Posts Tagged ‘Tuesdays with Dorie’

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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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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