Parsnip Parsimony- A vegan baking and science blog.

“You’re crazy, Susie!”

I tried my hand at gluten-free.

Posted by Susie on November 27, 2007

If I hadn’t been a vegan, I probably would have become a bread baker.

It would be nice, I admit, to forget about all this food science stuff along with the prospect of being in school until I’m at least 28. I could have lived a life full of organic flours, fermentation enzymes, gluten development, hearth ovens, sourdough starters, and chewy crusts. Those things always seemed MUCH more awesome during baking school than did pastry crusts, ganache, cookies, whipped cream, royal icing, marzipan flowers, chocolate mousse, or even-EVEN- my sworn arch-rival, angel food cake. Dough always seemed much more mysterious to me. Any given loaf of bread is the result of countless variables. A bread baker with knowledge firmly anchored in the science behind dough mixing, fermentation, and the baking process can spend a lifetime developing and perfecting the art of the science, all in search of the elusive perfect loaf of bread, or bagel, or croissant. And I think thats pretty cool.

However, as it so happens, I’m a vegan, and that changes everything. While the perfect loaf of bread is a elusive, vegan versions of marshmallows, melty cheese, meringue, whipped cream, and angel food cake are a heck of a lot MORE elusive. There are also disconcertingly less people in search of these holy grails than there are bakers obsessed with the size of the air cells in their sourdough loaves. The prospect of solving even one of these mega-vegan-mystery-foods is why I’m content with my choice of 6 more years of school (At least I will be done with my last math class ever in only fifteen days. Knock on wood.)

Recently though, I became aware of a vegan mystery which I hadn’t much considered before, that is, the mystery of vegan gluten free bread. Dearess from the ppk first piqued my interest with her posts about her attempts at finding an ideal bread recipe. Reading about Bottle and ball‘s gluten free baking adventure (and craft) blog was not only inspiring, but she was also awesome enough to help me become less clueless about the GF baking world in a couple of hecka-informative emails. (Thanks!)

Suddenly, I found myself thinking about gluten, and I couldn’t stop. I still can’t stop. It is one damn good mystery, I’ll tell you that. What’s more, this mystery not only involves aspects of egg replacing (because non-vegan gluten free bakers rely a whole lot on egg protein for structure), but it’s BREAD! And bread is still the thing I like the very most, when all is said and done.

So I finally caved in to my “wondering about gluten” thoughts today, and I bought a package of Bob’s red mill Gluten Free Bread Mix. My theory was that if I used my egg replacing skills to replace the egg called for by the recipe on the bag of mix, and if I tried a couple of strategies, that I might be able to make some progress.

Well, I decided to see if tofu protein could help set the gluten free loaf’s structure at all, so thats what I tried today. I made a pretty small batch, so I don’t end up wasting a lot of mix if I failed miserably. I did some really rough math, and figured the recipe on the bag called for liquid that was about 3% protein to be mixed with the mix in a 1.2 : 1 ratio. So this is what I put in my loaf:

100g Bob’s GF bread mix

120g MoriNu soft silken tofu (it was about 5% protein but I figured the more the better)

10g olive oil

2g yeast

Everything went in the food processor. I thought it was downright amazing what those gums that they put in the GF flours do. It almost felt like a gluten dough- almost like it had the “memory” that a gluten dough has. I have no idea which gum must do that- but I intend to read up on it. It was still sticky though.

I let it ferment an hour and a half covered at room temperature. Then I gave it a stir and loaded it into a greased mini loaf pan. It proofed about 45 minutes, then I popped it into the oven at 375. I think it baked about a half hour?

Anyway, I think I had beginner’s luck. I was expecting something much worse:

TaDa!

The moment of truth:

Not a bad crumb!

It’s even bendy and gluteny kind of!

The structure is great, but I am not happy with the taste. I want to break away from using the mix now that I know I can at least make SOMETHING that’s edible. I would like to see how much chickpea flour I can eliminate by maybe upping my tofu protein content, because I think that the chickpea beaniness was my main flavor problem. I also want to experiment with bringing some real “bread” flavor into play using a preferment or something. I can’t imagine why a preferment wouldn’t work with a GF bread, but for some reason all the GF bread recipes I see are straight doughs? Maybe I will find out.

I want to try making gluten free bagels too. Just to say I can. Also, I plan on exploring soy free options once I figure out what the hell I’m doing.- Just for you, Dearess from the ppk!

These gums that were in the GF bread mix though- they were amazing. I kind of have a hunch that maybe these gums and maybe other techniques of GF bakers might find use in non-GF vegan baking? I guess we will see.

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11 Responses to “I tried my hand at gluten-free.”

  1. Dawn said

    Susie,
    You’re my new baking hero. That is beautiful! I’ll keep working and reading too. And together, we’ll figure this out…you probably a lot faster than I.

    Bagels? ::drool::

    And what’s a preferment?

  2. Susie said

    Bread flavor pretty much mostly comes from fermentation by-products: As the yeast does it’s thing, acidity develops, and a whole range of flavor molecules get created. It gives you flavorful bread. (That was a bit of a simplified statement, but yeah.)

