Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Observations on gluten-free bread

The number one replacement we sought when we decided to try a gluten-free diet was some bread. Scooter and I both have always been big on carbs, and bread seemed like something we wouldn't be able to just cut out.

For some time now, we've been using a Bob's Red Mill mix for sandwich bread. This is the bread that goes on Scooter's grilled cheese sandwiches--and he's practically been living off of those.

At first, I had a few grilled cheese sandwiches too and the occasional piece of toast, but then I just worked around things with bread, mostly doing without or supplementing with rice crackers. Because when I was honest with myself, I just didn't like the taste enough to have the bread if other things were available.

After experimenting with a few other mixes and baking from scratch, I've come to an important realization: I don't particularly like any gluten-free product made with soy, garbanzo, or fava flour. In my opinion, those flours impart a distinctive taste to the baked good that really turns me off. And I can tell when something is baking, without looking at the ingredient list, that one of these flours is present; to me, they smell bad. I also recognize that this is entirely a personal opinion. While Trillian doesn't like the bread either, it is entirely a texture issue for her. She finds the bread too sweet and doesn't seem to have the issue that I do with the aroma. On the other hand, Scooter loves this bread when it's toasted, so I know that the case (8 bags of mix) that we bought from Amazon won't go to waste.

Recognizing my likes and dislikes, I decided to try another mix that was available at our local grocery store: Gluten-Free Pantry's Favorite Sandwich Bread. Now this one is not dairy-free, so it won't work for those doing gfcf, but its main ingredients are rice flour and potato starch, thus meeting my new requirements. I baked it up in our bread machine tonight (though it also has oven directions). Trillian remarked part of the way through the baking cycle that it smelled really good, like actual bread baking. Once it came out, I sliced off a thin heel and put a little Earth Balance on it. And enjoyed a piece of bread for the first time in a while. The texture of the crust was not quite what I would have liked--not sure if that was the mix or the machine. But it tasted wonderful, very much like a slice of fresh-baked white bread.

My next project will be to try some recipes for gf bread from scratch. Trillian got a cookbook by Bette Hagman from the library which has a very large chapter on gluten-free breads. I'm glad to know that there is a mix I will happily eat and will continue to make it regularly since I won't always have time to devote to bread baking, but I'm also eager to see what variations I can create and if I can make an even better crust.

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