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Savory Brioche Pockets, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

As promised last week, here is our gluten free version of the savory brioche pockets. They were easier to make than originally thought, but required an additional 10 tablespoons of flour to achieve the right consistency described in the book. Our trusted old stand mixer ended its life during the creation of our last cook book, and we have not been able to replace it since, holding out hope for a pro KitchenAid. But it turns out, with a little effort, one can make this recipe using an ordinary hand mixer. Maybe we can credit the blend of gluten free flours for allowing this, a heavier wheat dough might not cut it. In all fairness, we did not have to run the mixer for the 15 plus minutes suggested in the book. We managed to achieve the desired results in about 10 minutes, with the mixer running warm, but still alive.

Using our blend of gluten free flour, consisting of brown rice flour, potato starch, teff flour, sweet rice flour and tapioca flour, we created the sponge as called for in the recipe, but added one cup of warm water. Gluten free flours can go one of two ways, either too dry or too wet, the latter being the most common problem. However, this sponge was different, 1/3 cup of milk just didn’t do it justice. With the extra liquid the sponge developed beautifully, after rising for 40 minutes. Outside of the obvious changes, i.e. gluten free, we pretty much followed the steps outlined in the recipe for the dough,  using the same flour blend mentioned earlier, with the addition of 1 teaspoon of psyllium seed along with 10 tablespoons of extra flour. The dough was fairly light in consistency, rose beautifully, more than doubling in size within 2-1/2 hours, but we feared it would not survive any length of time in the refrigerator, so we left that step out completely.

While the dough was still rising, we prepared the filling using potatoes, small portabella mushrooms, chopped green onions, finely chopped basil leaves, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and a small onion, finely chopped and caramelized.

Savory Brioche Pockets, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

To our great surprise, the dough was easy to work with, and allowed for easy shaping into pockets. For those of you familiar with gluten free baking, you’ll know what we mean, that a lot of these kind of doughs tend to “crack” or break with a lot of handling. Yet, amazingly, this dough was up to the challenge. We brushed the finished brioche pockets with an egg wash and baked them for about 27 minutes.

Since we finished making this during the late afternoon, the pockets became a quick and very delicious dinner. We absolutely loved them. The filling is amazing and perfectly compliments the flavor of the dough. As an alternative, this dough would also lend itself for making great pasties. We’ll definitely be making this recipe again, experimenting with a variety of fillings.

Savory Brioche Pockets, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

If you would like to get the original recipe, please check out Carrie’s beautiful site Loaves and Stitches, as well as all the creative contributions from the other Doristas.

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TWD: Gluten free Focaccia, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Italian breads seem to be a recurrent theme with the TWD group over the last couple of months. First pizza, now focaccia. Not that we are complaining. Going back to our gluten eating days, we did enjoy focaccia on occasion, in fact, while living in Montana, a local health conscious baker, built his own wood fired oven, in order to do justice making some of the old style, rustic European breads. A lot of his breads were sourdough based, and focaccia was no exception. Usually only available on a weekend, unless you placed a special order, these specialty breads would disappear as soon as they emerged from the oven.  Since not everyone in our household shares our personal love for Italian food, focaccia is generally not at the top of the list, when baking bread. We do love a challenge, and never having tried focaccia gluten free before, we felt we couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

The contributing baker to the original recipe is Craig Kominiak, and he calls for two rising periods, followed by a resting period of 24-36 hours in the refrigerator. Generally, from our own humble experience, gluten free baking is not always amenable to these extra long resting periods. As a result, our own gluten free adaptation differs greatly from the original. When developing any recipe, we always cut the recipe in half, just in case it flops. This was no different.  The changes we made included the preparation of a simple sponge prepared a day ahead, consisting of sorghum flour, brown rice flour and water. The remaining flour blend included brown rice, tapioca, sweet rice and potato starch, along with psyllium seed soaked in coconut milk, one egg and the addition of 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar.  Fresh thyme and rosemary, along with a couple of tablespoons of fresh Parmesan cheese were worked into the dough before rising. The dough was allowed to rise for 1-1/2 hours, during which time it nearly tripled in size. Quite a feat for any gluten free dough.

TWD: Gluten Free Focaccia, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Spreading a dusting of rice flour onto a baking board, we divided the dough in half, and pressed it into rough oval shapes, about 1/2 inch thick. Using a fork we pierced holes throughout the dough, allowing it to bake evenly. We brushed the top with olive oil, sprinkled it with fresh thyme, rosemary and halved cherry tomatoes, along with salt and pepper.

