I promise I am not on a mission to simplify other people’s recipes, but I saw a recipe in this weekend’s Guardian newspaper that I was keen to try, but didn’t actually have all the ingredients to hand. However, I couldn’t see anything in the list of ingredients that couldn’t be replaced with something I already had lurking in my pantry, so threw caution to the wind and gave it a go. And the result was excellent, even though I say so myself.
And before you think ‘uh oh, bread, complicated and time consuming,’ think cake mix rather than bread dough. For this loaf, you literally have a bowl with some (gluten-free) flour in it, plus a jug of wet ingredients, then you pour one into the other and mix with a spoon. No kneading or stretching, just a quick mix, then a little wait while it proves and you get on with something else.
I have had several goes at making gluten-free bread and the best I could say about any of it was that it was just about OK if you really really couldn’t eat bread with gluten in it. The loaf I made this weekend, which came care of Dan Lepard (one of my favourite bakers), was definitely up there in the ‘extremely good’ category. It contains molasses and a little brown sugar, but the resultant bread is not overly sweet – it is more reminiscent of a rye bread or a dark soda bread.
I stole a slice for tasting purposes, and gave the rest of the loaf to my neighbour, who can’t have gluten. I tried half of the slice fresh from the oven, spread with a little butter (really not bad at all) and had the other half slice toasted, with the addition of a little blackberry jam, and it really was very good indeed. It toasted beautifully and had a lovely crunch, which is usually missing from gluten-free bread, even the factory-produced stuff, which contains about eleventy-twenty horrible ingredients to make it palatable. It occurred to me that this bread would be excellent with cheese – next time I will add some chopped walnuts. You can add whatever you would like to this loaf – nuts, dates, figs, sultanas and/or any kind of seed would be good.
Dan Lepard’s recipe suggested lining the loaf tin with a paper liner to prevent the loaf from sticking. I did this and think it prevented the side crusts from really crisping up, and will try it without the liner next time – however, you should only do this if your loaf tin is non-stick, and make sure it is thoroughly brushed with oil.
Just before the end of baking, the loaf is removed from the oven and the top brushed with oil (I used olive, but sunflower or rapeseed would be fine too). This is not essential, but helps to give the crust a lovely colour and glossy finish.
*Note: I used Doves Farm gluten-free plain flour – if you use their gluten-free bread flour mix, it already contains xanthan gum, so in that case, omit the extra xantham gum. Doves Farm flour is carried in most major supermarkets and at Holland & Barrett and other healthfood stores, as is xanthan gum – a very useful ingredient for preventing gluten-free bakes from falling apart.
Gluten-free seed and molasses bread
350g gluten-free plain flour (I used Doves Farm plain – see note above*)
1.5 teaspoons xanthan gum
A couple of handfuls of seeds (such as pumpkin, sunflower, flax), chopped nuts, chopped dried fruits – whatever you fancy (I used about 150g mixed seeds)
10g (2 flat teaspoons) salt
350ml tepid water
1 x 7g sachet rapid-action dried yeast
2 egg whites
30g (about a heaped tablespoon) molasses (grape pekmez is good if you are reading this in Turkey)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar – rice, white wine, grape or apple are all fine (don’t use malt)
A little olive or vegetable oil for brushing
You will need a 900g (2lb) loaf tin, lined with baking paper or, if it is non-stick, thoroughly brushed with oil, if you prefer.
Put the flour, xanthan gum, seeds and salt into a large mixing bowl and give everything a stir to distribute the salt evenly throughout the mix.
Put the water into a large measuring jug, add the yeast and give it a quick stir. Leave for a minute or two until the yeast starts to dissolve. In this order, whisk in the egg whites, then add the molasses and sugar. Stir until well combined, then add the vinegar.
Pour the liquid into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until everything is well mixed and there are no pockets of dry flour.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, cover with greased cling film and leave to rest for one hour to 90 minutes. The bread will not rise very much in the oven, so you want the dough to be just about at the top of the tin before you bake it. I left mine in my fairly warm kitchen while we took the dog for a walk and it had actually started to climb out of the top of the tin by the time we got back, so do keep an eye on it.
Once the dough has risen almost to the top of the tin, carefully peel off the clingfilm and pre-heat the oven to 210ºC. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200ºC. Remove the bread from the oven and brush with a little oil. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
When the bread is baked, turn it out onto a wire tray to cool. If you wish, the bread can be sliced and stored in the freezer.