Monday, November 22, 2010


One of the biggest barriers to the gluten-free life for Spouse 1.0 has been the thought that, if he fully embraces the lifestyle, it's good-bye forever to really yummy breads.

A life without the crusty, chewy goodness of sourdough bread is about as incomprehensible for him as a life without Diet Dr. Pepper once seemed to me.

Some of the commercial gluten-free breads are interesting and tasty, in their own brick-like way. Food for Life's brown rice and pecan bread is actually quite good, especially when toasted and drowning in melted butter.

But, Spouse needs real bread. Fresh and chewy, not frozen.  Bread-snob approved.

So, I've been reading about gluten free bread. And reading. And reading.

None of it has been terribly encouraging. GF flours are less forgiving than wheat flours. You need a special bread machine with a GF cycle -- but, the reviews of such machines tend to be.... well... mixed. Or, you need a programmable bread machine -- and, you have to program it. Or, you need to intercept your old-fashioned bread machine before the dough rises a second time. Or, you need to use the basic cycle and be prepared for bread that's not really all that good. 

Failure looms at every turn.

Expensive failure, since most GF flours cost between $.75 and $1.85 per cup.

But, last week I stumbled upon Red Star yeast's site. They have recipes for GF breads that, mercifully, use standard, garden-variety GF flours like rice, tapioca, and potato. And, they had a recipe for sourdough starter.

So, Friday night I went to Henry's to get white rice flour and a cooking thermometer.  I started the starter, then nurtured it all weekend long. Lovingly stirring it, keeping it warm and safe and clean. 

The Spouse hauled the old Oster bread machine in from the garage.  I poured over the manual, comparing my machine's features against all the cautions and advice in my new GF breads cookbook.

Finally, this morning, the starter was ready.

I followed the recipe -- mostly.  I was getting low on white rice flour, so I substituted some brown rice flour.  We didn't have powdered milk, and we aren't supposed to have cow's milk, anyway. So, I substituted almond milk for the water, and added a tiny drizzle more than the recipe called for. The egg replacer was optional, so I left it out.

I set the machine on the dough cycle.  When it was done, I put it on the bake cycle. When that was done, tested the temperature. It was only 160, so I left the bread in the hot machine for a few more minutes. Tested again. 185. That was probably close enough to 200. I hoped.

Removed it from the pan, cooled it, sliced it, and....


It looked, smelled, felt, and tasted like bread!

It wasn't the yummy chewy crusty goodness you get at your favorite seafood restaurant, but it was very, very good.

And, it only took me an entire weekend to make it.

Thank you, Red Star.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cilantro Hummus Pizza Crust

I made two bowls of hummus for the fall potluck at work. One normal and one cilantro-lime. It was surprisingly easy.

After the potluck, I had a little less than 1.5 cups of cilantro hummus left.

Which brings us to the pizza.

I'd actually cooked a whole pound of garbanzo beans in anticipation of making the hummus, and now we have a freezer full of garbanzos.  So, I've been researching garbanzo recipes the last few days.

I found a really cool one for garbanzo pizza dough. It used a can of drained garbanzos, a half cup of wheat flour, and some other stuff. I have no idea exactly what other stuff, because I lost the recipe.

But, if drained garbanzos can be food processed with flour and other stuff to make pizza dough, then hummus can be mixed with gluten-free flour and other stuff to become pizza dough. Right?

Except.... I've both read and learned the hard way that gluten-free flours are not as forgiving of moisture variance as wheat flour is.  And, I'm well aware that my hummus doesn't have the same moisture content as drained garbanzos. So, this could be a disaster.

But, it could be an interesting disaster. And, it would use up that cilantro hummus.

I started by mixing an egg into the leftover hummus. Next, I grabbed my container of Bob's Red Mill gluten-free baking mix and added enough to make a somewhat wet and sticky dough. Probably somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 cup.  The dough looked a little coarse, so I drizzled some olive oil in to smooth things out a bit.

I decided to bake it in a large iron skillet just in case it came out really bad. Iron skillets are indestructible.

Oiled the iron skillet, spread the dough out, and put it in to bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I wondered, what do you top a cilantro and garbanzo pizza crust with?

I thought of all kinds of cool ideas, mostly involving things I didn't have on hand.

So, instead, I smeared some spaghetti sauce on top, then used an ice pick to extract 1/2 cup of hamburger from a frozen block I had in the freezer.  Crumbled up a leftover sausage patty. Added a few kalamata olives, some pre-shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Next, bumped the oven temp up to 400, and cooked it for another 15 minutes.

The result was a thick, soft pizza crust, almost more like a biscuit than a pizza. Spouse 1.0 declared it a definite improvement over the thin, cardboard-like gluten-free pizza crusts you get in the stores.