A Fantastic GF Flour Blend for Pizza, Breads and More
Karen Morgan has done the homework for us. She worked on this blend for years and let me tell you, it creates chewy bagels with that tooth resistance I have been craving. Check out her Bagels and her French Boule. Enough with the GF deprivation! Read our interview with her for more info from her new book, The Everyday Art of Gluten-Free. Also read our full book review.
The Bread & Pizza Blend has a high ratio of complete protein grains to guar gum, with just a touch of starches to achieve the strrreeetttccchhh that makes bread “bready.” It’s customized specifically for hearty, yeast-risen breads, but also functions as the perfect blend for everyday white sandwich bread, pizzas, and the more delicate molded breads like my three-braid challah.
I think it’s fair to say that one of the biggest problems in the gluten-free world is the dearth of good breads. Since bread is considered the source of all nourishment, I worked for years to come up with a blend that wasn’t just a bag of starches. When it comes to gluten-free bread, the very best loaves have one thing in common: They are bubbling with complete-protein grains. Gluten-free breads that boast a laundry list of starches are, across the board, extremely dense and either turn to dust in your mouth or, as is the case with most gluten-free pizzas, taste and look raw in the middle. Sadly, most store-bought breads are flavorless. In the Bread & Pizza Blend, you’ll notice that the ratio of complete grains to starches is almost the exact same. It is this delicate balance that gives breads made with this blend the elasticity needed for good volume and even better flavor. Guar gum is important here for two reasons: The first is because guar gum is almost pure fiber and rich in minerals like zinc, which most celiacs are severely deficient in, and the second is the incredible structure guar gum creates. The cellular structure of guar gum is that of an arbor and resembles the blooming top of a tree, so to say guar gum was genetically engineered by mother nature for volume couldn’t be more accurate. Xanthan gum’s cellular structure, on the other hand, looks like fixed crystalline bricks. This makes it particularly bad for bread baking since it does the opposite of adding volume. (I have staunchly avoided xanthan gum since 2002 for other reasons, too.)
The addition you might find most curious here is that of meringue powder. All good gluten-free breads contain eggs, but as I was building this blend, the extra liquid from a full egg, yolk and all, often destroyed the doughs I worked so hard to master. Since the albumen in the egg whites was a necessity to enhance the structure of my breads, I reduced the number of whole eggs and added meringue powder, which is essentially powdered egg whites. When shopping for meringue powder, make sure it is gluten-free.
- 2½ plus 1½ teaspoons (282 g) sorghum flour
- 1⅓ cups plus 1 teaspoon (156 g) glutinous rice flour
- ½ cup plus ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (100 g) tapioca starch
- ⅔ cup (60 g) gluten-free oat flour
- ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons (50 g) potato starch
- 8 teaspoon (24 g) guar gum
- 2 tablespoons (20 g) meringue powder
- Using the spoon-and-sweep method, measure each ingredient into a large bowl. Whisk together and then sift the mixture into a separate large bowl. Repeat several times.
- The Dough: USING EGGS (OR NOT ): Many of my bread recipes include eggs, which assist the guar gum and meringue powder in the blend to create elasticity and volume. The eggs also impart their luscious flavor and richness. As I mentioned on page 86, if you can’t, or don’t, eat eggs, use an egg substitute like Egg Replacer. Just be sure the egg substitute foams after the water is added. (If it doesn’t foam, it’s not activated and will not do the job you need it to.) To check this, just give the egg replacer a quick whisk before adding it to the dough. Please note that the omission of the meringue powder will affect the blend pretty substantially, so if you attempt to make breads without using it and they don’t turn out as well as you’d hope, this is the reason.
- MAKING A SPONGE: A sponge is a mixture of flour (or in the case of this book, Bread & Pizza blend), yeast, water, and sometimes eggs and spices. The ingredients are mixed together and set aside to ferment for a period of time. After that initial fermentation, the remaining bread ingredients are then sprinkled on top of the sponge and are either left to rest for a second time, in which the sponge then bubbles up through the added ingredients, or are immediately mixed in to form the final dough. A gluten-free sponge performs the same functions as sponges in traditional bread baking. It helps build a robust bread flavor, and in my humble opinion, it makes for a better cell structure (meaning the size of the holes in the finished bread). Many of the breads in this book require a sponge. The pumpernickel on page 210 wouldn’t be the same without it, and your sourdough would be anything but sour if you didn’t begin with a sponge.
