“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm,” Winston Churchill.
B aking isn’t just a hobby, it is an art, and a science on a standard basis without the enhancement or augmentation of molecular gastronomy. General cooking can be heightened, presentation wise, with the assistance of molecular gastronomy in altering the chemical makeup into something that was thought to be unimaginable. For example, on Top Chef, Fabio, of season 6 I believe, changed the molecular structure of olive puree by setting it in a solution (I can’t remember what compound it was) and having it harden. When the tasters bit into the solidified puree, the sensation was phenomenal. Baking dances on that concept with chemical compounds to create something out of a mixture. Too much leavening agents and you get a flat product, too much liquids and the center of the product is too dense. Too much flour, too dense. Too much sugar, and you run the risk of too soft a texture that would crumble. Lacking protein reduces the tight bindings of a product, also producing an item that lacks a collective texture. Anything and everything can affect the products of baking, even going as far as altitudes and humidity. That’s why even the greatest chefs in the game can still state they loathe baking. It is easy to learn cutting styles, but it isn’t easy to throw everything together into a bowl and dish out a flawless cake, muffin, or bread.
Gluten free baking takes baking to another degree of difficulty. Without gluten binding the flours and adding protein to your formula, there’s a huge gap in the molecular makeup. For example, compare a baking recipe with a DNA strand. There are four bases in DNA that attach to a sugar phosphate to complete the nucleotide: ATCGAT. If you take out a nucleobase, the strand will be incomplete and a malformation will develop, ATC_AT, because the body registers that as an incomplete strand. In baking, the gap where the gluten would be needs to be filled, otherwise the chemicals won’t bind correctly and you will get a new doorstop or paperweight. Gluten adds coagulation, elasticity, and stability to a product. Obviously without it, the product will be unstable. Unfortunately for us, our body hates stability, so, apparently that explains my insanity.
To replace that “missing link” in the baking chain, something needs to be there, obviously not gluten. This is where the gums come in and, no, I don’t mention chewing gum. Let me introduce you to the common gluten free stabilizers and thickening agents: xanthan gum, guar gum, gellan gum, konjac, gelatin, and agar agar. These guys, with their less common family members, reintroduce uniformity to the baked product. In other words, like a cowboy, it corrals cattle or molecules in this case. Xanthan gum is the prime choice, but, some people have allergies to the xanthan gum and opt for guar gum. No matter since the product result is similar. A ¼ of a teaspoon to a ½ teaspoon is all you need, but, stabilizing isn’t the only answer. If your flours are too heavy, you’ll still get a brick. This is why you need to have a balance measurement between your starches and grain flours. Same applies to whole wheat flour: too much, and you get too dense a product. So you have to find that balance between, which was the problem I faced. I couldn’t find the perfect combination of flours to produce a satisfactory end product. It took me seven tries to get it right. Yes, seven. Seven. It took me seven tries to find out that my yeast was old, that too many eggs make the center sink, high temperatures in the oven I worked with made the exterior cook faster than the interior, that too much sorghum or millet made the bread sink, and that I’m crazy. Or am I?
I don’t think so. On the seventh try, I finally had bread that didn’t stick to my teeth and didn’t taste like powder. It isn’t 100% perfect because I think it needs another tsp or so of flax meal to pull the texture more tight, more time for the yeast to feed since I was short on time, but, it is so tasty, so delicious, and so not store-bought gluten free crap, that I was happy and am not embarrassed to share the recipe. I also managed to make it 100% vegan because when I tried it with the eggs, it made it too dense but I probably only needed one egg as opposed to two. The other problem I ran into was that I was trying to make it not as calorie rich as most gluten free breads are, which also taste horrendous. Why would I want to waste money on something that’s disgusting? So, I tried to lighten the recipe, add fiber, and the result was akin to a honey wheat bread (the sorghum and millet gave it a sweetness). This bread can be eaten toasted or untoasted. Yes, that’s right. Untoasted gluten free bread. Surprised? I was. This was the first time I ever ate untoasted gluten free bread. I had an old fashion PB&J that nearly made me cry. Because the bread is so fiber rich, it is very filling too, so, you aren’t eating calorie rich air. You’re eating a wholesome, fiber-filled gluten free bread. I’m almost done the loaf too, so, make two since it’ll vanish very quickly.
On top of this glorious success, I also have great news: I passed my ServSafe exam. I’m one step closer to my business! I’m so happy! I can’t wait to see that certification with my name on it! So, what am I going to do once I get it? Celebrate with a grilled cheese. That sounds like a pan to me.
Vegan Millet Flax Bread 1 cup millet 1 cup tapioca 2/3 cup brown rice flour 1/3 sorghum 2 tsp xanthan 1 tsp agar agar 2 tbsp flaxseed meal
1 packet dry active yeast 1 1/3 cups of water 1 tsp brown sugar
First off, make sure all ingredients are at room temperature and preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Dissolve the yeast in 1/3 water warmed for about 1 minute and 30 seconds in the microwave, brought to about 110 degrees. Whisk in 1 tsp brown sugar and let that sit for 10 minutes or longer until the yeast froths. By froth, I mean get this lumpy white foam on the surface:
While that’s frothing, whisk the flax meal together with ¼ cup cool water and let that sit to thicken, about 15 minutes. Next, combine all your dry ingredients into another bowl and stir well so that all the flours are incorporated. Now, turn off the oven.
In the same bowl with the proofed yeast, after 10 to 30 minutes, whisk together the melted margarine, applesauce, vinegar, water, and flax meal. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the liquids.
With a stand or hand mixer, mix together on low speed for about 4 minutes. You will get a cake batter consistency, that’s perfect. Gluten free doughs do not replicate normal bread doughs in appearance. You cannot knead and do not need to knead because there is no gluten to form.
Prepare a 9x5 loaf pan, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and pour/spoon the batter into the pan. Spray plastic wrap or wax paper with the spray as well and gently press this on top so the top doesn’t dry out and remain moist. Put this in the warm oven for about an hour.
Walk away, do something, forget about it, or sit and bite your fingernails while counting the minutes. When an hour is up, remove it from the warm place and pre-heat the oven to 340. Yes, 340. Trust me. Your bread should have rose about an inch or so, or, basically read just about to the top of your pan evenly.
When the oven is pre-heated, bake it for an hour, but, watch it when it gets close to time. My oven is different than your oven. Yours may be hotter than mine.
When that hour is up, you should have a gorgeous golden loaf of bread. It will be hard but, once cooled, it will soften. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove it, and turn it on its side on a cooling wrack. Why? I was having problems with the center sinking so, as a precaution, I let it cool on the side. Was it better or worse? I don’t know, but, it worked if it did.
After the bread has thoroughly cooled, slice, eat or freeze. Nutritional Content: 16 thick slices from one loaf Calories per slice: 100