Tuesday, April 24, 2007

MultiGrain Bread

I have been eating the most wonderful bread lately. Several months ago Riley brought home a bread maker, and reminded me that we had a Sorghum flour bread machine recipe. This has become our standard bread recipe, but recently I have been doing some modifications that I wanted to tell you about.

First off, as I mentioned in my GF on a budget post, I have been using white rice flour instead of brown. It has been working just fine. Then I wrote a post on flours, and realized that I had been neglecting Millet flour just because the bag I had was purple. When I first started baking wheat bread years ago, Riley wanted me to make Great Harvest Multi-grain bread, and the recipe I worked out had Millet seeds in it. It was time to try putting more Millet back into my life. Sorry I have no pictures for you. It's either post this way, or no blogging.

The other day I hadn't had time to heat up my lunch before running down to the corner to wait for a ride. I got hungry waiting, so I pulled out the bread I had been intending to toast and ate it dry and plain. Oh, it was so good! When was the last time you ate plain day old bread and enjoyed it? If you don't know, you really ought to try this.

2 eggs
1 2/3 cup water
3 T oil
2 tsp vinegar
1 1/2 cup sorghum flour
1 1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup Millet flour
2 1/2 tsp Xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 T sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp Millet seeds

(The recipe as I originally made it omits the Millet seeds and flour, and calls for 2 cups sorghum flour instead of 1 1/2.)

Mix the wet things, mix the dry things, and then mix them together in your bread machine. If you don't have a bread machine, try it anyway in the oven and let me know how it goes.

One key I have come to appreciate it making sure the dough is mixed enough. My machine doesn't have a GF bread cycle, so if I don't turn it off, it gets half risen and starts mixing again. As a consequence, I always let the dough mix and then turn it off until I am ready to start the Bake cycle. In the past, I let it get fully mixed, but didn't let it mix until the dough was smooth. You really want smooth dough to get the best bread texture.

Friday, April 20, 2007


In my recent post about flour types I mentioned -- somewhat tongue-in-cheek -- that I had never tried Teff because no one had ever given me any.  A generous reader decided to change that, and used Amazon.com's wishlist to send me both some Teff flour and some Clear Jel.  I haven't had the chance yet to experiment with the Jel, but I have made a couple of things with Teff that I wanted to report on.
Part of the challenge here is that while I am a chemist, I am not a food or flavorings chemist.  Part of what that means is that I don't know the standard vocabulary for describing taste.  Odorant and Flavouring Chemists tend to have defined words like Musky, Fresh, and Green that mean specific things.  I haven't been initiated into that world, but likely neither have any of you, so I guess we are even.  My point is, I described both amaranth and buckwheat as tasting bitter and they obviously don't taste the same.  Teff and whole wheat don't taste the same either, but they share a certain je ne sais quoi that I don't have the vocabulary to describe.  In the future if I want something to have a more whole grain type flavour, Teff seems like the flour I would want to include.
The day after the Teff arrived, The Maestro decided he wanted pancakes.  I decided to try my standard pancake recipe with 1/3 Teff flour in place of my standard sorghum/tapioca mix.  Upon mixing, the batter was dark -- almost like a chocolate shake.  The difference in taste, compared to my previous pancakes, remided me most of the difference between using all-purpose wheat flour or whole wheat.  Teff isn't bitter, or nutty (a sometimes too-common flavour word).  The word that comes to mind is dusky, like twilight.  I don't know if that will have any resonance with you or not, but I haven't been able to come up with a better word.  They seemed like a wholesome whole wheat GF pancake.  Really good.
Yesterday we needed some muffins, and I didn't have a lot of time to scout out ingredients.  So, I ended up making chocolate chip muffins and I again used 1/3 Teff in place of some of my usual sorghum/tapioca/rice mixture.  They didn't turn out bad, but they didn't turn out as well as the pancakes.  You might think, based on my description of the pancakes, that there might be something somewhat incongruent about chocolate chips and a whole-wheat-y Teff muffin.  You would be right.  Chocolate Chip muffins are a dessert type treat.  Whole Wheat muffins are more of a wholesome solid breakfast item, so the combination wasn't so well matched.  I think Raisins or some other fruit would go better.
I'm not sure if I would ever use more than 50% Teff flour in something.  You might decide to do that you would like more Teff.  I think that too much Teff would give a dark, almost dusty flavour.  It certainly wouldn't be like using too much amaranth, though.  The effect on texture seems similar to using sorghum, so again, I don't see anything prohibitive of using more Teff than I have yet.  It just has a dusky basal flavour, so I think it needs something with higher fresh flavour notes to balance it out.  But I'm not a flavourings chemist, and I might just be making that up.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Re: Flours

One problem I have found in following Gluten Free recipes is that I like my baked goods to taste the way I think they should, and not necessarily the way someone else thinks they should. I wanted to be able to develop my own recipes rather than sifting through the thousands of muffin recipes on the internets trying to find one that I liked. To develop recipes, you need to know what you are working with, and I didn't. I've learned a bunch about flours since then.

When taking up Gluten-Free baking, you probably need a starch, and you definitely need a flour or two. With so many kinds to choose from, I felt like I needed to know what each was good for. Otherwise I would just be following a list someone else gave me. That is OK, as long as THAT person knew why they were using the flours they were using. It took me a long while to be convinced that anyone else knew what they were doing, either. My conclusion is that some do know, and some don't. Do I know what I am talking about? Some, and some not. Here is what I have learned about GF flours, mostly from trying the out to see what they did.

First off, there are three main divisions among gluten free flours. There are the grain flours, which are really divided into rice flours and all the other grains, and bean flours. For years, rice flours were all that celiacs could use, and sometimes I think they get included in recipes for historical reasons. On the other hand, they are often give good structure. The other grains are much newer to the scene, and are often a good addition. The bean flours are soft and nutritious, so they give you baked goods that have both of those qualities. They also taste like beans, so watch out when you use them.

