Making Peace with Gluten, Part One {Gluten Free Sandwich Bread}

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Have you ever been told not to think about something, even something silly like a pink elephant?  We all know what happens: You can’t think of anything else.  It’s like that with gluten, especially when you first find out that you must eat gluten-free.  Forever.  You see the massive list of banned foods, and suddenly you can’t stop thinking about bagels, Girl Scout cookies, soy sauce, tortellini, and Cream of Mushroom soup. The possibility of an edible gluten free sandwich bread seems out of the question.

One trip to the grocery store also yields the realization that even the most inept cooks will have to start making their own gluten-free meals. And cooking without gluten is very, very foreign at first.  So we go to the experts.

Your first gluten-free cookbook purchase is never a book about vegetables, or the finer points of preserving jams and jellies, or 101 ways to cook a potato.  Even if you didn’t bake in the past, you run to the bookstore and pick up a book about gluten-free baking that promises “You’ll never know it’s gluten-free!” and that you can have the illusion of your gluten-filled life back. 

Does any of this sound familiar? Read on for rest of Part 1 of “Making Peace with Gluten” after the jump (and a gluten free sandwich loaf recipe!), and stay tuned for next week’s nine essential tips for every gluten-free cook.

For my first gluten-free year, I pined after baguettes and Pringles alike, and lost all confidence in my baking abilities. It’s something I have been doing since childhood–churning out big trays of sugar-dusted brownies for bake sales, weekend cinnamon rolls, and short pastry for quiches with my Cordon Bleu-educated mother.  It was incredibly disheartening to feel doomed to egg-laden baked goods made with white rice flour for the rest of my days. 

My gluten-free revelation also squashed plans to attend culinary school after earning my bachelor’s degree.  I was adrift, and desperate to find a way to mimic traditional foods so I could get on with my life. It’s no wonder that so many gluten-free folks are depressed.

Upon purchasing and cooking through many cookbooks, and testing recipes from blogs promising foods indiscernible from their gluten-filled cousins, I found that there was much to be improved on. My initial results were often mediocre, and the recipes seemed to be written for people who did not like to experiment in the kitchen, or who had forgotten what real food tastes like.  I came to realize that many people, Americans especially, choose reliability over the chance for a “wow” factor in their meals.  I am not one of those people.

 

Over nearly five years of gluten-free living, I have adapted.  As with everything else, it seems that my initial goals were silly and small in comparison with the potential ahead.  Mimicking gluten is only the beginning!

 I feel most accomplished when I go whole days without thinking about my dietary restrictions at all.  I can buy groceries, go out for lunch, and cook multiple meals without batting an eyelid.  Making gluten-free choices has become reflexive, and it is refreshing to be at a stage in my journey where I am not constantly fretting over the logistics of my next meal. 

The bottom line is that you get to eat gluten-free, you get to feel great for potentially the first time ever, you get to learn new skills and try new things, and there is an amazing community of supporters along the way. I am so thankful for all of this, and totally jazzed to share my journey–and this great gluten free sandwich bread!–here with you.

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{Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free} Sandwich Bread
Yields 1
As humans, we seem to have a fundamental desire for bread, and it’s the first thing most people want to bake gluten-free. Go figure, it is not easy to retain the familiar characteristics of a browned, chewy crust, and a well-structured, pliable interior without gluten. I prefer seeded whole grain bread to white, which added yet another dimension of complexity to the task. You will find that this loaf is fundamentally different from a wheat loaf, but that it is nonetheless very good. Making bread takes a fair chunk of time, but when your house fills with the yeasty scent of a freshly-baked loaf, it’s all worth it. Use whatever flours you have on hand. I prefer two-thirds whole grains and one-third starch, but you can do 50:50 for a lighter loaf. This recipe breaks down to a very simple calculation: 370g gluten-free flour + 290g liquid + 1 egg + 50g oil Add: yeast, xanthan gum, sweetener, and salt. With this in mind, you can substitute to your heart’s content and still end up with a loaf of bread–hooray!
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr 35 min
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr 35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Tbsp. yeast
  2. ½ tsp. sugar
  3. 290g (1 1/4 cups) liquid–milk of your choice, water, or both
  4. 370 g gluten-free flour mix*
  5. 2 tsp. xanthan gum
  6. 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  7. 45g (1/4 cup) mixed seeds--sunflower, flax, etc.
  8. 50g (1/4 cup) oil
  9. 1 egg (60g)
  10. 20g (1 Tablespoon) molasses
  11. 20g (1 Tablespoon) honey
Instructions
  1. Proof yeast in liquid with sugar. If it is >75F in your house, turn oven on for 1-2 minutes to warm it, then shut off. Oil a 4”x8” loaf pan; set aside. (Double the recipe if using a standard 9″x5″ loaf pan, or mentally prepare yourself for a short loaf.)
  2. Whisk together flours, xanthan gum, salt, and seeds, if using. Mix in oil, egg, honey, and molasses, along with the proofed yeast mixture. With a sturdy wooden spoon or a stand mixer, mix dough thoroughly for 1-2 minutes until it is thick and sticky.
  3. Turn dough out into pan, smoothing surface and rounding the top with wet fingers. Sprinkle some seeds or cornmeal on top if you want.
  4. Cover loaf with a tea towel and place in warmed oven, or on countertop if your house is warm enough for the loaf to rise on its own. Allow to rise for 30-45 minutes, or until it reaches above the top of the pan.
  5. Preheat oven to 350F. Remove tea towel and place loaf in hot oven. Bake 35 minutes, or until browned and slightly crisp, with an internal temperature of 190F.
  6. Allow bread to cool 10 minutes in pan, or until just warm. Remove to a wire rack to finish cooling completely before cutting into it. Eat within 2 days. Slice and freeze any leftovers and revive in the toaster.
*My mix is usually
  1. 100g (2/3 cup) brown rice flour
  2. 75g (1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
  3. 50g (1/3 cup) cornmeal
  4. 95g (2/3 cup) tapioca starch
Wooden Spoon Baking http://www.woodenspoonbaking.com/