Not usually my kind of headline, but it is true. And that is the way I felt about the boule (round loaf) I made from the new book Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.
Let me put this into perspective for you….my banana bread often sinks, my gluten free bread I used to make in my bread machine also sank..and was crumbly unless you ate the whole loaf fresh. I like using a bread machine because let’s face it, I am yeast and chemistry challenged.
So this fall I received the Gluten-Free Artisan Bread book free to review. It took me a while to get excited for it–as I don’t like wasting expensive ingredients on something I can’t make well.
Neither author, Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. nor Zoe Francois have celiac disease or anyone in their family who eats gluten free. So I also wondered how much could they really know about baking it, without living the gluten free lifestyle? The authors have other gluten-full “bread in 5” books on the market and this was their foray into gluten free. I had time to chat with Hertzberg earlier this week, and I’ll have more from his interview below. But first….let me tell you about the book.
Gluten free bread cookbook review
A few weeks ago, without any baking expectations, I read through the book. I really enjoyed it. The balance it had with information on gluten free foods and celiac disease were ideal, in my opinion, for a book that is trying to appeal to the mass gluten-free audience. Anyone who reads it whether celiac, gluten sensitive or eating gluten free for other reasons, should feel included. The other thing I really liked about it is that it included many options for me as the novice baker.
- While it talks about ideally using a pizza peel and stone for baking. I don’t have those tools. The book explained parchment paper on a cookie sheet would also work.
- The authors prefer a method of weighing the flour, but if you’re just not into that, they recommend packing the gluten-free flour into the measuring cups like you would brown sugar.
- Finally, the authors also said it really didn’t matter what kind of yeast you used. Yay! No more determining the difference between active, quick rise and instant!
Last week I went for it. The premise of the baking bread in 5 minutes a day, is that you make a big batch of dough and let it sit in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. At any time you can take out some dough, let it rest for 60-90 minutes and then bake some fresh bread.
The book has two basic flour recipes: a gluten free all-purpose flour blend (using very common ingredients) and a whole grain gluten free version. Because the idea is to make a lot of bread dough at one time, the recipes are large. So, not knowing if I was going to be successful or even like the bread, I cut it down by two-thirds with the goal to make dough for 1-2 loaves.
The prep work was easy and I put the dough in the refrigerator as instructed. I waited the minimum of 3 hours and then baked my first boule. I didn’t shape it enough and it still tasted good, but it was not has vertical as it should have been. Click here to see the master recipe and how to make it, or look at this video. My daughter really liked the bread…so it was worth trying again Thanksgiving morning.
I worked its shape better, let it rest and baked it first thing Thursday morning. It was beautiful!!! My daughter even said that it looked so good it was photograph-worthy. It also tasted very good. My gluten free table for mostly non-gluten free people really enjoyed it. It was not grainy, it was moist and had that crunchy outer layer. I will go back and try other recipes from this book.
The only critique: the book recommends storing it by leaving the loaf cut side down on a plate to maintain its crunchy outer layer. What we found in the test run is that it gets really hard that way. I think I will put it in a Ziploc bag next time and forgo the concern that it will no longer be crunchy on the outside.
Author Jeff Hertzberg M.D. on baking gluten free
Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, author Jeff Hertzberg is a doctor who started baking as a stress reliever. His co-author Zoe Francois is a pastry chef. They printed their first Bread in 5 book in 2007. As soon as that published people started asking if they could just sub in gluten-free flour for the standard mix. Hertzberg says it wasn’t that simple. Every book since 2009 has included a gluten-free chapter.
Then this fall they finally published Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Writing and testing it took twice as much work than their previous books. “Our challenge was unique to our method, of storing a batch of dough in the fridge for ten days and using as needed. We had to come up with a flour blend that would support this.”
Stephanie Meyer, a food writer from Minneapolis who has a blog FreshTart.com, is gluten free and help test the food. “The more challenging taste testers were our non-gluten-free families. They are pretty skeptical. We had to get to a point where they didn’t reject it. If there was rejection we knew we had to start over,” Hertzberg says.
One thing that surprised Hertzberg while writing and researching the book is just how common celiac disease is and how long it took to percolate down to doctors. In the book Hertzberg describes that “as late as 2000, a popular pediatric textbook claimed that celiac disease was becoming less common and that it affected no more than one in 10,000 people.”
When it comes to baking with this book’s method Hertzberg offers these tips:
- Mix very well to emulsify the ingredients. It can be done by hand but a stand mixer is more efficient and is less likely to result in under-mixed ingredients
- Don’t expect it to be a counterfeit wheat bread — they taste different. We found that a blend of flours creating a pleasing flavor.
- Flour blends are “not ready for prime time” in yeasted breads. Mix your own.
“We wrote this book for friends and readers who asked for it,” Hertzberg says. They couldn’t ignore the requests from readers. “As a physician, I can’t help but be excited to encounter a serious health illness that is 100% treatable by diet.”