretty humble in terms of nutrients,” Fenster says. She recommends switching to brown rice flour, which has more nutrients than white rice. She also suggests adding rice bran, flax meal or whole-grain teff for bread with increased dietary fiber and protein.

    You also can improve the look and consistency of gluten-free bread.

    Start with color.

    If your bread sports an unappealing pale shade, remedy that by brushing dough with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) just before baking, says Dr. Jeff Hertzberg, co-author with Zoë François, of “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013).

    For bread that’s well leavened with a “nicer crumb and smoother crust,” Fenster recommends including both xanthan gum and guar gum in the batter.

    Using more water in the dough (than in gluten-containing recipes) also helps produce an appetizing loaf.

    “You need the steam that the liquid produces,” Fenster says.

    The benefit of high-moisture dough for gluten-free bread was a pleasant surprise to the artisan bread authors who had previously applied the same theory to their gluten-containing bread in their best-selling book, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013).

    “We experimented with high-hydration dough. You can increase the water [in the recipe] so you can store the dough [refrigerated] for a long time,” Dr. Hertzberg says.

    “It turned out that’s a good plan for gluten-free as well,” he says.

    You’ll experience superior texture in your homemade gluten-free bread if you take a few measures in handling the loaf, according to Dr. Hertzberg.

    Tempting though it is, “never cut into, or eat, our gluten-free breads while they’re still warm. Proteins continue to set during the cooling phase and that can take up to two hours,” he says.

    Don’t expect a gluten-free loaf to have the same shelf life as gluten-containing bread.

    “Gluten captures water and holds onto it. Gluten-free bread will be dry the next day,” says Dr. Hertzberg. He recommends making bread as you need it.

    As for the stale leftovers?

    The artisan bread author suggests using it in panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad, or in bread pudding.

    © CTW Features

    Bev Bennett CTW Features
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