Gluten-free, yeast-free bean bread

Today I tried out the basic yeast-free bread recipe from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman, using the Four Flour Bean Mix described in my previous posting with the standard supermarket flours using in Indian cooking (Mustafa being the only supermarket I know that stocks them, though!).

The result was rather uneven: some parts did not rise much – the very smooth, close-textured parts – and other parts had huge air bubbles.

However, taste-wise and in terms of ‘mouth-feel’, I’m pleasantly surprised! The very green smell from the green bean flour disappeared after baking, and the bread was springy to the touch, much like real bread (despite the cake-like appearance). Actually, the texture reminds me very much of kueh lapis!

I tried it with a variety of savoury and sweet toppings as well as plain with butter, and it tasted fine every time. I couldn’t stop eating… how wonderful to be able to eat ‘bread’ and not be worrying about exceeding my wheat & gluten limit.

The recipe for a small loaf:

DRY INGREDIENTS

2 cups Four Flour Bean Mix : I used 1/3 part chickpea flour, 1/3 part green bean flour, 1/3 part sorghum flour, 1 part cornstarch, 1 part tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp Xanthan gum
3 Tbs brown sugar [which I reduced to 2 Tbs – still rather sweet]
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp Egg Replacer [omitted; Hagman uses this to provided additional protein and leavening power]
1/2 tsp salt

WET INGREDIENTS

Eggs – 2 plus 1 white [I used 3 small whole eggs, also because I omitted the Egg Replacer]
2 Tbs melted butter [replaced with ghee as I was too lazy to melt butter!]
1 Tbs honey [replaced with light argave syrup]
3/4 cup buttermilk [used substitute]
approx 1/3 cup water [used much, much less]

[Hagman also uses optional dough enhancer, which I have omitted completely here.]

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease loaf pan(s) and dust lightly with rice flour.

Whisk together dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and egg white(s). Add melted butter, honey and buttermilk. Blend with mixer on low speed.

Add dry ingredients and continue to blend on low speed.

Add ‘sufficient water to make the dough the consistency of cake batter.’ This was the hard part! What is the correct consistency? I’ve seen a whole range of consistencies of cake batters. Anyway, using my judgement, I only needed to add about a tablespoon of water. The batter was strange-looking because of all those sticky flours, the cornstarch and tapioca starch, not at all like cake batter.

Beat 1 minute on high.

Spoon into prepared pans and bake for 55 to 60 mins, covering with aluminum foil after 30 mins.

Problems

* The bread rose tremendously in the oven the collapsed afterwards, which suggests that I should reduce the amount of leavening agent next time.

* The texture was very uneven, it did not affect the taste, but certainly is less than ideal. Bette Hagman constantly gives strict instructions to follow recipes exactly as substituting ingredients may end up with a different result. As usual, I can never follow a recipe precisely so I guess I will have to keep experimenting.

* Hagman also suggests that overly dense texture might be due too much liquid, and from my experience with muffins (which is what this essentially is – a muffin method, dry + wet ingredients then mix) is that it could also be case of over-mixing. I might just make this by hand next time; the mixer is unecessary and might have contributed to the over-mixing.

Verdict

Whatever the problems, I was really pleased with the result. I fear the little test loaf in the freezer won’t last long at all. Am definitely making this again, and at double the quantity :).

Here are Hagman’s quantities for a large loaf:

DRY INGREDIENTS
Four Flour Bean Mix (see above) – 4 cups
Xantham gum – 3 tsp
Brown sugar – 1/3 cup
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Baking powder – 1 rounded tablespoon
Egg replacer – 2 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp

WET INGREDIENTS
Eggs – 3 plus 2 whites
Butter, melted – 6 Tbs
Honey – 2 Tbs
Buttermilk – 1 1/2 cups
Water (more or less) – 1/2 cup

31/10/08 Update: experimented with this recipe a second time, making some tweaks and getting a much better result. Read more here: Improved recipe for gluten-free, yeast-free bean bread.

Substitutes for buttermilk

I’ve mentioned this several times before but I’ve never really written it up properly and have decided to do so to have a quick reference for myself.

If using citric acid, going by this recipe for using citric acid to replace lemon juice, then
1 cup milk + slightly less than 1/4 tsp citric acid.

In all cases, let the mixture stand for five to ten minutes before using.

