Even a cursory glance at my things I’ve done list will show how much I love baking. Last year I managed to conjure up all sorts of magic out of my kitchen, from French patisserie classics to bread from around the world. It was time for a new challenge, and whilst I’m currently not baking so many sweet treats I turned to my all-time favourite thing to whip up in the oven – bread.
Making a beautiful loaf from just four ingredients (flour, water, yeast, and salt) is simply magic to me: there is nothing more pleasurable to me than transforming a sticky mess of dough into something smooth, supple, and silky. I make bread a few times a week though, I wanted to make today’s new thing a little more challenging and totally new to me, so I decided to in a completely new direction, and try to make a gluten-free loaf. All I know about bread making is the many different ways to build gluten to get those lovely big and fluffy loaves, I was really curious to see how the gluten-free loaf would rise, and if I’d actually end up with a flat pancake instead.
I have a few people close to me who can’t tolerate gluten but are keen bakers, so this was also a nice challenge to find some new tips and techniques that I could pass on to them, and maybe bake for them when we can all meet again. I was excited to re-learn how to make this gluten-free bread!
I followed a Bread Ahead recipe (as I often do) for the loaf, and although I couldn’t get my hands on gluten-free bread flour in my local supermarket, I took a gamble on a gluten-free mixed flour bag and hoped for the best. I have to be honest, I’d love to know a bit more about the science behind the ingredients, but as it is I can only guess at the moment. I know that yeast loves sugar, and I think this recipe had honey in to give the yeast a big boost, helping it rise further. It also had some baking powder, something I know from cakes as a raising agent. The other surprising ingredients to me were oil and eggs – the oil I imagine is to keep the bread moist, but the eggs? I have no idea. I combined everything in a bowl and ended up with something that looked more like cake batter than bread dough.
At this stage, I didn’t have high hopes. This process was going against every bread-making instinct I have, and I was surprised how uncomfortable it felt. I poured the mixture into my sandwich loaf tin and left it to rise, doubtful if it actually would. To my surprise, after 45 minutes it had grown significantly and kept on growing once it was in the oven. This was the first time in the process that it was actually looking like bread!
It worked! I’m not sure how, but I actually ended up with a soft and squishy loaf of bread. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t my favourite tasting bread, it actually tasted more spongey than I was expecting, but that could be down to the type of flour I used. It tasted very similar to bread, bread-adjacent, but I could imagine if you couldn’t eat the real-deal this would be a viable alternative.
I enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone and making this. I’d have like to have understood the science behind the reactions a little more, but it was still fascinating to me how it all came together and rose beautifully. I won’t be making this again for myself (there’s really no alternative to bread), but it’s a good recipe to have in my wheelhouse so I can cater for my gluten-free friends and family. Plus, it’s always a treat to add another chapter to my bread-making journey – long may it continue!