Gluten-Free Baking Round Up

Gluten Free Bread

If you’re not gluten-free, you may want to skip this one, but I’ve been baking a lot of different GF breads lately and thought it would be worth sharing the results.

First off, let me say, I was a real skeptic when it came to making gluten free yeast breads in particular. Even the best GF breads on the grocery shelf are so mediocre that I’d pretty much given up bread entirely. There IS a local bakery that does GF loaves once a week, and they’re excellent, but I was doubtful I could bake anything at home that would come close.

I’m happy to say I stand corrected! It’s totally worth making GF bread at home because it’s more than ten times better than the stuff you can buy off the shelf. Another nice thing is that since there’s no gluten (sorry I can’t give you the chemistry lesson on this) you don’t have to knead the bread, which means a little less mess and work.

It’s true that GF breads have loooong ingredient lists. That kept me away for a long time. Once I’ve figured out our favorite recipes, I plan to make up some dry ingredient mixes so  getting started isn’t so tedious.

Here are the GF breads I’ve been trying at home:

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread

American Test Kitchen’s GF Sandwich Bread, from The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook (this is also the one pictured at the top of the post)

This recipe was the reason I bought the book. When the ATK folks talked about it on…was it The Splendid Table? I was impressed with how much research they’d done and the many variations they’d tried. Still, when I saw the picture in the book, the texture looked impossibly light and good-looking. Could it really work that well? I’m happy to say that yes, this bread is absolutely excellent, and I doubt if I served it to you you’d have any idea it’s gluten-free. My seven-year-old says it tastes like “Earth Fare” bread, by which he means, it tastes like regular gluten bread that comes from the local grocer’s fresh bakery. Definitely worth making. Recipe here. The book is centered around a DIY GF flour blend that you use in most recipes.

Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix Bread Machine Bread (sorry, not pictured)

A neighbor friend told me about this mix (available locally at Earth Fare) and how it can actually be used in the bread machine. I’d never heard of making GF bread in the bread machine and in fact was on the verge of giving ours away when she told me this. The mix isn’t cheap, but then, it’s still cheaper than pre-packaged bread, and you can use it for muffins, pancakes, and the like, too.

I thought it turned out very well. It didn’t rise much at all, but my neighbor tells me this is normal. The texture was a little bit denser than the ATK version, but it was still quite good, and the flavor was good, too. Definitely worth using if you want to use your bread machine.

GF Crusty Boule from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Crusty Gluten Free Bread

This bread is my favorite. It’s nice and crusty, the closest thing to a European rustic-style loaf, and I’m like, “Where have you been all my life?” Really wonderful flavor and texture. It’s so good that I sometimes take a bite and wonder how it’s even possible without gluten. It looks and feels like a white loaf but does have whole grains in it. I can’t wait to try their new cookbook, which is all gluten-free.

An added plus is that you make the recipe in a quadruple batch, so you have a nice output for your effort. My little guy likes to form the loose loaves on parchment paper. Here’s the recipe for you.

GF Chocolate Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

This one, a quick bread, not a yeast bread, is from Small Plates and Sweet Treats, which I discovered randomly on a trip to the library. The author also blogs at Cannelle et Vanille. She’s originally from the Basque region of Spain but has lived in the US for some time and was once a pastry chef. I ended up buying the book because it was so inspiring, not to mention gorgeous. The recipes are not on the simple side—they take a bit of planning—but her ideas are so fresh to me, many inspired by the foods of her childhood. And her attitude toward gluten-free cooking is downright joyful—-kind of like, “Yay! I get to try new things!” instead of “What a bummer, let’s see if I can try to recreate everything I used to eat.”

Anyway I really liked this banana bread. It has a nice touch of earthiness from whole grain and nut flours, and my little guy just loves it. Sorry—doesn’t look like the author has posted the recipe online, but here is a similar recipe of hers that’s for banana chocolate cupcakes. One note—I halved the sugar, and it was plenty sweet. I did try another bread in the book (seeded bread) which, sadly, didn’t rise, but I’m thinking that was a problem with my yeast.

Besides cookbooks, lately I’ve been reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, also a couple of new-to-me blogs: Refashionista (hilarious adventures in making over horrific thrift store finds) and Toxic Beauty Rehab (natural beauty products).

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Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

My kids saw these cinnamon rolls in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking and begged for days and days to make them. I usually save my cooking energy for meal-making, but the kids were determined, so we gathered ingredients and gave them a whirl.

Here’s the recipe on the Bronskis’ blog, No Gluten, No Problem.

As these things go, they were not all that hard to make. As usual with GF baking, the dough is a bit trickier to handle, but rolling it out between sheets of plastic wrap, as instructed, helped a lot.

When you roll the dough into a long tube, you can kind of pull the plastic out from under the dough, and it rolls together quite nicely.

We cut the sugar by about 1/3 cup and didn’t miss it because of the sugar glaze. They didn’t rise much (at all?), and the texture was a bit more like shortbread than a traditional cinnamon roll. As a friend pointed it, that’s probably because of all the butter! That said, they were a big hit with everyone, gluten-free or not, including my parents.

Two thumbs up for these. I’m sure we’ll make them again when we have the time. For more of my cooking posts, click here. For those of you who aren’t gluten-free, don’t worry, I’ll still be posting all kinds of meals, not just GF baking.

Coming up: some craft and sewing posts. Oh, and we just saw two movies worth watching. One, for grown-ups: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. The other, for kids: Dolphin Tale, inspired by the true story of a dolphin who got a prosthetic tail after losing hers to amputation. Our kids love animal movies and are extremely sensitive to anything scary. After a little coaxing past the beginning injury scene (not very graphic), it went over very well.

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Roll

Chicken in Parchment Paper with Peppers and Pancetta

It’s a tongue-twister!

I’m running out of things to do with a chicken breast that don’t involve a grill (since we can’t really use one here in our apartment). I was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe that I had seen and misplaced. I just used what I had in the house and improvised with directions (but different ingredients) from another parchment paper recipe  from one of my favorite cookbooks: Brilliant by David Joachim.

The result was really yummy, super easy, and fast—-looks much fancier than it is. The most time-consuming part was hammering out the chicken, but then, this makes the cooking time much less and more easily predictable.

Chicken Breasts in Parchment Paper with Pancetta and Peppers

4 chicken breasts, pounded with a mallet to about 1/4 inch thick

1 -2 bell peppers, sliced

6 or so scallions, chopped

4 slices pancetta

handful or so of fresh basil

salt and pepper to taste

parchment paper

Tear off a sheet of parchment paper for each chicken breast, enough to wrap it like a present. Rub a tiny bit of butter or oil on the paper, then top with chicken breast, next pancetta, then veggies and basil. Wrap paper over the chicken lengthwise, like the first part of wrapping a present, but with no tape. Then roll/ twist/ pinch the ends together as tightly as possible. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, until center is cooked. I can’t remember how long it took for ours, but it was pretty quick.

You can also do this with aluminum foil, but I’m partial to parchment paper because it looks so nice and puffs up when it’s done.