1) From GourmetSleuth:

These subs. are good for baking and batters – not for uncooked foods like dressings.
For 1 cup buttermilk select one:
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup milk + 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

2) Other pages give different quantities:
1 cup milk plus 1 3/4 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup milk plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice OR 1 1/3 Tablespoons of cider vinegar to above milk amount.

3) For dairy-free alternatives, these suggestions from Dairy-Free Made Easy by Alisa Marie Fleming, Fleming Marrs:

Recipe I [too vague to be helpful :P]
2 to 3 tsps of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or cream of tartar to one cup of non-dairy milk (rice, soy, oat etc.) —

Recipe II [very interesting!]
1/4 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup + 3 Tbs water
1 Tbs lemon juice or vinegar
pinch sea salt
–> Blend all ingredients together

4) This page extracted from The Gluten-Free Baker Newsletter has a thorough write-up including tips on:

* improving consistency by making 1 full cup, even when only 1/2 is required
* in recipes, to check for consistency rather than volume of the liquid when using low-fat milks
* differing results when using non-dairy milks
* in gluten-free recipes, if substituting regular milk with buttermilk, add 1/4 tsp baking soda to the dry mixture for every 1/2 cup buttermilk

Spelt pumpkin muffins (no sugar)

Here’s my first experiment with non-wheat flour. It really doesn’t taste very different, but that’s because spelt is actually a variety of wheat. Even if you don’t have an outright wheat intolerance problem, food rotation is a good idea.

I came up with this recipe after comparing the Pumpkin muffin recipes from the following books:
Diana Linfoot, Muffin Magic (Perth, Western Australia: Diana Linfoot, 1990)
Miriam Kasin Hospodar, Heaven’s Banquet: Vegetarian Cooking for Lifelong Health the Ayurveda Way
Mary Ann and Mace Wenniger, The Best-Ever Wheat and Gluten Free Baking Book

Spelt is not gluten-free so there really was no need for the last book, but it was still interesting to note the spices, raisins and nuts as well as orange juice used as milk replacement in the recipe (no citrus juices in large quantities for me – high in salicylates).

Both the vegetarian and gluten-free books’ muffin recipes use buttermilk or yoghurt, and I’ve found I prefer the texture from this mix than the old recipe I was using. I also use 2 eggs now instead of the 1 egg I did before.

The Ayurvedic book also melted ghee, butter or oil interchangeably for muffins, so I opened the first tin of ghee I’ve ever used . I already had it sitting in the cupboard, waiting to be experimented with.

For the flour mix, you can replace up to half a cup out of a total of two cups with alternative non-gluten flours.

You don’t need any sugar as the pumpkin, raisins and walnuts give this plenty of flavour.

speltpumpkinmuffins-0.jpg

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs
1/4 cup melted ghee
3/4 cup yoghurt
1/4 cup water

1 cup pureed cooked pumpkin (if you have extra you can freeze it)

1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly roasted by dry-frying without oil in a skillet over low heat – you may want to sieve out the tiny pieces which get burnt during the roasting process
1/2 cup sultanas

1) Sift together dry ingredients. This is important to combine the leavening agents and flours properly. If they are not evenly mixed, there will be large holes in your muffins. I often have a problem sifting wholegrain flours with leavening agents because the large flakes in wholegrain flour don’t go through the sieve and I can’t get at the smaller clumps of baking powder/soda to break them up and press them through the mesh. Right now, I’m trying to get round the problem by using my sieve which has a coarser mesh.

2) Mix wet ingredients together. Put the eggs in last, because if you mix raw eggs with hot melted butter you will get cooked egg (yes, this happened to me before!).

3) Mix the pumpkin puree thoroughly with the wet ingredients. I like to use a whisk for the wet ingredients.

4) Coat the raisins and nuts with flour to prevent them from sinking in the batter whilst baking.

5) Mix all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients all at once quickly and lightly with just a few strokes. It’s ok if there mixture is clumpy.

6) Mix in the raisins & nuts.

7) Put into greased muffin tins. Paper casing is unnecessary. I have discovered that unless the cake has a high fat content (such as this cake recipe), it will stick to the casing. Pour water into any unused holes in the muffin tin to keep the tin from warping, and to produce steam which helps to create crispy tops on the muffins.

8) Bake at 180°C for at least 20 mins, or until toothpick comes out clean and muffins are fragrant.

Crème Caramel

I often go through phases where I try out several dishes from the same cooking method in order to teach myself new skills through trial and error. Recently, I’ve been doing puddings, which the green tea silken tofu can be considered one type of.

