Food, Gardening, and Code

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Sometimes you do not have the time to let bread rise for eight hours, but you also would like to enjoy the deliciousness of fresh bread. Enter: a brown "quickbread" recipe. This bread is fluffy, delicious, and tastes like "real" bread. . . but its gluten free! It tastes great with butter straight out of the oven, and also makes good toast the next morning.

And as an added bonus, it will fill the house with that great fresh bread smell.

The Gluten Free Bread Journey

I began looking for a gluten free bread recipe when I realized how bad the store-bought gluten free options were. Sure, they aren't too bad if you toast them up and only have a slice of storebought bread a few times a year. But regularly? No thanks. They taste like cardboard, and the texture is just... wrong.

Gluten free flour mixes - especially bread mixes - often have a similar problem. I was horrified the first time I felt the texture of a gluten free flour mix. It was a white flour replacement and it was nothing but starch. My baking attempts up until going gluten freen had turned towards trying to do more whole grain baked goods, and the starch heavy mix felt wrong.

Starch has its place, of course. It will make your loaf rise more readily, and be less dense. Its great. But it needs to be balanced with flours, grains, and seeds which have texture, like brown rice flour, psyllium husk, and flaxseed. No gluten free mix will ever be exactly the same as a whole wheat blend, but it is possible to achieve the look, feel, and nutrition of whole grain bread.

"Brown" Bread

This bread is nice and brown, speaking of its great whole grain properties, right? Wrong. The dark color is from the blackstrap molasses. Brown rice flour is actually pretty light, as are the other ingredients. So if you want a lighter loaf, use something like sugar, or a lighter molasses. I like to use the blackstrap to keep the sweetness light and to add a little extra nutrition.

I also have a sourdough brown bread recipe, which you can find here.

Gluten free bread is the worst.

The gluten free aisle at the grocery store is full of bread products that taste like cardboard. Bagels, sandwich bread, hamburger and hotdog buns - they are all passable if you toast them, or cover them with butter, but they add nothing to a meal. And if you look at the ingredient list, you will see that they are made of starch, and chemicals. Not really the "healthy" option, despite the reputation of the gluten free diet as healthy(ish).

The reality is that bread is a food designed around the properties of wheat. And the very thing we are trying to avoid in a gluten free diet - the gluten - is the property that makes bread work. It holds the dough together, and lets it stretch and rise. You will see and hear lots of mentions of "developing the gluten" in bread recipes or baking shows. None of that applies to gluten free bread. Or at least, it does not apply in the same way.

Replacing the Gluten

Gluten free baking is all about replacing the glutinous properties of wheat to get a similar result. In this recipe, I do that with flaxseed and psyllium husk. The flaxseed provides a gel and softness. The psyllium husk provides structure. The two of them together do a pretty good job of mimicking the natural properties of gluten and making the dough workable.

If you want a more textured wholemeal feel to the bread, you can also add chia seed. It will make the dough more gummy, so I recommend reducing the quantity of flaxseed to compensate. So, instead of doing 1/2 cup of ground flaxseed, do 1/4 cup flaxseed, and 1/4 cup chia seed.

Proofing your Sourdough Bread

I usually mix up the dough, and let the bread rise overnight in the oven with a damp cloth over it. By morning, it is doubled in size. The ~8ish hours of fermentation time gives it a nice sour flavor.

Unfortunately, I have not mastered the art of just using the natural rise of the sourdough starter, and so this recipe also calls for baking powder and baking soda.

There is another version of this recipe which is just a "quickbread" with no sourdough or rising required. Click here for my brown quickbread recipe.

Biscuits: the perfect breakfast food. When I was a kid, I loved Hardees plain jelly biscuits (skip the jelly). They were soft, and fluffy, and buttery goodness. As an adult, I love a good bacon and egg biscuit - butter, cheese, or avocado spread optional. And when you add the tanginess of sourdough to your biscuit? It makes it even better!

When we went gluten free, I started looking for a good biscuit recipce. At first I found a recipe for garlic cheddar biscuits, and used Pamella's Gluten Free Baking Mix. It was great! I still make them sometime, and you can find the recipe here. The cheese holds the biscuits together, and they are buttery goodness. But they are not proper American biscuits. The biscuit base is changed by the cheese; they are yummy and fluffy, but they do not have layers.

The creation of the Sourdough Biscuit

Then, earlier this year, I made my own gluten free sourdough starter. Suddenly I needed a use for all the sourdough discard! Enter the Sourdough Biscuit. They have a tangy flavor from the sourdough, and a texture that is almost exactly like a proper biscuit. I use Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour, which is a mix of chickpea flour, starch, sorghum flour, and fava bean flour. I love that this mix has some protein from the chickpea and fava bean flours, and no xanthum gum. It makes for a hearty guilt-free biscuit.

Please note, I bake my biscuits on my cast iron baking sheet. This toasts the bottom very nicely, and they slide right off the pan. I always put the pan in the oven to preheat. If you are not using a cast iron sheet, you may need to adjust the cooking time.

A protein heavy breakfast - eggs, bacon, and some sort of bread - is a staple in our household. This means that there is a constant demand for biscuits, rolls, or loaves of bread just for breakfast, let alone the occasional lunch or dinner side. This drop biscuit recipe is the first gluten free biscuit recipe I really liked. They do not have the layers of a "typical" American biscuit, but they do have a rich butteriness to them, courtesy of the cheese and Pamella's Baking Mix.

Biscuits (and their cousin, the scone) can be sweet or savory; with a hint of garlic and cheddar cheese these biscuits are solidly in the savory camp. They go wonderfully with a egg-based breakfast, or for dinner with Fried Chicken.

Warning: I absolutely love garlic. If you do not, reduce the amount of garlic in this recipe by half. Or omit it entirely - it will still taste great!

All about the Flour

With gluten free baking, so much depends on the flour mix you use. Yes, you can sub out different gluten free flour mixes, but it makes a big difference on the finished product. This one will come out "the best" with Pamella's Pancake & Baking mix. This baking mix includes rice flour, cultured buttermilk, and almond meal, which gives a richness to baked goods. There is also baking powder and xanthum gum, but I still always add more rising and binding agents to recipes made with this mix.

I am still on a mission to find the perfect flour mix of my own, but it is a long road of trial and error. The delicious doughiness that the starches and xanthum gum of premade mixes add is hard to replicate, or replace with healthier alternatives. You can read all about my journey with gluten free flours here.

But there was another biscuit...

More recently, I have fallen in love with another biscuit recipe, made with sourdough discard. It is very different - less buttery, and more tangy, as you would expect from sourdough. You can find the recipe for the gluten free sourdough biscuits here.

 © 2023 Abhishek & Miriam Chaturvedi