Thursday, February 11, 2010

Some Tips for Baking Gluten Free Buns

It is particularly ironic that the most bread-lovin' member of our household is my celiac husband Dan. He inherited his bread lust from his father, who always considered a meal incomplete if it didn't include rolls or slices of buttered bread. Several years ago, when Dan was waiting for the results of his blood test to see if celiac disease was the result, he had a "last meal" of beer (verboten barley malt), pizza (wheat crust) and several slices of crusty, luscious homemade bread (extra, extra gluteny!).

I do not, alas, have a large reservoir of patience for baking. I like to riff in the kitchen; to cook without exact measuring, and I like to try lots of new recipes and variations thereof, which are not qualities which make for a good baker. And Gluten-Free baking presents its own challenges. Wheat gluten does so many alchemical things in the oven that require several different substitute flours, thickeners and binding agents, so I get a little frustrated.

But my sweetie must have his carbs, and he particularly likes buns rather than bread for his veggie burgers and sandwiches, so I have come up with some strategies for working with the sticky GF bread doughs which I will pass along to you here. I have used them fairly successfully to adapt many different gluten-free bread recipes to the making of buns.

Most gluten-free bread doughs are too soft, wet and sticky to knead or shape by hand, so what has worked best in my Crispy Kitchen is to make up a batch of bread dough and then divide the dough into six portions (a wet knife works well) and plop each into a greased and white rice floured egg ring which is sitting on a cookie sheet covered with a sheet of parchment paper. I got my egg rings at a restaurant supply store for about $2 each as I recall. They are meant for making perfect circlets of cooked egg on the griddle, but I like them for keeping my GF rolls from spreading out .

Then I let my rolls rise in a warm oven for an hour, having previously heated up the oven to its lowest temperature (170 degrees F in my case), leaving the oven door open just a crack.

After the rolls have risen, I either leave them free form on the tops, or smooth them down with an egg or milk wash. I sometimes sprinkle on cheese, salt or spices. The egg wash will leave your bun tops nice and shiny and it helps the sprinklings adhere better. Below are some herb bread buns which I made from a bread recipe from Carol Fenster's sorghum flour-lovin' compendium, "1001 Gluten Free Recipes".

I have used this bun baking technique to adapt many different gluten-free bread recipes for Dan's bun consumption. You just have to greatly reduce the baking times, so be sure to keep an eye on your oven.

Here are a couple of other gluten-free baking tips which I have found helpful:

1) Thoroughly blend dry ingredients. The gluten-free flours are so finely milled that they billow about and you want to make sure that if you use xanthan gum or guar gum in your recipes that they are well incorporated so you don't end up with sticky little gum pockets in your final product.

2) Getting all ingredients room temperature takes a bit of fore-thought. I usually forget to take out the butter and eggs ahead of time. I use my microwave for a few seconds to warm up the butter. Chilled eggs from the refrigerator can be warmed up by soaking in a bowl of warm water for ten minutes or so.

3) Once buns have cooled, store in a plastic bag in the freezer, as GF baked goods seem to be very crumbly and will go stale very quickly. I then thaw out individuals items as needed.

I have found inspiration, solace and a healthy attitude towards GF cooking in many of the posts at Gluten Free Goddess and this post about GF Baking is particularly full of good advice. I was happy to see lots of gluten-free bread recipes and baking tips at the Red Star Yeast website and used their GF Chick-Pea Bread recipe to make into individual buns. They came out beautifully after a cooking time of 25 minutes. I threw in 2 tsp. of cumin seeds for a little flavor boost and they got rave reviews from Bunzilla, aka Dan, so this recipe will go into our files.

Chickpea flour (also known as besan) is sometimes found in the supermarket, but you can certainly seek it out at a natural foods or health food store or Asian market. The cooked flour has a delightful, warm taste and makes for a fluffy bun.

I hope you will be able to have success with my GF bun baking tips. They have produced some great buns for our pantry and I would love to hear about tips others may like to share about baking their buns. I recently compiled a list of my baking recipes here if you would like to check out these other baked goods. I left out the links to my many other less successful baking misadventures!

This post about Chickpea Buns is my submission for the 20th helping of My Legume Love Affair, a monthly event started by Susan the Well-Seasoned Cook to celebrate the deliciousness of the world of legumes. I have the honor of being this month's guest host for MLLA #20 and I welcome your submissions until February 28, 2010. You can check out the cute green bean logo at the right sidebar or this post for more MLLA details.

Happy Baking!


Esme said...

These look delicious.

Johanna GGG said...

interesting advice - I don't dare try gf bread but do a little gf baking and find the gluten free goddess's advice great - I had some great success with her millet buckwheat tortillas recently which is as close to gf bread as I have got

Anonymous said...

My husband is looking for a new bread machine recipe. Any suggestions?

I want to try the polenta quinoa sticks. Hubby thinks he does not like quinoa but he forgets, he loved it when I disguised it with vegetables. I just have to remind him.

Please stop by my blog an pick up an award. You do so much for everyone. You deserve a little thank you.

Rachel said...

Esme and Johanna: Thank you for your kind comments.

Chaya: Thank you for the blogging award. As far as bread machine recipes, I'm not sure which ones work better. I had a bread machine that was kind of vertically oriented and it kept making stunted short loaves, so I gave my machine away to a friend. I understand the more horizontally oriented bread machines are better adapted for GF breads, but am actually enjoying having one less gadget in my crowded kitchen, so I haven't investigated it.