However, tofu-making a quite different from custard puddings, which involve gently heating eggs and milk (sometimes cream as well) to set it into a soft, smooth consistency.

Crème caramel certainly isn’t healthy or allergy-friendly by any means (fortunately I can tolerate dairy products) but I wanted to make something classic, basic and follow the instructions very precisely in order to become familiar with the cooking technique.

First of all, I needed to acquire suitable dishes of the appropriate size that were also oven-safe. Compared to unlabelled ceramic ramekins, Pyrex glassware seemed the most reliable and they sell custard cups in packs of 4 (or individually at Sia Huat). These also make pretty serving dishes and are great for cooking prep too.

However, my purchase was initially derailed by a Tangs sales assistant who told me that only Pyrex ‘Bakeware’ range was oven-safe and the custard cups were not part of this series. A check on the Pyrex website showed this information was incorrect and I phoned the Singapore distributor to get a definitive answer. Fortunately I managed to rush back to Tangs in time to take advantage of the 20% discount on Pyrex going on during that period : ).

I used the detailed instructions in Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, which turned out extremely well. It says 6 servings, which fit six Pyrex custard cups perfectly.

The process of making crème caramel basically involves three important cooking steps, plus a crucial fourth stage of refrigeration for at least 24 hours.

Don’t forget to preheat the oven to 325°F/ 160°C — a slow oven.

Part I: making the caramel

1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp lemon juice
3 Tbs warm water

Put sugar and lemon juice in a pot and bring to the boil over high heat. It’s important to keep stirring constantly to prevent the sugar from burning. Once all has melted, stop stirring and begin swirling the pan to cook under the sugar is a rich golden brown, 3-4 minutes. It’s important not to stir the melted sugar or else you will end up with gritty bits that spoilt the texture of the caramel. When caramel has reached the desired colour, add the warm water and stir over low heat until all hard bits are dissolved. Divide the caramel amongst the 6 custard cups.

I wonder if I overcooked the caramel as it tasted slightly bitter, or perhaps it was the amount of citric acid (in place of lemon juice) that I used?

Part II: making the custard

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1/8 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the milk, 1/4 cup of sugar and the salt in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Be careful not to scorch the milk which will result in it sticking to the bottom of the pan and having a burnt flavour. To avoid this, don’t use too high a heat, keep stirring the milk and use a heavy bottomed-pan. Once the milk starts to simmer, remove from heat and keep warm.

Blend the egg and egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a heatproof bowl. The important thing at this stage is handling the eggs so that they do not get cooked by the hot milk, so temper the eggs by gradually adding the hot milk a little bit at a time and whisking constantly. Then add the vanilla extract.

To achieve a fine, uniform smoothness of the custard, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the prepared custard cups, filling them 3/4 full.

Part II: baking the custard

Prepare your custard cups by coating lightly with cooking spray or a bit of oil. Place them in a deep baking pan, into which a kitchen towel has been placed over the bottom.

Put the baking pan on a pulled-out oven rack. You should have a kettle full of boiling water ready at this point. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the custard cups. The kitchen towel will prevent the dishes from sliding around in the water-filled pan.

The water bath and the slow oven ensure the custard cooks evenly and smoothly. Here is a photo of my pumpkin custard which I tried to speed up by using ‘Fan Bake’ function — you’ll notice that the top is overcooked, resulting in the uneven texture and it formed a leathery skin o the top compared to the smooth custard below. Hence, slow even cooking is what one is trying to achieve with puddings.

pumpkin-pudding-0.jpg

Slide the rack back into the oven and bake for for 20-25 mins until the edges have set and a coin-sized spot in the centre jiggles slightly when a custard is shaken. I had some difficulty interpreting this instruction so I relied on a bit of intelligent guesswork to figure out if the custard was ready.

Part IV: refrigeration

Remove the custards from the water bath; you might like to use a pair of tongs to remove them; tongs with slip-proof silicon tips would be great. Let the custards cool on a wire rack, wrap individually then refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days. I have kept custards in the fridge for longer than that, and after day 4, there is a distinct drop on taste and texture.

The 24-hour resting period is required for the custard to cool and become firm enough to unmould, and for the caramel sauce beneath needs time to reabsorb some moisture and turn into a liquid.

To serve, warm a sharp knife in warm water and run around the edges of each cup. Turn the custards out onto chilled plates.