TWD: Gluten Free Focaccia, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

The focaccia baked for about 15 minutes in a pre-heated 450°F oven. The best thing about making this recipe is how the entire house fills with the delicious aroma of fresh herbs and baking bread.

Never having made gluten free focaccia, we consider this recipe to be a great success, in both texture and flavor. We were also quite impressed how easy the dough was to work with, along with the fact that the final result mirrored the description in the Baking with Julia book, as well as our memories of regular focaccia (however faint – it is quite a while back now).

TWD: Gluten Free Focaccia, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

In the future, we will definitely give the “refrigerated resting time for the dough” a try, as well as experiment with a non-savory version.

Please check out all the wonderful contributions by the other TWD bakers at this link, as well as the beautiful contribution by this week’s host Sharmini of Wandering Through.

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We did it! Success at last! After several more attempts trying to perfect that perfect chewiness and flavor of “real” bagels, we finally accomplished what we set out to do. Keep in mind, by no means did we bake every single day, we just don’t have that kind of time available.  In the process of developing a recipe, we always only make a small fraction of the recipe for each trial, because seriously, how many bagels can anyone eat? There is also only so much room in our financial budget for the inevitable failures. Since we committed ourselves to achieving a perfect result that everyone would be thrilled with, we tried everything, including baking them without the water bath – that was a complete failure.  In that version, we set out to boil them, but the dough completely dissolved and turned into porridge in the boiling water.  As you can imagine, that was not a pleasant experience. Hence, our thoughts turned to baking the rest of the batch, without boiling them. The idea behind this was sound, but the results were less than enviable. Instead of puffing up, they just flattened out too much.  Not to the capacity of a cracker, but not at all recognizable as anything one would look for in a bagel. Some time ago, someone recommended making a yeasted sponge and letting it sit overnight. Well, nice try, but it doesn’t work for gluten free baking. The dough rose beautifully, but completely collapsed, lacking any stability to withstand a water bath and baking. For this attempt, we used a combination of sorghum, tapioca and a little bit of whole brown rice flour with the addition of some guar gum and honey and molasses to activate the yeast. It also included the addition of an egg.

Studying the failures of this version, for our final attempt, we prepared a simple sourdough sponge, by blending sorghum and whole brown rice flour with water (a total of 1-1/2 cups of flour) and letting it sit overnight in a warm place in the kitchen, covered with a kitchen towel. That sponge became really active (lots of bubbles) during the last few hours, since it was sitting on the warm stove top, while we were busy making, what turned out to be a failed version of this recipe.

For our successful recipe, we basically had to change everything.  In the end,  the only factors that still remained true to the original Baking with Julia recommendations, were the 25 minute baking time, and the boiling method (which is fairly standard for all bagels). Those of you that are familiar with our own flour preferences know, that we rarely, if ever, use starch in any of our recipes, but felt it might be a necessary addition for this recipe.  As it turns out, true gluten free bagels are nearly impossible to create without the use of some starch. In this case, we chose to add potato starch.  In order to make sure, that these bagels did in fact rise, we chose to prepare the remaining flour combination using a blend of tapioca, brown rice, sweet rice and potato starch, along with rice bran and only 1-1/8 tsp. of yeast. The Red Star yeast has consistently delivered the best results. Again, we included an egg, which is essential to bind all the ingredients successfully. This time we used honey and sucanat to develop the yeast and added a very small amount of apple cider vinegar to the dough, to help condition it. Since we experimented in the past with adding shredded cheese to a bread dough to help achieve cohesiveness, we added some finely shredded raw cheddar cheese to this recipe. In the final product, you cannot even taste the cheese, but it does lend a wonderful light chewiness to the bagels.

The dough was very sticky at first, and so could only loosely be shaped into a ball. We let it rise, covered with cling wrap and a cloth, for about 2 hours on the warm stove top. It took it that long to double in size. This still very sticky dough required the addition of a little more sweet rice flour, in order for us to shape into little balls. While the water, with the addition of a little sucanat and baking soda, came to a boil, we shaped the dough into little balls and placed them on cookie sheets. Just prior to boiling we pierced a hole into the center of each bagel, continuously working on containing the shape of the dough, as it wanted to spread outwards. Note, it is very helpful to have helpers when making this recipe! The difference between gluten dough and gluten free is like night and day. Containment in gluten free is everything. We were amazed as to just how perfectly this dough rose. Containing the outward spreading tendency was the only challenge. But unlike the previous attempts, this one also rose high. Each bagel withstood the boiling process beautifully, while still remaining light and airy. After boiling, the bagels were placed on a silicone mat covered baking sheet, which is especially helpful in gluten free baking, preventing the bottom crust from hardening excessively, achieving a perfect result.  We brushed the bagels with a mixture of a whole egg and a little coconut milk and topped them with sesame seeds.