The Rice Flours

White Rice -- Thanks to Chang's Oriental Market, this is the cheapest flour I have found. Put it with some Tapioca Starch, and you can save some yourself some coin. Of course, you have to spend that coin on some supplementa vitamins, but there you go. White rice flour is made from rice that has had the nutrient rich bran removed prior to grinding, and it is essentially filler. I haven't done a nutrient comparison on rice flours, so I can't extensively comment on the damage that does. I do know that you might end up with beriberi if you just eat white rice.

Aside from cost, the main advantage of using white rice flour is that it acts kind of like the rebar that you find in concrete. Rice is a hard flour, and is good at holding things up – not holding it together, you need binding agents for that. If your muffin or whatever is too soft and baking it longer doesn't help, add more rice flour. If you use too much rice flour, though, what you end up with has a texture that screams "Gluten Free!"

The other advantage rice has is that it doesn't add any flavour. Depending on the circumstance this can be a real negative, but it doesn't take too many slices of bread that taste like beans before you think that being tasteless can have its place.

Brown Rice – This is better for you, and provides even better structure than white rice flour. When I get my grinder, I'm switching back. I use 1/3 rice flour in my muffins, for sturdiness.

Sweet Rice – Also called Glutinous Rice flour (Note the i instead of the e in there). I think they call it that because it comes from sticky rice. I haven't baked much with Sweet Rice flour, because my impression is that it doesn't hold things up as well as I am counting on my rice flour to do. It does work really well at making gravy, though.

The Other Grains

Sorghum – If you don't know yet the advantages of sorghum flour, you must not actually be reading my blog. It has a good mild flavour. It is a good colour. It is good for you. It is soft, so you don't get that "Gluten Free!" texture that rice flour gives you. I've also seen sorghum flour help a little old lady cross a busy street with her groceries.

As a sorghum muffin ages, it doesn't really go stale unless you have too much corn starch in it, but the flavour does change over a few days. I think that there is some enzymatic process that breaks down some protein or other that is activated by baking. I do like to keep my muffins in the freezer, not to keep them from going stale, but to keep the flavour from evolving into something more bitter.

Millet – The only millet flour I have used is Finger Millet flour, from the Indian Store. It's purple. I am sure that there are other kinds of millet flour available, but I haven't really looked. The millet that I use as a couscous substitute isn't purple, for example. When I get a flour mill, I will try that out. I suspect that it might have some of the same advantages sorghum does, but I kind of dead-ended with the color purple.

T'eff – I have never tried teff. I don't have a good source that doesn't cost 5 x as much as other flours.

Update 4/20/2007: A reader sent me some Teff, which I now know that I like. Adding 1/3 Teff seems to make things taste more whole grain-y, like using wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. I wonder if using too much would be too much, if you will, but you might consider trying it. A more detailed story can be found here.

Amaranth – Like teff, amaranth is expensive. Unlike teff, someone gave me some once so I could try it. Amaranth is quite bitter and nasty tasting, but in a good way. Think lemon zest or tonic water, and you get the idea. You wouldn't want to use more than ¼ amaranth flour in anything and even that might be too much. In the right amount, it can really add depth of flavour. I like it. I also like Tonic water, so some people think I'm crazy.

Another advantage to using amaranth is that it seems to bind things together, like Xanthan gum or Kudzu does. I don't know how it does this, but if you use some amaranth, you can leave the Xanthan out without everything crumbling to dust.

BuckWheat – Like amaranth, buckwheat flour can be quite bitter, but some people like it is small doses. I would sometimes make buckwheat pancakes with ¼ buckwheat to all-purpose flour, back in the old days. If you use too much buckwheat, the batter is kind of gluey and hard to work with. I wonder now if has the same kind of binding activity that amaranth has. This is something to check out.

Oats – I have seen links to GF oats that didn't cost too much. I remember them being about $2.50/lb, which isn't bad. They were just $20/lb to ship here. The deal is that some strains of oats have gluten-like proteins, and some strains don't. Sheltie Girl uses oats all the time, so she would be the one to ask about its properties instead of me.

Bean Flours

My experience with bean flours is generally that they make your bread taste like beans. They are soft, and give a good texture. The first loaf I ever made that actually rose had garfava flour in it, but the kids didn't like it. The beany flavour fades somewhat with baking, so you really want to avoid under-cooking things. Just keep in mind that it won't ever go completely away.

People who like bean flours tout its high protein content as so much better than rice flour

Garfava – This is a trade name, like Kleenex or Xerox. If you get if from another company, it is called Garbanzo/Fava, or Chickpea/Fava, because it is a 1:1 mix of the two flours. It makes a good soft bread in one of the Gluten Free Gourmet's flour mixes, but it still tastes like beans.

Chickpea – This was how I learned that Chickpea/Fava doesn't mean chickpea or Fava. I made a cake with just chickpea flour, and it didn't go well at all.

Soy Flour – My little sister says that every chocolate chip cookie ought to have soy flour in it, for the nutty taste. Hildegard can't eat very much soy, so I haven't spent more time experimenting without soy flour than I have with it.

Soy Powder – Sometimes it is tough to distinguish soy flour from soy powder, because the terminology isn't standardized. The essential difference, as I understand it is that soy flour is ground soy beans. Soy powder is made from ground, cooked and dried soybeans. The pre-cooking really reduces the beany flavour. Whenever I am looking at a recipe that calls for soy flour, I use soy powder instead.

Update 4/20/2007

Lentil Flour – I found some of this in my freezer the other day. I don't remember how it tasted at all.