Has this ever happened to you? You read a book and become so immersed in it that time stands still and you can’t put it down. That happened to me with How to Bake the Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal. The plot had elements that always appeal to me—food, romance, and family—and revolves around a bakery that specializes in breads. I was especially receptive to this book since my speaking engagements this past month focused on bread-baking and I’m always trying to achieve the “perfect loaf” as well as the “perfect life.”
Here is the question I posed to attendees at my 3-hour bread-baking seminar at the Gluten and Allergen-Free Expo in Chicago in April:
“If you could have fresh, hot bread throughout the week with minimal time and effort…..would you be interested?” Of course! Who wouldn’t! There’s nothing more gratifying than pulling a homemade loaf of bread out of your own oven. Your kitchen smells heavenly and you have the creative satisfaction of crafting that loaf yourself. Think of it as creating a little gluten-free bakery in your own kitchen.
My perfect loaf is “Breakthrough Ready-to-Bake Bread” on page 100 from my cookbook, 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes. I prefer to make French baguettes, since they’re quick-baking, easy to assemble, and gratifying to serve—especially to guests who will think you’re a genius when you pull these perfect little loaves from your oven.
The secret is to make the dough, refrigerate it in a tightly-covered, glass container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days, and bake as much of the dough as you need whenever you want hot, fresh bread. Keep the remaining dough refrigerated until you want to bake again. I use a Pyrex 8-cup glass measuring cup because you can see how much dough you have and they come with snap-on lids. My version has a blue lid, but newer versions have red lids.
You can bake French baguettes (my favorite), or individual rolls, which are even quicker but not as versatile. When I have a dinner party scheduled, I make the dough the day before and bake it into French baguettes just before my guests arrive so they’re greeted with that heavenly bread-baking aroma as they walk into my house.
What’s New is Really Old
This idea isn’t really new, but got a huge boost from New York baker Jim Lahey’s “no-knead” technique. Mark Bittman wrote about Lahey’s technique in the New York Times and it was also featured in Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Many experts now use this technique in their cookbooks and it is perfect for our wet gluten-free dough.
Note that this bread is not only gluten-free, but is also egg-free and can be made without dairy — making it perfect for guests or families with multiple allergies––but the crust won’t brown as deeply. If you can eat eggs, brush the dough with beaten egg whites for a light browning or a beaten whole egg for a deeper, richer browning with a shinier crust.
How Does This Technique Work?
Experts tell us that while the dough looks very innocent just sitting there in your fridge, there is actually a great deal of activity doing on. Hundreds of enzymes are busy “doing their thing” to improve the texture of the bread (airier and more irregular crumb, like gluten bread) and make its flavor more complex and interesting.
This technique is perfect for our gluten-free dough which—-like the dough in Lahey’s method—-is wet and we never knead our dough either. So, give this recipe a try. I can’t help you with your “perfect life” but this could be your “perfect loaf.”
Carol Fenster’s French Baguettes©
Makes 3 baguettes
1 cup cold milk or nondairy beverage
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups potato starch
1 cup Carol’s Sorghum Blend (see below)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each xanthan gum and guar gum
2 teaspoons golden flaxmeal (stirred into ½ cup boiling water, cooled to room temperature)
¼ cup unsalted butter or buttery spread, melted
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Milk or melted butter for brushing on loaves
1 teaspoon poppy seeds or sesame seeds, for sprinkling
 Dissolve 1 teaspoon of the sugar and yeast in cold milk. Set aside 5 minutes.
 In bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer, whisk together remaining sugar, potato starch, sorghum blend, salt, xanthan gum, and guar gum until thoroughly blended. Add yeast-milk mixture, flaxmeal mixture, butter, and vinegar and beat on low speed just to blend ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds, stirring down sides with spatula. Dough will be soft. Transfer to glass bowl and refrigerate, tightly covered, for up 3 days.
 When ready to bake, line French baguette pan (3 indentations) with parchment paper.
 Using #12 metal spring-action ice cream scoop or well-greased one-third cup measuring cup, place 2 heaping scoops of dough for each baguette and shape into 10-inch log with wet spatula. Make the ends blunt, rather than pointed. Brush loaves with milk or melted butter and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Place dough in warm place (75-85°F) to rise until doubled. With sharp knife, make 3 diagonal slashes (?-inch deep) in loaves so steam escapes.
 Bake in preheated 400ºF oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Cover loaves with aluminum foil after 15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning.
 Remove bread from pans; cool 15 minutes on wire rack before slicing with electric knife or serrated knife. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Carol’s Sorghum Blend
1 ½ cups sorghum flour
1 ½ cups potato starch (not potato flour) or cornstarch
1 cup tapioca flour