I’ve been fascinated with gluten-free bread recipes because they attempt to do what shouldn’t be possible: create a network of pliable solids that can expand and trap gas released by yeast, giving you a leavened bread without gluten. It’s also invariably a good-for-you loaf, with a rich variety of grains. Shauna Ahern, aka gluten-free girl, author of her the eponymous book and recently Gluten Free Girl and the Chef with husband Daniel, is among the best and has developed this seriously good gluten-free loaf for my bread-baking month. (There will be one more bread baking post; I know, it’s February, but who cares. Bread is Life. Remember these awesome rolls.) Celiac is a very real intolerance to the main proteins in flour (and soy sauce and many many other things, see frank conversation with Carol Blymire on it’s effects). I’m delighted cooks such as Shauna are inventing ways around it. (Maybe one day soon, we’ll have a cure for it, as this USA Today story suggests we’re headed for.)—M.R.
by Shauna Ahern
The first years after I had to give up gluten, I turned away from photographs of crusty bread and piles of pasta. Why make myself miserable by focusing on what I could no longer experience? I ate my sautéed chard, pulled pork, and white cheddar with pleasure. I turned away from the rest.
Now, however, after learning how to work with gluten-free flours and make mistakes in the kitchen and take notes about what didn’t work, I look at photos of crusty bread and think, “Bring it on.” I can make that. In fact, I will.
So when Michael posted this recipe for a multi-grain boule, and called for us all to make more bread this winter, I scrutinized his ratios and walked into the kitchen. A few attempts later, I was out on the porch, taking photos of this boule, warm from the oven. A warm boule made without any gluten.
Now let me remind you of this: there is no substitute for gluten. Gliaden and glutenin combine forces to create elastic binding in doughs that I will never achieve, no matter how many different flours and slurries and starches I try. Those of you who can eat gluten? Please start baking bread. You have it so easy. Go.
However, I might not achieve the same air pockets or mile-high rising of dough, but I still want great bread. And this is great bread. It’s mostly made of whole grains: teff, oats, and buckwheat. (Those of us with celiac, like me, can only eat certified gluten-free oats, so please be aware of that before making this for your friends.) The almond flour adds a great nuttiness and some fat. The arrowroot and potato starch help lighten and bind the dough. The eggs enrich the bread and help keep the crumb soft, along with the milk powder.
The taste? Hearty and grainy, but not gritty. As my husband says, “it tastes healthy, in the good way”. There’s a kind of dark intensity to it, like a European bread, which tend to be denser than American breads. It’s like a rye bread, but without the rye. The texture of the crumb is soft and pliable. The crust has a crunch.
Let’s put it this way. Those rolls you see below didn’t last long after I took that photo.
Gluten-Free Multigrain Boule
Makes 2 small boules or 8 rolls
If you are new to gluten-free, some of these ingredients will feel unfamiliar. Don’t worry. They’re good. Almond flour, teff flour, oat flour, and buckwheat are simply great grains that everyone should be playing with in their breads. When you bake gluten-free, you have to combine flours for the best taste and texture.
What might seem odd here is the gel-like slurry you make with the flaxseed and chia seeds. Most gluten-free baked goods recipes call for xanthan and guar gum, hydrocolloids that bind the dough and mimic some of the effects of gluten. However, I have recently discovered that neither ingredient does great things for my digestion. So, I have had to cut them out.
The lovely discovery of this is that the gums, it turns out, actually thwart gluten-free baking. Most gluten-free bread, no matter how good, has a slightly gummy texture, a little like cornbread. Without the gums, and with a slurry of flaxseed and chia seeds instead, gluten-free bread has the texture of bread.
- 15 grams ground flaxseed meal
- 15 grams ground chia seeds
- 60 grams boiling-hot water
- 100 grams gluten-free oat flour (make sure it’s certified gluten-free)
- 100 grams almond flour (make sure it’s blanched almond flour, finely ground)
- 100 grams teff flour
- 85 grams potato starch
- 85 grams arrowroot powder
- 70 grams buckwheat flour
- 30 grams milk powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 8 ounces warm water
- Making the flax-chia slurry.
- Mix the flaxseed and chia seeds together. Pour in the boiling-hot water.
- Whisk, quickly, until the seeds have formed a thick, viscous slurry. Set aside to cool down.
- Combining the dry ingredients.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oat flour, almond flour, teff flour, potato starch, arrowroot powder, and buckwheat flour in a large bowl.
- Whisk them together to incorporate them together and aerate. Add the milk powder, yeast, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Finishing the dough.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and apple cider vinegar together. Pour this into the mixing bowl, along with the flax-chia slurry.
- Mix well. Slowly, add the warm water until the dough comes together.
- The dough will be wet and tacky. Don’t worry. That’s the texture you want. You will be tempted to add more flour, since you are thinking of gluten bread. Do not add flour.
- Instead, scrape the dough into a large, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2 hours. You won’t have as much of a rise as with gluten bread. However, over those 2 hours, the dough will become more elastic and a little drier.
- Baking the bread.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F/232 degrees C. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven now.
- The dough will still be a bit tacky to the touch. If you want to avoid bread dough sticking to your hands, wet them with just a bit of water. Cut the dough in half to form 2 small boules or into 8 balls for rolls. (If you still have the scale on the counter, form 3-ounce/85 gram balls.) Let the boules/rolls rest and proof further as the oven preheats.
- Put the boules or rolls directly onto the pizza stone. (If you don’t have one, use a baking sheet with parchment paper.) Bake until the outside of the rolls are crusty, the bottom has a good hollow thump when tapped, and the internal temperature has reached at least 180 degrees F/82 degrees C. Allow them to cool.