Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pass the Bread

Almost any gluten-freer will tell you that they first thing they ever tried baking gluten free was bread. Sometimes they bought a gluten free bread mix, while others attempted to make it themselves. And then, if they were desperate, they bought it from the store.

Don’t misunderstand me; commercial gluten free bread has come a long way since then. Gluten free flours were coarser, made to fill the void of this staple food rather than make something substantial. The bread loaves were dense, only edible when toasted. There were times I recall taking a bite and found myself needing a glass of water just to swallow. And let us not forget the creativity in which ingredients were combined. In most cases, we see a higher percentage of starch in place of wholegrain flours, or multiple gums and a higher sugar content to make it moist and palatable (though the use of all three in moderation is perfectly fine). Everywhere I looked, gluten free bread were simply fillers for an otherwise breadless lifestyle as I knew it, with chemically things I couldn't even pronounce.

I didn’t want fillers. I wanted substance. I wanted bread: minimal ingredients for a good slice of deliciousness.

Toasted and ready for dippin'!

I will be honest, however, when I say that gluten free bread is different… you know, besides the gluten free part. Gluten free grains have been used to make bread for thousands of years before gf became a lifestyle, such as the cornbreads of the Americas and injera in North Africa. Gluten free flours milled from buckwheat, rice, hemp, nuts, seeds, and sorghum have been used alongside wheat, barley, and rye for just as long. The reason why gluteny grains were so popular in the first place was the gluten protein that enabled bread to rise, to be sturdy and soft at the same time, and its reaction to yeast.

Here’s the thing, though: you don’t need gluten for a good piece of bread, as the participants of this month’s Gluten Free Ratio Rally will tell you. It takes effort, yes, and definitely experimenting with different flour combinations and additional ingredients, but it is possible to enjoy gluten free bread with wholesome ingredients made at home.

For my entry, I had this idea to make a grain free loaf with sun-dried tomatoes and basil. I used the ratio of five parts flour to three parts water and tried Jim Lahey’s no-knead method for a hearty loaf. And I got a hearty loaf all right. A few hundred more and I could have made quite an eco-friendly brick wall that would intoxicate many a bird or squirrel.

So I strayed away from my first idea and thought what went wrong. Clearly it was missing something, and I definitely needed to use a certain amount of yeast for a certain amount of time. Two bread flops later, I found what had been missing (eggs) and realized something about yeast.

Yeast and I have a finicky relationship. I love how it is alive before the baking process, how it completely changes a loaf of bread and the almost tinny taste it provides. It is a beautiful ingredient, both for baked goods and brewing. But as I said before, sometimes we just don’t get along.

Savory French Toast

So I hope the GFRR can forgive me for making a hybrid, as I used eggs and leavening agents synonymous to quick bread making, though it does not contain fat or dairy in the dough. And you know what? My entry is quite an amazing flatbread, and I will happily tell you why.

This bread is highly adaptable. I’ve toasted it, dipped it in chili, eaten it straight from the refrigerator, and made savory French toast. It is the perfect component for an open or closed face sandwich, and ever so tasty with a smear of soft cheese or nut butter and honey. Have it for any meal or just when you want a quick snack on the go. But believe me when I tell you, this is a great bread to have on hand.

And it didn’t need gluten (or yeast) to be delicious.

No-knead Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Flatbread

200 g Garbanzo bean flour
200 g Quinoa flour*
95 g Blanched almond flour
2 tsp. Sea salt
480 ml Lukewarm to hot water (a little on the hotter side)
2 Large eggs (about 125 g), lightly beaten
2 tsp. Baking soda
10 ml Unrefined apple cider vinegar
85 g Sun dried tomatoes
5 g Dried basil
1/2 tsp. Rosemary powder
Olive oil, for greasing the pan

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours and salt with the water and let it sit on the counter until lukewarm.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Stir in the eggs and the leavening agents and leave the dough to rise for ten to fifteen minutes (this dough will look and act much like a thick batter).
Fold in the tomatoes and spices, and then pour into a 12 x 16 cookie sheet coated in olive oil (if you’re worried about sticking, line it with parchment paper and use the olive oil as flavor), and cook for 25 to 30 minutes until browned.
Let it cool for fifteen minutes, and then slice into 16 squares for your enjoyment.
For later use, place in a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Makes 16 slices, or 8 – 16 servings.

*I ground whole grain quinoa in a spice grinder and had a medium-coarse "polenta" consistency (hence the slightly hotter than lukewarm water). But finely ground quinoa flour would work just as deliciously.

