I like bread. I like sourdough in bread. It gives a smoothness to the dough and a nice mellow flavour. I think it helps out gluten -free breads. Gluten-free sourdough breads have a flavour reminiscent of traditional breads. And that's what we ex-wheat lovers are aiming for in our breads, taste and texture approaching traditional breads. Just without the wheat that will make us sick.
For the past two months I've been experimenting with sourdough in breads from Bette Hagman's Bread book, because I wanted to start with breads that I knew would have a good structure, and then improvise on that. After trying out several batches of about four of the breads, I've some up with one that I'd like to share with you. This one approaches the most closely to a traditional wheat taste, the texture is nice and open, and the crumb dry, not too cake-y. If you want to roll up your sleeves and start a batch of sourdough that you can keep around in the fridge for baking, I suggest that this one is one you might like to try.
Unfortunately it doesn't photograph that well, and I'm no expert, so I have edited the photo a bit so that the texture more closely resembles the original.
When I was a full-time homemaker, living in Labrador with three teens and one husband coming home from school for lunch each day, I baked a lot of bread. Because we ate bread almost every day, I tried a lot of kinds, both to add variety to the table and keep myself interested. I confess I tried almost every recipe in any book I could get my hands on from Swedish Limpa to Russian black bread, from flat breads to Challah, and even pretty good French baguettes.
One of the breads that we didn't seem to tire of was a poppy seed whole wheat inspired by one of the Frances Moore Lappe Diet for A Small Planet books. This was a crusty bread, with a wonderful slightly "stringy" texture that showed clearly when the pan rolls I often made of it were pulled apart. And the poppy seeds were a perfect accompaniment to the whole wheat, good plain and spectacular toasted. Besides poppy seeds I remembered that the bread had a bit of milk and honey in it, and that that added a nice brownness and nutty flavour to the crust.
So last week, when I was improvising on yet another version of a sourdough bread from the book, this time starting with the recipe for Seattle Sourdough, I remembered the poppy seed whole wheat that my family liked so much. Why not, I thought, add a bit of honey and soy milk along with some poppy seeds? Couldn't hurt to try it. So when the bread was all mixed up, at the last minute I poured in some soy milk and a bit of liquid honey. I didn't measure anything, just added enough to make the dough just a bit creamier, waited for it to rise, and then baked it up.
Eureka! It was pretty good. Just to make sure it wasn't just me who thought so, since I haven't tasted regular bread in so long, I tested it out on my Saturday students. Two women, one younger, one older and to cap it off, two teenage boys. They ALL liked it.
So, just to be sure that it was as good as it could be before I put up a post about it, and because that one lonely loaf hadn't lasted long when we all got our teeth into it, I baked up another batch on Sunday night. This time I made the medium size batch which made one small loaf pan and another small pate sized pan. This morning I ate the bread for breakfast, just slightly dried out, but not stale. The slightly dried-out I discovered actually adds to the sensation of eating wheat bread. I recommend you keep your non-gluten bread in a paper bag rather than plastic, and freeze it if you will keep it more than about two days.
This bread is the closest I have tasted to wheat bread. It has that honest grain flavour, a good stong texture and it isn't too sweet at all. I used Kinnikinnick-Quik mix for the flour element and added one whole egg rather than the amounts the recipe called for. I eliminated all the other ingredients like salt and sugar, which are already in the Kinnikinnick-Quik mix. I used the 3/4 cup of sourdough called for and no extra yeast. I find adding yeast with the sourdough is unnecessary and the bread actually has a better texture without it. I added about 1/4-1/2 cup of fresh soymilk and about 1-2 Tb of liquid honey, just mixed into the blended dough, right at the end. Also I didn't and don't use a hand mixer for these sourdough breads. I just give them a few good beats with a heavy wooden spoon. That seems to be enough.
I've altered this recipe enough that I feel I can post it as an "inspired" creation. Inspired by the great Bette Hagman, and with thanks to her, I call this one Poppy Seed Sourdough No-Wheat.
Hope you enjoy it and don't forget to try it toasted.
Poppy Seed Sourdough No-Wheat (1 sweet bread loaf-sized pan and 1 small pate pan)
Put into a big mixing bowl and combine:
1 whole egg
3/4 tsp white vinegar
3/4 cup sourdough starter*
4 1/2 Tb salad oil (I used a mixed organic oil)
1 & 1/2 cups warm water
Add to the liquids in the bowl:
3 cups Kinnikinnick-Quik flour mix (or any other you'd like to experiment with)
2 1/4 tsp agar or kantan
1-2 Tb ground almond meal
About 2 Tb poppy seeds
About 2 Tb white sesame seeds
Mix this up well and beat for a few seconds with a strong wooden spoon. I actually use a salad serving spoon with the slots on the end as I find it grabs the dough well. When it looks smooth and creamy add by pouring on top:
About 2 Tb liquid honey (I used organic Acacia, but use your favourite)
About 1/4 -1/2 cup fresh soy milk.
Mix it up smooth with a few good turns of your spoon. Oil generously and flour two loaf pans. (Or you could use one larger one). Remember that gluten-free bread only rises to half again it's original height in the pan, not double like wheat breads. Set it somewhere warm to rise. You can put on your oven for a few seconds and then turn it off and put the loaves to rise in there. When they are risen, after about 40 minutes - 1 hour, turn the oven to 400 degrees F (about 200 C) and bake for around 40 minutes to 50 minutes or a bit longer, depending on your oven. Take a look and when it's the brown you like, take it out. I've found that if this bread is allowed to brown well without burning, the taste will be more similar to wheat bread.
Let it cool and then make sandwiches, toasted or not, or enjoy it just the way it is.
* Sourdough starter is easy as 1-2-3.
1. Put 2 cups of water in a non-metal container.
2. Add flour (about 2 cups, just to get a creamy batter consistency). Regular gluten-free flour mix is okay, but I use about 1/2 c brown rice flour to 1& 1/2 cups of the mix in mine.
3. Add a pinch of yeast (you don't have to but this ensures success). Stir it up, cover it with a cloth and put it somewhere warmish for a few days. When it bubbles and foams up and smells pleasantly sour, you can put it in the refrigerator. If you want to use it, take it out a few hours (or overnight) before and let it reactivate. You can add another cup of water and cup of flour any time if you think it needs to be "fed" or you want to replace some you use. It's very forgiving, and after a few weeks will have become strong and healthy and ready to add good flavour to your breads. You may just find, like me, that you don't want to make bread without it. If so, go on, try out some recipes, and be sure to let me know what they are, so I can try them too!
This post is dedicated to J-f who got me thinking about this poppy seed bread when we were talking about soup and bread. Thanks!