We now know, that our “Part 1 Version” truly suffered because of the steam and the excessive temperatures recommended in the book. As a result, we baked them for 25 minutes at only 375°F, without any addition of water, or steam to the oven. We did leave the bagels in the oven for an additional 5 minutes, with the oven turned off and the door ajar.   The full batch made 11 good sized bagels. One half of it was baked in our regular gas oven, the other in our  counter top convection oven, which explains the slightly darker color in some of the bagels. Everything browns just a little more using our convection oven, even with a reduced temperature.

The bagels were allowed to cool for  a little while on a wire rack before putting them to the final taste test.  And we have to say, the end result was well worth the effort. They not only look like true bagels, but taste like them too. The perfect flavor and chewiness one would expect. Perfect, for slicing and serving with your favorite toppings – perhaps, with butter and jam, cream cheese and/or lox. We will definitely be making this again in the future.

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When we first learned about this week’s recipe, excitement did not immediately set in. The first thought that came to mind was, oh my gosh, the dreaded fruit cake. You know the kind, the loaf that requires countless hours to prepare, and because of the ensuing guilt on the recipient’s part, gets re-gifted about ten times. Sad in a way, because the one preparing it, no doubt, has invested a lot of energy and love in preparing it, even if the one receiving it, does not share this enthusiasm. Our sincere apologies to all of you that are true “fruit cake aficionados.”  So many people seem to really enjoy this kind of bread/cake, but not so much in our own family. Fruit cake has always been too rich, way too sweet and very heavy, not to mention, quite expensive to prepare. We just never cared for it.  But, thankfully, upon closer examination, this recipe appeared to be much easier on the amount of dried fruit and nuts it called for.

After having recently been “glutened” (accidental exposure to gluten) at a local restaurant that we had frequented before without any ill effects,  but which since, unbeknownst to us, changed cooks, we were not too keen on anything baked, especially since this recipe calls for a yeasted dough. For those of you who are unfamiliar with gluten intolerance, even the slightest cross-contamination, such as food sharing the same prep-surface, grill, etc., can pose a huge problem, resulting in extreme digestive issues, skin reactions, foggy thinking, reduced immunity and many other problems. The previous chef at this restaurant, was very sensitive and familiar with this issue, and always made sure our food was prepared separately. Not this time. Lesson learned; never assume anything.  Even if you have been to the same restaurant a hundred times, remember to always ask each time before ordering anything. The risk is just too great. We are on the mend, and feeling much better now.

Because of this gluten exposure, we did not want to make our recipe with yeast, since this has posed a problem in the past, and we did not want to further aggravate an already bad situation. As a result, since we are already altering all of our recipes into gluten free ones, we took the liberty of also removing the yeast, and using baking powder instead. Unsure, how this dough would rise, with only baking powder and the large addition of dried fruit and nuts, we chose to further alter it by baking the loaf in a bundt cake pan, instead of a bread loaf pan, effectively turning it into a coffee cake. We have prepared many similar recipes in a bundt-type pan in the past, and they always turned out well.

For this recipe, we used a combination of almond, tapioca and rice flour along with a small amount of rice bran and guar gum. Our conversion also required the addition of an extra egg, and since we were unable to find fresh cranberries, we used dried instead.

Our Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin bread took an additional 20 minutes to bake, but turned out very well. It was light in texture, moist, not too sweet and surprisingly, nearly doubled in height in the oven. One great thing about this recipe, is its versatility. You really could substitute a truly endless amount of different fruit and nuts. Perhaps, some dried ginger, pineapple, or coconut? For those of you that are sensitive to nuts, they could be eliminated altogether, or even substituted with sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds.

Our verdict: A solid thumbs up for this recipe. Everybody loved it. Our thanks to Rebecca at This Bountiful Backyard for hosting this week. If you are looking for the original recipe, please visit her beautiful blog. As always, you can check out all of the other TWD participants’ versions of this recipe at TWD’s site.

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It is almost not fair to participate in this particular challenge. Baking bread gluten free is an entirely different ball game, and no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to exactly duplicate whole wheat bread. You can come pretty close, with a lot of tweaking.  It is so easy baking regular gluten rich bread by comparison. We remember – at one point – in what now seems like a long time ago, we baked wheat/spelt bread regularly and loved it. It just didn’t love us back. We are not complaining, however, finding out what you are highly allergic to is definitely a good thing.