    Anyway, using a preferment allows you to give a portion of your dough a niiiice long fermentation, but allows you to still have some “newer” starch in your bread so when you are proofing and baking your loaf, the yeast doesn’t run out of fuel or anything. (In wheat bread, the preferment also makes it so you have “newer” gluten, but I don’t think that acidity or enzymatic action does anything to these gums, so I don’t think thats even an issue)

    Also Dawn, I have a little bit of a hunch that this mix would have produced an alright loaf using just water? (maybe less water?) Have you ever tried the Bob’s red mill brand mix? It seemed like it was all “thanks but I really don’t need this tofu stuff, I know what I’m doing”.

    I just anthropomorphized a bread mix. I should go back to math homework.

  3. Dawn said

    Thanks for the explanation! I even understood some of it.

    No, I haven’t used it. It seems like there was something in it I couldn’t have…maybe potato flour? Yes, I know I’m difficult. Why do you think I don’t have bread yet? I’ll have to look again at what’s in it.

    Oh yeah, math homework. I’m tired from watching too much tv. Maybe I’ll do math homework tomorrow. Just a couple more weeks!

  4. Emily said

    hey, susie–

    bazu at where’s the revolution linked to you, and i just had to read about your bread experiment. i’m a non-vegan gluten-free baker, and eggs are absolutely crucial to my continued existence (and my wife’s toast). i spent a good ten minutes explaining to my wife’s boss that i couldn’t veganize my buche de noel recipe because of the relevant protein structures (though i would be happy to make her 48 individual vegan maple pecan pumpkin pies). so i’m really, really impressed you got an even moderately passable loaf without eggs.

    from my gf experience, chickpea flour has to be the first thing to go. it really, really just tastes like raw chickpeas and there is nothing you can do about it.

    i’ve also noticed from more experimenting with recipes that the bread that most closely resembles plain, puffy, content-less supermarket white bread is made mostly of things ending in ‘starch’ (corn, potato, tapioca), which i generally treat as interchangeable in my kitchen. rice flour is the major bulk in most gf baking, but it has to be substantially cut with other flours/starches in order to get good texture.

    i haven’t used soy flour as much as i would like, but it’s extremely successful in banana bread, and much milder in flavor than chickpea flour. you might want to think about using it in your next mix.

    i’d love to hear about your experiments with gums. xanthan is the gum of choice in our house, but i’m not an expert on the rest of the pantheon. also about yeast. gf cookbooks are not so exact about yeast sometimes, and i’m never quite sure how to make sure i have enough. the house does get all lovely and yeasty smelling while the batter is rising, though, so i’m clearly not doing everything wrong.

    yay bread!

  5. Ellen said

    Hi Susie,

    Your post is so interesting. I’ve been gluten free for two years. Though I like making my own bread, Breads From Anna bread mixes (www.glutenevolution.com, which use bean flours, is the best tasting GF bread I’ve had. I would suggest you give it a try. But absolutely continue to experiment – we need you to do so! I’ve yet to come up with a combination of ingredients for making bread that is really yummy and not just tolerable. I miss a good loaf, miss it like crazy. But I have sort of gotten used to life without it (sigh). Good luck! Glad I found your blog.

  6. bottleandball said

    If you also figure out the prefermentation dilemma I will fall wildly in love with you.

  7. […] is not such a big fan of chickpea flour in bread, but she is awesome. Back when she first started mentioning her quest for a better vegan egg replacer, I got kind of […]

  8. Susie said

    Update!
    Yesterday I cut into it, and it had become a bit more brittle, but it was still nice and moist inside.

  9. too bad your loaf didn’t taste so great, because it looks delicious! and i so know what you mean about the chickpea taste! i once made chocolate peanut butter cookies with gluten-free all-purpose flour (containing chickpea flour)… really nasty after taste. i am really interested in how your gluten-free bagels will turn out, so i’ll stay tuned for that!

    i’m glad i found your blog because i have a question for you. i’m getting the vibe that you’re in cooking school, and i’m getting my bachelor’s in nutrition and am required to take several cooking and food science classes. how does a vegan approach these introductory kinds of classes? i know my teachers are going to want us to work with milk and eggs, and MEAT, even worse! is there any etiquette for dealing with these types of situations?

  10. Krista said

    I certainly haven’t been to any cooking schools, but I have been baking breads for several years (love that Bread Baker’s Apprentice), so I was sad to learn recently I was allergic to wheat.

    I’ve only just started playing around with gluten-free baking, and I’ve had some real losers. Weird texture, funky flavor, etc. We aren’t totally vegan around our house, but most of the time our meals are 100% vegan. I have some trouble with the tons of eggs used in gluten-free breads, too.

    I’ve seen a French blog where she makes sourdough breads that don’t contain eggs or gums with the use of rice flour and buckwheat flour. Her results are pretty good. You may want to experiment a little to see what you can come up with.

    Also, the goddess of GF baking, as far as I can tell is Bette Hagman. You may want to check out some of her books. She made an egg replacer bread that I still haven’t tried yet. Otherwise, she used lots of eggs, but with your knowledge, you may be able to tweak them recipes a bit to make it work out.

  11. Alissa said

    Susie. Thank you. I know the gluten-free world is a dangerous, uncharted territory. (A world of unknowns like no one has ever known.) Thank you for risking it all! Gluten shall not be tolerated! I will follow you, god willing, to the depths of any oven (providing free samples) and I shall not complain, for I–the untrained palette–know not these flavors of delicious breads! I am here to assist you in the least possible way I can! So, my heroic Vegan Childhood Hero…let me know when it is READY!!!

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