22 November 2007

Gluten Free Tips (1)

Aka, things I wish someone had told me when I first started having to make everything be gluten-free.

The most important factor for getting yeast bread to turn out is the water temperature. Whatever flours you use, however you get it to stick together without gluten, if the water temperature is wrong, the bread will not turn out right. Period. Bette Hagman gets this consistently wrong, though I love her recipe books otherwise. She nearly always says to have the water at 105° Fahrenheit. When I first started out, I believed her and aimed for this temperature. Then one day I read the blurb on the jar of yeast. It said 110-115° Fahrenheit when added in liquid and allowed to froth, and 130° Fahrenheit when added into the dry ingredients. Most of Bette Hagman's recipes say to add the yeast with the dry ingredients. For the type of yeast I use, 105° Fahrenheit is just plain wrong.

There's a further complication, however. With wheat bread, water is generally the only, or at least the dominant, liquid. With GF bread, you're usually adding eggs at the bare minimum, which decreases the amount of water you use. This means that to get the liquid to 130° Fahrenheit, you need the water to be even hotter. I aim for 160° Fahrenheit. After some experimenting one summer, I found that 160° worked well for the type of yeast that I buy. For anyone else, read your own package of yeast and try to get all the liquid to that temperature before you add the dry ingredients. If there's a secret to making good gluten-free bread, this is the most important bit. Then, after you've gotten bread to turn out, you can start working on texture and flavor by experimenting with different flours.

For instance, for our Thanksgiving rolls today, I used Bette Hagman's Featherlight Rice Flour bread recipe, but I replaced a quarter of the flour with hazelnut meal. This gave a much lighter, moister texture, and a richer flavor. I'll find out tomorrow how well the moisture lasts. But still, it's best to start by following the recipe exactly, apart from the erroneous temperature instructions. When you can get it to turn out as a nice, risen bread, then it's time to start experimenting.

Oh, a few other modifications I make to that particular recipe. I use lemon juice instead of vinegar. The purpose is to make the dough more acidic to help the yeast rise, and I prefer to use lemon juice; I often add more than the recipe calls for, too. I also use more honey than the recipe calls for, especially if I'm making cinnamon pull-aparts out of the dough. And I use rice protein powder (1 T for the small loaf, 2 T for the largest recipe) in place of dry milk powder. The purpose is to add protein to a flour mix that lacks it, and rice protein powder works just as well.

GF Tips Index

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