Monday, September 5, 2016

Best Healthy Gluten-Free Bread Recipe

I have been asked for this recipe so many times that I decided to publish it on my blog.  It is a bit off my usual topics, but blogs don't really have hard and fast rules, right?

A Word of Caution
Baking gluten-free in not like baking with wheat flour.  I am a life-long baker and, in many ways, I had to throw out everything I thought that I knew about making homemade breads, cakes, cookies, pies, biscuits, muffins, and pastries and go back to first-grade.

If you have a serious health reason for eliminating gluten, going GF is worth the investment of time, energy, and money. And in that case, finding a great bread recipe is critical, at least it was for me! 

Why Is Baking Gluten-Free Challenging? 
In a nutshell...because GF dough seems harder to work with, initially, and it is more expensive to get your kitchen set up properly.  But to be specific...
  1. Gluten is to bakery products what a metal support system is to a skyscraper.  When you toss the gluten out of your dough, it has a v.e.r.y different character.  That lovely shiny stretch is replaced by a gooey substance that is nothing like traditional dough.
  2. A professional stand mixer is a requirement which is much more expensive than a hand mixer.
  3. A digital food scale is a must for weighing out the various flour ingredients.  I use this one but there are many good ones.
  4. A Pullman bread pan will help you be successful.  The higher sides and narrower base to give the bread support as it rises and cooks.
  5. A bevy of flours will be required to achieve the taste and texture of a truly delightful baked product.  That, also, means more kitchen space and a greater dollar investment in flours.
  6. Many of the all-purpose GF flours at the grocery store are horrible tasting.
  7. Not everyone enjoys the slow process of trial and error.  I like experimentation and am disciplined enough to change one ingredient at a time and document what  I did. 
I spent almost 2 years perfecting my healthy GF bread recipe.  I found other bread recipes that were quite yummy but they did not meet the level of healthy that I was seeking.  I was, also, looking for something quick and easy once I got my kitchen stocked and set up.

If you want to bake GF breads, I strongly suggest that you buy Nicole Hunn’s, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread: (Biscuits, Bagels, Buns, and More cookbook.  Hunn's 'Bakes Bread' cookbook really is the starting bible for breads, in my opinion.  If you follow her recipes EXACTLY you will gain much confidence in your ability to bake amazing GF breads.  BTW, her blog is awesome.

Once you graduate to the level of creating your own recipes, you may want these two cookbooks:  The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook and The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook Volume 2 Cookbook.  It will help you unleash your kitchen chemist because you gain insight into the interactions between the ingredients in GF breads.  The recipes are great, too.

If you want to bake French desserts and heavenly cakes—go directly to Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts without passing go.  Seriously!  Figuring out where to find superfine GF pastry flours is very important.  

Flours for GF Healthy Bread
  • Basic bread flour  - This is a blend of all-purpose GF flour (such as Better Batter), unflavored whey protein powder, and Expandex modified tapioca flour.  To get the exact proportions—buy Nicole’s book.  
    • There are other basic bread flours but the genius of Nicole’s basic bread flour is the addition of protein powder!  I use Now Sport’s Protein isolate—Thank you, Nicole.
    • Better Batter contains white and brown rice flours, tapioca starch, potato starch, xanthan gum, and pectin.  
  • Oat flour - I use old-fashioned whole grain GF oats and grind it in my Vitamix blender.   (You can purchase already ground oat flour.)
  • Ancient Grains (30% each amaranth, millet, and sorghum flours and 10% quinoa flour).
    • I really wanted to use some teff flour, too, because is so healthy.  But the flavor is just too overpowering for me.
First, make a starter that rises for 40-50 minutes in a warm breeze-free area*.  Mix it up really well by hand with a spatula. Then cover the top with plastic wrap secured in place with a rubber band. The mixture will more than double.

Starter Ingredients
  • ½ cup Basic bread flour
  • ½ cup oat flour
  • ½ cup Ancient Grain flour
  • 2 tsp dry instant yeast
  • 1.5-2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110 °F)

While the starter is rising, add the following ingredients to the stand mixer bowl, and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly:
  • ¼ cup golden flax seeds (do not grind)
  • ¼ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup old-fashioned whole grain GF oats
  • 2 tbsp psyllium husk powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum

Right before you are ready to add the starter, add these ingredients into the stand-mixer bowl:
  • 1 cup plain (unsweetened) whole milk yogurt (do not use non-fat)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp molasses (you can use honey but I like molasses better)
  • ½ cup warm water not hot (<110 °F) 
Now add in the starter to the stand mixer bowl.  Pre-mix by hand with a strong spatula just to get everything moist before you turn the mixer loose.  Use the batter attachment NOT the dough hook. (The more air in the dough the better the batter is.)  Run the mixer on 5 or 6 (medium) for 5-6 mins.  Stop once or twice to mix well with the spatula and to redistribute the dough, which will be super sticky.

Have a Pullman bread pan ready (I use butter-flavor canola spray to grease).  Let the bread rise for an hour in a warm breeze free area.  Cover the top with plastic wrap.  Use the spatula to "coax" the mixture into the bread pan.  Wet your fingers to smooth the bread down.  Sprinkle some oats or seeds on top if you desire.  Let it rise* for an hour or until it is just slightly over the top of the pan.
NOTE: I used to use Nicole’s method of scrapper kneading but I found that I really do not need to use that for this recipe.  But if you want a perfectly rounded top on your bread, do knead it using scrapper kneading.  You will need to give it more time to rise if you knead it.  (If I was making cinnamon rolls—for which I use a different dough—it would be a must!)

In her book, Nicole talks about letting the dough rise in the refrigerator for several days to increase the yeast flavor prior to kneading, shaping, and the final rise.  That does indeed work to develop more of a yeast flavor but the bread will not quite rise as high which was more important to me.  You may want to try it both ways.  It will take several hours for the final rise if you go the refrigerator route.

Put into the cold oven so that the pan is in the center of the oven.  Turn the heat to 350 °F.  Set timer for 40 min.  At 40 min take bread out of pan and place on cookie sheet for another 10-15 min.  Have foil ready to cover top of bread when it is the shade of golden brown you like.  I like my crust crunchy but not too brown.  Because ovens vary you will need to figure out what works best for you.  
Let the bread cool for several hours before you cut it into 18-20 slices.  The bread freezes well but I find that if I just store my slices is a zipper freezer bag and keep in the refrigerator it does fine. But I also consume the whole load in 5-6 days by myself.  I love this bread.
Sliced up in a quart freezer bag.  Note the full-size slices.


I really can’t thank Nicole Hunn enough for the education is getting started and all the tricks that she has taught me in her cook books for GF cooking.  Definitely check out her blog: glutenfreeonashoestring.com.
*To create a perfect environment, I first heat a mug of water in my microwave to ~90 seconds on high.  Then I push the mug of hot water to the back of the microwave and place the non-metal covered bowl, containing the starter, in the microwave so that it does not touch the mug.  Then I close the microwave door.  This provides a warm, moist environment for the my starter.  I use this technique for the dough, once shaped and in the pan for the final rise, too.



Another loaf with poppy seeds on top.