Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gluten-free bread making

I'd been promising my celiac friend Sherry for some time that I would walk her through a recipe for gluten-free bread dough from Healthy Bread In 5 Minutes a Day. So last week we made a date to do it this past Monday afternoon. Doing this is also one of my goals in the Anyway project.

A couple of weeks ago I walked her through a whole wheat bread recipe from the same book (or at least my variant on it which works really well with the organic, locally-grown whole wheat flour we get from Merryland Farms). Its four ingredients (flour, water, yeast and salt) make it simple enough that she get one of her teenagers to mix it up. We made English muffins and a baguette from half the dough; the next day she made pizza for her husband to take to work from the other half of the dough. Everything was eaten up within 24 hours!

Sherry, unfortunately, cannot eat whole wheat bread because she is a celiac. Her diet has to be free of gluten. Another friend of hers makes gluten-free loaves for her, which she carefully rations a slice or two a day. But the friend never makes pizza, and that is the one thing that Sherry craves.

The recipe is extensive: three kinds of gluten-free flour, water, xanthan gum, eggs, honey (we used organic sugar instead because she was low on honey, yeast, salt (we substituted sea salt for kosher salt), and neutral-flavored oil -- which we forgot to put in initially and had to add fifteen minutes into the primary rising. It worked out fine.

We let the dough rise for two hours while Sherry looked after some baked beans, we had tea and hot cider and talked a lot about community, sharing, and stockpiling food, she started a lasagna sauce, and we drove to Honda dealership to pick up my CRV with totally reconstructed rear brakes after the left rear brake caliper stuck and burnt out everything.

When we got back, she turned off the smoke alarms before heating her oven to 500 deg F since it was overdue for a cleaning. The gluten-free dough has to be handled gently. We found patting out thin circles for personal pizzas worked much better than rolling them out. I also did the patting out directly on parchment paper after incorporating a fair amount of flour into the intial balls. She was freezing the pizza shells partially baked, so they only took five minutes in the oven. While I was busy shaping, Sherry was equally busy get done pizzas onto a cooling rack, putting in a new pan, and setting up another pan for me to put them onto. We ended up using one piece of parchment paper four times. After that it was too browned to be reused again.

The last time Sherry had attempted to make gluten-free pizza had been an exercise in frustration: the dough constantly fell apart as she tried to move it from a board to pan and stuck to everything. Using lots of flour in the shaping and patting, rather than rolling, directly into the pan going into the oven minimized the falling apart. The dough only stuck to the shaper's hands and that was a quick wash-off after the last pan went into the oven.

We used up all the dough as pizzas. Sherry is looking forward to a dozen or more pizza meals. She can make one up and take for lunch when she's out housecleaning (she does it with green supplies like baking soda and vinegar) and she'll no longer be tempted to go off her diet on pizza nights at home!

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