- To make a sponge, combine the sponge ingredients as called for in the recipe. Mix well—the sponge will be wet and won’t look very appetizing. Cover the bowl and chill the sponge for the time indicated before adding the remaining dough ingredients as directed in the recipe.
- COLD PROOFING AND RISING: Most bread doughs made with the Bread & Pizza Blend require a period of cold proofing, or rest and rising in the refrigerator. The cold proof is imperative to slow down the production of carbon dioxide in the dough. We need the CO2 for the bread to rise, but it will dry out gluten-free breads about three times as quickly as traditional ones. Cold proofing also allows flavors to develop, so your bread will taste like, well, bread.
- Gluten-free bread baking diverges from traditional bread baking in the number of rising cycles it requires. Traditional bread doughs have two and sometimes three rising cycles and are often “punched down” in between these risings. In gluten-free bread baking, there is a single rise and it takes place in the fridge. (Sometimes a short period of rising in a warm place is called for after the dough is placed in a bread pan, but this takes a maximum of 20 minutes, not a couple of hours.) You also won’t need to punch down the dough. So as you read the bread recipes, don’t be completely shocked that these steps are missing—it’s just the law of the land.
- To cold-proof your dough, begin by coating a bowl or other container with oil, shortening, or butter (usually the recipe will suggest which to use). Beware of nonstick cooking spray. I’ve noticed that it can cause unexplainable things to happen to gluten-free bread dough. Always use a pure oil (I favor olive oil) and organic shortening, like Spectrum, or butter to grease the container or bowl in which the dough will rise. Next, turn the dough into the greased container. Jostle the container a bit to coat the dough in the oil, shortening, or butter, then cover the container tightly with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge. Coldproof the dough for the length of time indicated in the recipe.
- After cold proofing, most doughs will be kneaded (see below) into their final shape—formed into loaves and set in loaf pans for Classic Sandwich Bread, for example, or pressed into a round for New York–Style Pizza. As mentioned above, some doughs are then covered lightly and set aside to rise at warm room temperature before being baked.
- KNEADING: In traditional bread baking, kneading is done to activate the gluten protein in the dough. Since gluten-free baking is, obviously, free of gluten, you might wonder why kneading is necessary. When I first started experimenting with gluten-free breads, the dough crumbled apart like clumps of dirt when the proofing started. The expanding yeast was breaking the dough instead of pushing it outward like a balloon. I quickly realized that I didn’t properly knead the dough in the bowl before proofing.
- Doughs made with the Bread & Pizza Blend are kneaded as the dough is being made, and sometimes a second time after cold proofing.
- When you initially assemble a dough made with this blend, the mixing of the ingredients acts as a first kneading. Please take note of how long to mix the dough in the bowl before proofing (usually a few minutes, but sometimes up to ten)—it’s crucial to the end result. This first kneading helps activate the guar gum to increase elasticity in the dough. Increased elasticity ensures that when the dough is placed in the refrigerator to proof, it stretches rather than crumbles as the yeast expands.
- When a recipe requires kneading after the proofing process, first dust the counter with a bit of glutinous rice flour or additional Bread & Pizza Blend. Lightly coat the dough with the glutinous rice flour or blend so it won’t stick to your hands. Form the dough into a rough disk. Working on the dusted surface, fold the dough disk toward you and press down and forward, stretching the dough. Your goal should be to gently extend the dough outward without tearing it. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat, folding and turning, maintaining a smooth disk. Recipes using the Bread & Pizza Blend will indicate for how long you should knead the dough—in most cases, an approximate number of turns.
The approximate weight of the blend, by volume (for use in doing your own adaptations):
Each of blend weighs approximately
1 tablespoon 8 g
¼ cup 29 g
⅓ cup 43 g
½ cup 57 g
⅔ cup 75 g
¾ cup 85 g
1 cup 112 g