Back in autumn I was invited to the home of a fellow celiac, who has been cooking and baking gluten-free since 1999 for herself and her daughter. In my eyes she’s the queen of gluten-free baking, having given seminars on for the German celiac society and attended seminars given by manufacturers of gluten-free bread. It was incredibly generous of her to open her home and her kitchen to us. All we had to do was to arrive – and after we had finished baking she also rewarded us with salads and other delicacies that she had prepared ahead of time. We didn’t even have to bring anything other than the ten euros that the flours, etc had cost her. Pretty fucking amazing!
There were about ten of us and we learned how to prepare and handle gluten-free dough. Obviously, I’d been baking gluten-free for almost half a year and I thought that I would learn something, but not all that much. Boy, was I wrong! Turns out that learning from someone with so much experience was exactly what I needed. I can only recommend regardless of whether you are a celiac with a long-time diagnosis struggling to get your homemade breads right (or sick of eating store-bought stuff all the time) or new to the world of gluten-free baking, that you seek out fellow celiacs in person. Reading blogs and the forums on the internet or looking at a recipe book can only teach you so much. There are limits to gluten-free baking and you can easily overcome them if you watch someone with experience dealing with them.
At the workshop, we learnt some neat tricks, e.g. what to listen for when knocking on a bread in order to find out when it’s done. My favorite trick was a life-saver for shaping bread, buns, etc.: keep about three tablespoons of the flour that is supposed to go into the dough apart. Once you are ready to form the bread, the buns, the yeast braid or the Easter bunnies sprinkle some of the flour onto the top of the dough, grab onto it with clean hands and voilà, you can do whatever you like with your piece of dough. Before this workshop I was adding way more flour (even fifty percent more) to my breads, buns, etc. because the dough was so liquid that it was impossible to shape it into anything other than a lump of indefinable form. And the dough would stick to my hands like a soldier on leave to his significant other. My breads were still edible and delicious, the dough would rise and everything, but they were also a bit more heavy and compact than I would have liked them to be. I knew this situation was not ideal, but it was the best I could do. Or so I thought.
All of us who attended are now baking their own bread. All of us also went out and bought a wafer iron about a week afterwards, when Aldi had one on offer for 13 EUR. Until then I had no idea you could make your ice-cream cones at home and I’d never been able to find gluten-free ones at any of the stores I’d been to since April. The only guy in attendance at the baking workshop made his recipe for ice-cream cones for us. Some of us (including me) were very excited when we ate our first ice cream out of a cone. It was a beautiful moment; after all I had just gone through an entire summer without a single ice cream cone. Who knew I cared about them so much?
After the workshop I decided that I needed a grain-mill in my life. I did swallow pretty hard when I saw what it would cost me. But I figured: I will be required to bake gluten-free for the rest of my life, the mill has a twelve year warranty and I will not only be able to save space, but money, too. As the subtitle of my blog states: my kitchen is tiny. There is not much shelf space, so having all sorts of grains and plus the flour made from the same grains is already inconvenient. With a mill I only need the grain (which is often cheaper than the flour), plus have a larger chance of eating whole grain breads. Granted, the mill requires space, too, but that’s something that could be arranged.
It was a bit of a drama until I finally had my mill. It took three weeks until I finally was able to work it. The first had an ugly spot on one side, the replacement they sent was not gluten-free and then the manufacturer forgot to send a replacement for the replacement. They did send it after I called to inquire its whereabouts, along with a bag of buckwheat grains and a wooden bowl as an apology. Then one of the two mills that I sent back was returned to me rather than to the manufacturer. I almost cried when I picked up the package from my neighbor downstairs, who had been kind enough to accept it, knowing that I would have to go to the post office to take it back yet again. Those fuckers are heavy!
But once I had my mill, I got it running and experimented with new dough-types – and I may just need another workshop, because I’m still not at the point where I can make an entire flour mix on my own that will lead to immaculate results. I gather that making your own flour is a bit of a science, but I know it can be done, so I will stay tuned and I hope you do, too, as I plan on letting you in on the secret(s) once I find out what they are.
I have learnt that it’s pretty easy to get good results by just adding one part of your freshly ground flour of whatever grain you like and using a standard gluten-free flour mix for the rest of the dough. All of this experimenting with dark, whole grain dough had me craving some white bread. So this is how this beautiful baguette came to be. It’s crunchy on the outside, a bit coarse, too, fluffy on the inside and the sorghum gives it a nice, soft sour scent and taste. Just like real baguette. I must say it’s the best baguette I had since April. I tried out all sorts of pre-packaged versions throughout the year and found them all to be a disappointment.
If any of you try this out, please let me know how you liked it. I’m curious. By the way, I bought sorghum at my local Asian supermarket. Just in case you were wondering where I was able to purchase the stuff – apparently we Germans are keen on millet, but I’m no fan of baking with it. I recently made some pancakes with freshly ground flour out of millet and my husband was less than thrilled.
Ingredients (for three medium baguettes)
300g gluten-free flour mix (plus 50g for dusting the top of the dough/shaping the baguette; I used Schaer Farine)
150g sorghum flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp gluten-free agents (I use a mix of xanthan and guar gum, carob and arrowroot flours)
250ml milk (I used low-fat)
150ml soda water
1 packet of dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp coarse salt
1 generous dash of white vinegar (I used balsamic)
In a bowl, combine the gluten-free flour, the sorghum flour, the baking powder, the salt and the gluten-free agents.
In another bowl (preferably one with a lid), combine the dry yeast and the sugar. Add the butter (mine came straight out of the fridge). Warm up the milk until it is warmish (that’s about a minute in my microwave at 800W), and add it to the yeast-sugar mix. Add the soda water and whisk the mix until the yeast has dissolved entirely and the butter begins to dilute. Add the flour-mix and knead into a soft dough. Dust a bit of flour over the dough, place a wet cloth over it and let rest overnight at room temperature.
The next day (or if you prepare the dough in the morning, it’s ready to use in the evening), take about the third of the dough and form into a baguette, about four to five cm thick and three and a half cm height and sharpen the edges.
Let your baguette bake at 190°C for twenty to twenty five minutes (or until golden brown). I usually bake a fresh batch of bread every morning, so after you have prepared your first baguette, you can seal the bowl your bread is in tightly with a lid, place it in the fridge and let rest until the next morning. The crust of the baguette will be crunchier on the second day than on the first.