Over the past several years, we’ve had many failures and also great successes, in the process of converting our many family recipes into gluten free ones. It is in that spirit, that we decided to give today’s recipe a try. Perhaps, it will encourage others not to give up, and realize that there are often many steps involved in the perfection of a recipe.

Obviously, there is no way we could use any type of wheat or other gluten flour. Hence, the term “mock” above. Since gluten creates the unique ability allowing bread dough to rise and expand, creating that much sought after elastic and malleable quality, and allowing for kneading and multiple risings, we needed to add several ingredients that somewhat mimic what gluten provides in a regular dough.

Since this particular recipe differs somewhat from our own gluten free bread recipes, we chose to cut the recipe in half, in order to not waste any ingredients, should the recipe turn out to be a flop. To create more elasticity in the dough, we took the somewhat unusual step of experimenting with the addition of a small sourdough culture. Keep in mind, that this particular culture had only been allowed to ferment for roughly 24 hours, and consisted of  only one cup each rice flour and water. Naturally, since malt extract contains gluten, we chose to substitute it for molasses. We chose a combination of whole brown rice flour, tapioca flour and sweet rice flour, along with rice bran to give the bread a little extra substance that whole wheat would otherwise provide. This type of dough requires the addition of two eggs to help bind the ingredients.

For those of you that have never before baked bread gluten free, you can completely eliminate any thoughts of handling the dough, kneading the dough or attempting multiple risings. Gluten free bread dough looks and acts more like cake batter. You blend the ingredients with a mixer and then pour the batter into the loaf pan, rather than knead and shape it. It should, however, not be too liquid, but nevertheless pourable. The loaf pan should be filled no more than half full, to allow for the dough to double in height.

 

Our gluten free bread took exactly 50 minutes to rise, the dough reaching just above the top of the loaf pan. We then baked it for 35 minutes at 375°F, removed it from the pan, and placed it back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Since we were only able to make this bread later in the day, we could only let it cool for about 40 minutes, before cutting and photographing it. Generally, we allow for a much longer cooling period, especially with gluten free bread.

 

The bread was still a little too warm and not quite ready to be cut, causing to crumble just slightly. The bread was chewy and flavorful, with just a slight hint of molasses, giving it a unique flavor. Overall, we are happy with the recipe as a first attempt to a gluten free conversion, but strongly feel it needs additional tweaking down the line.

 

If you want to see the original recipe in Baking with Julia, check out the exceptional contributions from this week’s hosts, Teresa of The Family that Bakes Together, and Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Also do check out the many fantastic submissions by the rest of the TWD participants on TWD’s site.

 

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We definitely have not made popovers very often, since living gluten free. Baking anything gluten free, presents enough challenges, but baking without the use of baking powder, or other leavening agents, seems daunting – to say the least – if not downright impossible.  Since Julia’s recipe does not call for any sugar, we were doubly encouraged to give this a try. Popovers actually reminded me of a dish I grew up with in Germany, called ‘Pfitzauf.’ It is a Swabian Southern German recipe prepared with a little sugar, and mostly served with a hot fruit compote. Many times my mother would make this  on a Friday for lunch, after coming home from school – a perfect finish to the end of a school week. When setting aside the ingredients for this recipe and looking for an appropriate baking pan, I also recalled that my mother used some kind of an oven proof earthenware dish, looking somewhat like this image, courtesy wikipedia.

It would have been kind of fun baking this recipe using her baking pan, but the thousands of miles that separate us from my home town make that very difficult. We didn’t want to use our trusted old muffin pan, and, instead, went to our local Target store and found a popover pan by Nordic Ware, which is manufactured here in the USA.

By the way, today’s recipe is being hosted by two very talented bloggers: Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes, who hails from Buenos Aires and Amy of Bake with Amy. Both also feature the original recipe by Julia and Marion Cunningham.  If you already own the book “Baking with Julia,” by Dorie Greenspan, the recipe is on page 213.

As suggested in the recipe, all ingredients were at room temperature. We substituted the gluten flour for our own gluten free blend of tapioca and rice flour. Not knowing how this particular recipe would turn out gluten free, we decided to make two different batches, following the original recipe completely with the first batch (minus the gluten), and tweaking it slightly on the second go around, by adding a little bit of sweet rice flour, rice bran, baking powder, cheese and chives. In both batches, we substituted regular milk with coconut milk.

