For the past couple of issues, between restaurant reviews, I have been discussing the pros and cons of a gluten free diet. Indulge me one more time. Recently in my personal life I have remained free of the gluten protein — basically as an experiment — but cheating on my diet when duty called. Don’t think for one minute that I am going gluten free for the rest of my life. This was to see what the fuss was all about.
You are crazy if you think I will never have another Budweiser again. That is maybe what I miss the most. Compared to my friends I don’t eat a lot of sweets, so turning my back on the pastry world wasn’t tough until I was staring at Graham’s birthday cake. Two days later he wanted me to make him an apple pie. It’s hard for a man to sit idly by while his sons chow down. A father-son pie we cooked together should have been eaten together.
But through it all I have been feeling remarkably better with much more energy. Maybe it’s because I am not eating as much crap. I was surprised at how many things I thought would be easy to give up, but it’s tougher than you think. The one thing I thought I wouldn’t miss is bread.
Sure, I knew I would want a muffuletta or a shrimp po-boy from time to time, but bread was never a necessity otherwise. Some people eat bread with every meal. That disgusts me. I would much rather save room for meat and veggies. But here I am, just a few weeks into this experiment and I have a tremendous craving for bread.
Your average supermarket will have gluten free pasta, crackers, rice flour, sorghum beer and more gluten free options than I thought. But I haven’t found gluten free bread save for specialty shops and health food stores (I have yet to try any of these). So I thought it would be a nice idea to try and make my own before I return to the practice of glutencraft.
I think of myself as a decent cook. I’m not great at much, but for my own tastes I do pretty good and am not afraid to experiment. If I have any talent, it would be on the stove and the grill. The oven and I have a love/hate relationship and we only cross paths while cooking casseroles, roasting meat, and the occasional pan of cornbread. If it requires measurements, then I am less likely to cook it. Baking should be precise until you understand the possible variations. This is why I have never made bread. Ever.
For my bread I used a store-bought mix. Cheating you say? It’s little more than a mixture of GF flours and a packet of yeast. The Super Bowl champs have done much worse. I grab the rest of my materials and realize the other reason why I never bake bread. It’s just so time consuming.
Step 1: Mix yeast in a separate bowl with 1 2/3 cup of warm milk. By warm I mean 110 degrees. Of course I overshot the temp and accidentally got the milk up to 130 or so. Had to watch the thermometer until it cooled down. This is already not fun. I mixed in the yeast and allowed it to foam for five minutes. Nothing ever foamed. Hmmm.
Step 2: Add a whole egg plus enough egg whites to equal ¾ cup to the bread mix. Add ¼ cup of vegetable oil, a teaspoon of cider vinegar, and the yeast-milk mixture. I was excited to use my egg separator (it’s a face and the whites come out of the nostrils) but I didn’t have enough whites to equal ¾ cup. Already I am bending the rules adding two more yolks to round out the volume.
Step 3: Beat with a mixer at medium speed with regular beaters for 3 minutes. I fought with this so much that I have no idea if I actually got in 3 minutes of beating. It gummed up on the beaters every few seconds, so there was a lot of down time. I did manage to get all of the dry parts wet, which I assume is a good thing.
Step 4: Place dough in a 9-by-5 inch bread pan and cover with plastic wrap allowing dough to rise for a half hour in a warm (75 to 80 degree) place. First, I didn’t have a 9-by-5 inch pan. I did, however, have two 7 and 3/8-by-3 and 5/8 inch pans. These will have to do. Secondly, I prefer a cooler house. You can imagine the excitement of turning up my heat to the deathly hot temperature of 75. This was even less fun.
Step 5: After proofing the loaves were baked at 375 for 10 minutes then covered with foil to prevent over-browning. Another 50 minutes should’ve done the trick. It didn’t (sigh). Ten minutes over schedule it began to look like proper bread.
Of course after my recent move I couldn’t find any cooling racks, so a cookie sheet had to do. I must admit my loaves were pretty ugly, but at least they rose nicely. After cooling they deflated.
The best I could hope for was a horrific looking loaf of bread with a good consistency and wonderful taste. What I got was much less. Gummy, tasteless, dense, odd-smelling, these were words I could use to describe my failed creation. I have other words not fit to print in these pages.
It seems I’m not cut out for bread making, but had I executed this perfectly I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the flavor. There was something about it even butter couldn’t help. Maybe there are gluten free breads out there worth eating, but I’m leaving it to the pros. Look out, wheat. Here I come!