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Carol's in the kitchen, cooking up recipes for www.GfreeCuisine.com and www.CarolFenster.com

Coming October 7, 2014: Carol's latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, wherever books are sold, including pre-order at Amazon.com

Visit Carol's booth at the Annual Food Fair in Denver at the Merchandise Mart on Sunday, August 17.

Baking the Perfect Gluten-Free Loaf

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.”

French Baguettes

French Baguettes

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.

Ready-to-Bake Dough

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.

Shaping the Baguettes

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

[1] Dissolve 1 teaspoon of the sugar and yeast in cold milk. Set aside 5 minutes.

[2] 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.

[3] When ready to bake, line French baguette pan (3 indentations) with parchment paper.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] 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

15 comments to Baking the Perfect Gluten-Free Loaf

  • In the above recipe it states to put the yeast in cold water but in your 100 best gfr it says warm water. Before being diagnosed with cd I was an avid baker and now I’m trying to figure it all out. Normally you proof the yeast in warm water, but proofing in cold water, is this because of it being gf or because of the flours?
    Thank you for your help and just love the recipes in 100 best…(especially tempura and pancakes):)
    sincerely, Mary

    • Carol Fenster

      If you’re baking right away, use warm water. If you store the dough in the fridge for 2 to 3 days before baking, start with cold water so you don’t make the yeast use up its energy while it is sitting in the fridge.

  • Cheryl

    Hi, Carol! Thank you so much for sharing this very intriguing recipe. I am excited to give it a try, especially after reading a comment left on another blog that they’d had their best GF bread-baking success with your flour mix. I came here right away! A couple of questions tho’: 1) Except for maybe the 1 tsp sugar used to proof the yeast initially, can I sub a diff sweetener, like Stevia, for the remaining 5 tsps, or does the yeast need that sugar for rising later? 2) I’ve read that sorghum flour is harder to digest than wheat. Has this been your experience with it? 3) Do you know whether sorghum is acceptible on candida-busting diets? IOW, do you know if it “feeds yeast”? Thanks so much again for everything!

    • Carol Fenster

      Hi Cheryl: The bread will rise better with the amount of sugar stated in the recipe because yet, it feeds the yeast; but you can try using stevia for the remaining 5 tsp and see what happens. Of course, you won’t need the full 5 tsp. Check your stevia package to see how much is equivalent to the 5 tsp. I don’t know of any reason why sorghum flour would be harder to digest than wheat flour and I have never heard that it is unacceptable for candida diet. However, you should ask your health practitioner about which foods to choose/avoid. Thanks for writing and good luck with the bread!

  • Carol Fenster

    Yes, you may use regular flaxmeal instead of golden flaxmeal. They perform the same but the golden flaxmeal is a little lighter.

  • cindy

    I am a little confused. The first comment asks about using cold water versus warm to dissolve the yeast in and the reply states water as well, but in the recipe it doesn’t list water to dissolve the yeast in but milk.??? I did make my first loaf last night (using milk) and the texture is perfect! I am wondering about trying the recipe with a gluten free sourdough starter. Have you tried that or have any recommendations about it?

    • Carol Fenster

      Cindy: Use milk rather than water. I have not tried this particular recipe with a sourdough starter, however, there are sourdough bread recipes in my book, 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes. Enjoy!

  • [...] careful planning and preparation, we made 5 different breads during each 2-hour class: French Baguettes, Focaccia, Dinner Rolls, Pizza, and Breadsticks, demonstrating how a single dough can be tweaked to [...]

  • Graham Heap

    Could you please clarify your recipe – is a tablespoon a level, rounded or heaped one?
    Many thanks
    Graham
    p.s Apologies if this seems a rather simple question but I am a novice at baking

  • Hi Carol, I used your French bread recipe from Gluten-Free Quick and Easy and it was a disaster. Inside was gooey. I’m quite sure it was cook error — when I finished mixing it (used my paddle attachment on Kitchenaid mixer) it was lumpy and bumpy. I am a baking novice, so there are so many places I could have messed up. I used new yeast, let it bubble and foam for 5 minutes — but there was one small clump sitting on top, so I stirred the yeast/water mixture before adding it to the flour mixture. My mouth was so ready for French bread. My dogs did like my loaves though, so not all was lost.

    • Carol Fenster

      Becky: I’m not sure what happened, but please feel free to call me at 800.741.5418 and we can talk through the recipe and see if we can figure it out. It should work beautifully (the yeast lump is not the problem). If I don’t answer, leave a message and I will call you back. At least the dogs liked it!!!

  • Kelly

    Hi Carol,

    I am really excited to try your baguette recipe however my son is allergic to potatoes. Is there a substitute I can use for the potato starch in this recipe?

  • Carol Fenster

    Christine: I don’t think the slashes are totally to blame; the dough could have been a bit wet. Try baking until it reaches 205 in the center with an instant-read thermometer. Enjoy!

  • Carol Fenster

    If you can use some other dairy-sub such as soy or almond or coconut, try that instead of rice milk just to see if it works better. Guar gum AND xanthan gum make a better loaf because of the natural synergy between the two; you can order from Bob’s Red Mill website.

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