Monday, March 5, 2012

Bread, glorious bread!

There are very few smells that I love in this world more than that of fresh baked bread. To me, bread is the baked personification of comfort and security. I remember when I was little, my mom would bake these amazing traditional Brazilian breads that were braided and sprinkled with course sugar. Coming out of the oven I would watch in adoration and amazement. Bread feels like home.

When I decided to switch us over to gluten-free, I was skeptical that I would ever be able to replicate the wonderful moistness and texture of traditional bread. I began a pretty intense journey in searching out loaves of gluten-free store bought breads that may fit the bill. Sadly, each loaf seemed to be dense and rather tough not to mention hideously expensive. I knew that there had to be a better way.

I knew that if I didn’t like the bread there was absolutely no way that kiddo would like it. So I started to work on my flour blends. I started to look at various recipes online but the results seemed so dense and short. I decided that based on texture I wanted to try to use rice, tapioca, corn and potato flours.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to make loaf after loaf of bread only to come up with an uninspiring loaf that could hold down newspapers on a windy day. I had now made 9 loaves of bread with several different recipes and 5 different flour blends. I was getting to my breaking point. The smell of the fresh baked bread no long made me feel warm and secure but filled me with dread as to what the resulting loaf would be.

One day scrolling through comments in a gluten-free blog I came across a recipe that a reader had posted and said she loved. The flours that she used seemed to be ones that resulted in a texture that I liked, so I thought I would give it a whirl. Additionally it didn’t really require a bread machine so that made it appealing as well. I pulled out my gluten-free baking arsenal and went to work.

Five hours later, I pulled out of my oven a slightly lumpy loaf that was nicely browned and smelled fantastic. I admit I was a little excited again and waited for it to cool. When I sliced the loaf, still warm because I just couldn’t wait any longer, I found that the bread had holes, holes by God! In saying holes, I mean that there was actually a great deal of airiness to this bread, it wasn’t dense like so many loaves I had tried. I tasted it, heaven! It was amazing and my heart sang a song of bread. But then there was still kiddo to try it on. It was late at night so the test would come in lunch the next day. I was eager to fix his sandwich and send him off with the fruits of my labor. Then I eagerly awaited his return home and when I jumped off the bus I said “how was the bread?!” He said “it was ok…” with this guilty look on his face. I asked “did you throw it away…” which was common place when he disliked the taste or texture of something new, “yes.” I was irate, it had been my 13 loaf of bread and one I finally thought was kiddo worthy and he just chucked it. After lots of tears, on both my part and kiddos regarding the discarding of perfectly good foods, I asked him if he wanted to try a loaf of store bought gluten-free bread. He said that he would. So I dutifully went to the local grocery store and picked up a loaf, one that seemed to be a little softer than the others. I took it home and made his sandwich for lunch. I knew damn well he wouldn’t eat it and he didn’t. But he did tell me finally that he thought that the last loaf I made was actually really good and he wanted to keep that one. Ah! Victory after all my exhausting bread making!

So we finally settled on a variation of the loaf that I originally tried out for our daily sandwich bread.  Everyone in the family happily eats this bread just as they would any good ole store bought loaf of white bread. I bake a loaf usually twice a week and that keeps us going. I store it in the fridge, usually unsliced until I am getting ready to use it and it seems to keep really well for several days, unlike a number of loaves of gluten-free that quickly become grainy. It also is a recipe for a loaf made without a bread maker, so I would happily take suggestions on a variation to use it with a bread maker… until I actually get mine.

White Sandwich Bread
3 C brown rice flour
1 C potato starch
3/4/3 C tapioca flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 pk active dry yeast
2 1/2 C warm water
6 tbsp melted butter
3 eggs

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the yeast, water and sugar and allow to sit for about 15 minutes until the yeast has puffed up quite well.

In another bowl mix rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthum gum and salt. Once the yeast proofs add it to the bowl of a stand mixer with the melted butter and eggs. On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients until it is a sticky dough.

Lightly grease a bread pan and put the dough in the pan. Use a spatula to spread the dough evenly in a pan. If you would like a smooth crust on top you can wet your hands slightly and smooth out the dough. Place the pan of dough in a warm place free of drafts (I place it in my oven) for 3-4 hours. It should rise about ½ its original size once it is completely risen.

Pre-heat over to 400 degrees and place the bread pan on the oven for 20 minutes to finish its rising. Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes, the bread should sound hollow when tapped. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then place on a cooling rack to complete cooling. 


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