Gluten Free Crusty Rosemary and Walnut Bread (vegan, wholegrain)

Healthy Wholegrain Vegan Gluten Free Bread
Healthy Wholegrain Vegan Gluten Free Bread

I think we all agree that the ultimate achievement for any gluten free baker is gluten free bread. GOOD gluten free bread. Unlike gluten free biscuits, which – albeit unhealthy- are widely available and reasonably tasty, a delicious gluten free bread is something you will not find in any supermarket, well-stocked as it may be. Finding a HEALTHY gluten free bread is even more of a challenge.

After my attempts at gluten free and yeast free bread (here, here, and here), I decided it was time to have a go at “proper” bread, which also contains yeast. As stated before, I am not a fan of yeast and it might cause issues in some gluten-free folks, but a bread with yeast in is definitely a different animal than yeast-free bread, and I figured that the few times per year I have bread, a bit of yeast won’t kill me.

This bread, according to my hubby my “best one so far”, is roughly based on a recipe for crusty boule I found in Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois‘ fabulous book, but I tweaked it quite a bit based on my own research about gluten free flours. I replaced the egg with flax to make a vegan version. I added fresh rosemary from the garden for a nice Mediterranean flavour that would go well with olive oil and sea salt, and walnuts for a nice crunch. The result is an insanely delicious bread.

I could write a novel about this bread, but this would lead too far, I think. Let me just tell you that for now, I am very proud of my achievement to bake a really delicious bread with a crust like I haven’t had anywhere outside Germany – something you won’t get from supermarket bread. A bread that a non-gluten free person would happily eat. A bread that consists of roughly 50 % wholegrains – another thing you won’t find in supermarkets!

Note that you need to follow my instructions closely and use the exact amounts (weigh them) as making gluten free bread is quite a bit more finicky than gluten free cakes or biscuits. Please also note that your dough might behave differently depending on your home’s altitude, humidity etc. You might need to play around a bit.

Makes two 1-pound loaves

450 g gluten free flour (I used 200 g arrowroot starch, 150 g brown rice flour, 100 g sorghum flour)
1 flax egg (i.e. 1 level tbsp ground flax seed, mixed with 1 tbsp water)
1 tbsp honey, melted, or other sugar (DO NOT OMIT OR CHANGE THIS AMOUNT, or otherwise the yeast won’t do its job)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp dry yeast
250-300 ml water, lukewarm (use less in humid climate, more in arid climate)
2 tsp sea salt
any add-ons (rosemary and walnuts in this case; feel free to add any others)

First, mix the dough. All ingredients have to be at least room temperature. You need to do the mixing in an electric stand mixer, not in a hand mixer! A hand mixer is not powerful enough to whip in enough air to get fluffy bread, and you end up with dense and gummy bread, and we don’t want that. So use a stand mixer or large food processor. Mix the flours, yeast and salt first. Whip oil, honey, water and flax with a blender in a separate bowl and set aside. It is important that you use an electric hand mixer for the wet ingredients to whip air in them! Do not use a common whisk. Use less water first and only up the amount slightly if the bread seems too dry. You can always add more but not take away what’s already in! Too much moisture will cause your bread to become heavy and dense. While processing the dry ingredients, add one third of the wet ingredients through the feeder of the processor, then another third, and then another, blending after each addition. To avoid over-processing, add any add-ons such as herbs and nuts together with the last third of the oil-water-mixture. Stir just until smooth.

Now, give the bread a nice shape. Unlike gluten-full bread, we don’t rise the dough, then shape it, then rise it again, but only let it rise once, and shape it before that. Remember to go very easy on the dough as to not destroy the air bubbles! Do not knead the dough! I know you always walk past the pizzeria and see the guy torturing his dough, but we are talking gluten free here – and gluten free dough is a little bit different! After giving the bread a nice shape, let it rest on a warm counter covered with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel for 3,5 hours. You can now use your dough or store it in the fridge or up to a week! If taking out chilled, let it warm up before baking for 90 minutes.

30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 240 °C and slide a Dutch oven in it to heat up. After 30 minutes, serrate the loaf with a big knife, cautiously take out the Dutch oven and cautiously (!) place the loaf inside. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and place in the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 230 ° C, lift the lid off the Dutch oven, take a tray and fill it with icecubes, and place beneath the Dutch oven. Quickly shut the oven door and bake for another 15 minutes. The steam caused by the ice will make the nice crust!

After 15 minutes, take out the Dutch oven and with a dairy or candy thermometer, check the temperature inside the bread, which should be between 93 and 98 ° C. If this is not the case, bake for a few minutes more, even if the top looks well done. In this case, cover the bread with foil to protect the crust from getting too burnt. As soon as the bread has reached this temperature, turn off the oven and let the bread cool completely. This is very important, as you will end up with a gummy centre if you attempt to cut the bread beforehand.

There you have it. Gluten Free Bread. The Holy Grail.

Enjoy!

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