Given the depth of the popover pan, we were a little worried whether the batter would rise enough to even reach the top of the pan, but were pleasantly surprised when we discovered small little domes above each cup. For all of you gluten bakers, this seemingly tiny event may seem insignificant, but remember our recipe is completely devoid of all the usual gluten helpers that allow all  baked goods to expand. We are trying  hard not to be discouraged by all the other TWD participants’ magnificent ‘pillowy’, almost high rise like creations. While our primary goal when converting a recipe is always to recreate the flavor, texture and overall familiarity of a gluten recipe, we have learned to accept a certain amount of diminished height in the rising of  certain specialty cakes and bread. Still overall, we were pretty impressed with how this recipe turned out. Having only prepared it two times, definitely warrants further tweaking and testing in the future. With our second batch, we already noticed, that the addition of a little baking powder allowed the batter to rise noticeably  faster and higher than the first one. But we still need to experiment to see whether it was just due to the baking powder, or had something to do with the additional of the cheese. We’ll keep you posted.

It would have been nice to serve this with a freshly made cherry compote, the way my mother used to prepare it, but cherries are not currently available locally. Instead, we tested our first batch by serving it still warm with a little mango jam. The second batch, being savory, will be an accompaniment to our dinner tonight. Naturally, we taste tested one and it was delicious, with a perfect blending of the herbs and the cheese.

This is such a classic and simple recipe that we are sure many of you will want to try it out for yourselves.

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Several years ago,  after much searching, I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease. My first thought was, no problem, I can leave out regular bread, and anything else with gluten; that’s not so hard. No more bagels, fine. No more walking past the Whole Foods bread counter when they just put out the freshly baked loaves, and the entire place smells like warm bread. This one was harder, much harder, but still okay. It didn’t really hit home. The idea of going gluten free really did not completely register until I was unceremoniously brought down to earth with the realization that for all the wheat bread that was now off limits, something else would be to; like the occasional real croissant or French baguette. Gulp!! Okay, now what?

After graduating high school, I went on a trip with my family to Europe and experienced first hand what it is like to sit in a cafe in Paris and ‘people watch’,  and to walk down one of the quaint streets like the Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondisement, lined with colorful flower markets, cafes and patisseries.

Flower Market on Rue Cler, Paris

Of course, at the time I did not yet know that I had problems with gluten, so the idea of indulging in some of the beautiful baguettes and croissants was not even an issue. Now, I know that if we went back there, not being able to sample any of the breads or pastries would not even bother me at all. Being completely off gluten for a few years changes your taste for certain foods a bit. But then, staring down a piece of a real baguette in Paris, and saying no, would have been much harder.

Gluten Free Baguettes

Most anyone who has to go gluten free will say that it is really hard to find a commercially available gluten free bread of any sort that even somewhat replicates the texture, or taste of regular gluten bread. Much of it is dry, tasteless, leaden, or contains enough starch to mortar bricks together. Part of this is what started both my Mom and I on the road of working together to create recipes which more than measure up to any regular gluten fare, but are completely healthy and gluten free.

However, there is still a time, for convenience sake if nothing else, when it is nice to have a commercially available bread to fall back on. So it was more than a pleasant surprise to walk into our friendly Vitamin Cottage the other day and discover, wonder of all wonders, baguettes. Gluten free baguettes!

Gluten Free Baguettes

Not wanting to pass them by, we purchased a couple of baguettes to try them out, as we were unfamiliar with this particular bakery. Against the Grain is a dedicated gluten free bakery in Vermont, striving to produce the best artisan gluten free breads possible. Along with baguettes, they also produce bagels, rolls, pizzas, and pizza crust, based on tapioca flour, without the use of gums, and with all of the dairy and eggs used sourced from humanely raised hormone free farms. On their website, they do mention their awesome practice of recycling just about anything used in the production of their products, which especially endeared them to us.  For anyone interested, they are presently looking to re-home several tons of crushed egg shells, with more coming every week. Any takers? ;-)

Crusty, Delicious, Gluten Free Baguettes

Not quite knowing what to expect, we were amazed at the wonderful texture and taste of their baguettes, which were light and fluffy, with a golden crunchy crust. Almost indistinguishable from the regular gluten containing version, you can almost imagine sitting in a patisserie with a great cup of coffee, watching the world go by as you enjoy some of this crusty, delicious bread. In all fairness to our dairy free readers, we should mention that these contain some dairy (mozzarella cheese), which adds a certain amount of elasticity and chewiness to the bread.

Such an amazing find, and definitely something that we will seek out again in the future. Do add them to your next grocery list and give them a try. Let us know, how you like them.

(Please note, this is not a company sponsored product review – just our own humble opinion.)

Gluten Free Baguettes

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