Bread really is the Holy Grail for anyone who lives gluten free. Small slices, crumbly, gaping holes, sweet with strange aftertastes… Not exactly what you would choose to eat if you have ever eaten normal bread. It must be acknowledged however, that there have been huge advances in the last decade in not only the quality of bread available, but its availability, variety and types of ingredients used. This is a good thing. But it’s still a bit of a compromise.
So that’s why I decided to attend Ian and Deborah’s bread making class. Well, this and tasting the unbelievable gluten free baguette that Ian brought to my first ever GF Gathering event. I just had to learn how to make it.
Meeting on a Saturday morning in an empty Notting Hill Primary school, a group of 12 of us from all manner of backgrounds, motivations and locations learnt to make gluten free bread. Deborah was keen to pass onto us her deep and wide knowledge of techniques, baking properties and health credentials of every conceivable flour available, and tricks to replicate “real” bread with ease.
A hands-on class, there is much weighing and passing of umpteen flours. It’s the unique combination of multiple flours that gives the breads we made their bread-like qualities that Deborah has developed during extensive recipe development. She clearly has the knack and Ian is a lucky coeliac to be at the mercy of all that tasting.
Beginning the a quick sourdough demo, we then got our hands floury with hot cross buns, where we weighed and mixed flours and fed our yeasts. Whilst they were proving and rising, we began the greatly anticipated (by me) baguettes. Once they were left to prove, we moved onto an “everyday” seeded loaf and squeezed into the end of the session, soda bread – the instant riser.
By the end of the session, the principles of baking good, fresh, gluten free bread were well and truly understood. Multiple flours, mixed to almost a paste, given plenty of time for slow rising, baked and eaten. Simple. Handy tips – like leaving the breads for a couple of hours to cool otherwise they tear on slicing – made sure that we made the most of our efforts. Most recipes were adaptable to allow for other allergies and intolerances, using coconut milk for dairy, honey for sugar free… Just ask Deborah. Having taught a good few hundred people, there doesn’t seem to be an impossible baking dilemma.
But most importantly, were the breads any good? Oh they were. They looked incredible, rose beautifully, and even rather golden without the gluten (protein) to brown. The baguettes in particular were amazing… and so incredibly easy to make – but you need to right tin. The hot cross buns were just what I had been craving, and the soda bread had such a deep, appropriately wheaten colour it could have passed for the real thing. All the breads freeze brilliantly. Not that much is going to last that long. So long supermarket GF bread.