Karen of Cooking Gluten Free was our generous host for this month’s challenge. What I love most about her (and her awesome site) is this very true statement in her About Page: "Through all the years that I have been a part of the gluten free world, I am continually impressed with the giving nature of every person that has started a business to help the gluten intolerant." She personifies her “gluten free, giving back” philosophy, as I believe all of the GFRR participants strive to do with their blogs, businesses, cookbooks, and recipes.

So thank you, Karen, for paying it forward.

Here are the beautiful bread entries from this month’s challenge (all of which look AMAZING):

Adina | Gluten Free Travelette  Seedy Sandwich Bread
Angela | Angela’s Kitchen  Our Family’s Basic Gluten Free Dairy Free Bread
Aunt Mae (aka ~Mrs. R) | Honey From Flinty Rocks  Chia Millet Bread
Brooke | B & the boy!  Buckwheat-Oat Bread
Charissa | Zest Bakery  Cherry Pecan Pot Bread, Gluten Free 
Claire | This Gluten-Free Life  German Vollkornbrot (Seeded Bread)
Erin | The Sensitive Epicure English Sandwich Bread (gluten-free & egg-free)  
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine  Gluten Free Boule
Jonathan | The Canary Files Gluten-Free, Vegan Mediterranean Soda Bread
*Karen | Cooking Gluten Free!  Gluten Free Sandwich Bread/Gluten Free Naan
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan  Vegan Gluten-Free Bread
Meg | Gluten-Free Boulangerie  Ciabatta (gluten-free, egg-free/vegan)
Monika | Chew on This!  amaranth skillet flatbreads, amaranth mini pita rounds
Morri | Meals with Morri No Knead Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Flatbread (yeast free/grain free)
Pete & Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem  Gluten-Free Challah
Rachel | The Crispy Cook  Gluten Free Chickpea Sandwich Bread
TR | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies  Gluten Free White Bread
Tara | A Baking Life  Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread & Boule


  1. Your flatbreads looks so delicious. Glad you made this great post for the GF Ratio Rally.

  2. It looks really tasty to me!! Great flavor combo too :)

    1. Thank you, Jenn. I loved your bagel idea so much (with the s.d.t.'s) and I was inspired to make bread from it. :)

  3. Oh yes, I certainly remember those terrible inedible breads - it was almost as if the only GF flours companies knew of were white rice and various starches!!
    Your flatbread looks very good and interesting - somewhere between socca and focaccia. (And how do you make savory french toast?! I am intrigued!)

    1. What a cool way to look at it... I think I'll dub it soccaccia (maybe not, lol).

      As for the savory French toast, I wanted to see if it would soak up liquids (because we have all made bread in the past that would not). So I blended together 1 part egg to 1 part water, poured that in a plastic bag with three pieces of bread, and let it sit in the fridge over night. The next morning, almost all the of the liquid was soaked up and the pieces still remained intact, and I cooked it as you would your typical f.t. I mixed together fresh basil and soft goat cheese, put it in between the slices, cut up tomatoes as topping, and drizzled 2 teaspoons of maple syrup on top.

      It was epic, different, and stupendous. For my next flatbread, I'll definitely do a s.f.t. recipe with it.

  4. Happy to see another recipe without gums! And bread for dipping…delicious! On another note, I think that rock climbing and yoga could change everyone's lives. =) Happy to hear of another fan.

    1. Yes, rock climbing and yoga has officially become a Meals with Morri favorite in a way that running and swimming couldn't compare. I'm looking to "professionalize" my blog (my first year was very journal-like), and I think talking about fitness and hypothyroidism is the way MWM will do that.

      But hey, if you are ever in the DC area, I'll be happy to take you to SportRock for some belay/Vinyasa fun. :)

  5. Savory French toast? um, yes, please! Those flatbreads look beyond amazing. Wonderful recipe, photos, and post, Morri - a joy to read. Brava!

  6. LOVE the idea of a savory French toast! Cannot wait to try something similar (but eggless) in my own kitchen.

    1. I've always been so curious about eggless French toast. Please let me know how it goes!

  7. This looks so good! And you know, I've never had any french toast except the kind drenched in syrup (and not that since I've been gf), but your savory one looks delicious!! Going to have to give it a try :)

    1. Thank you, Heather. :)

      I think having the basil-goat cheese spread in between the slices took a drizzle of 2 tsp. of maple syrup a long way. But I was never into my pancakes/waffles/f.t. drenched in syrup to begin with... too soggy.