Last week I told you all about my gluten free baking courses with the lovely and very talented Adriana Rabinovich, which were held at the Cookery School at Braxted Park in Essex. I attended for two days.... One day spent happily making pastry (check out last week's post here) and the other baking gluten free bread.
Gluten free bread is the nemesis of many a gluten free cook..... It is notoriously tricky to get a bread-like texture. The lack of gluten means that the structure can be crumbly and fragile and too little moisture will leave the experience of eating it uncomfortably dry. To compensate, the addition of gluten-replacers such as xanthan gum, guar gum or chia paste are generally necessary, but add too much and the resulting loaf might become a brick fit for the building trade. Even with the careful addition of gums and pastes, the structure can still be spongy and liable to sink, especially if the moisture content is imbalanced.
With Adriana's years of professional experience in trying to overcome the contradictions of gluten free bread, I was excited to have the opportunity to explore her techniques for countering the difficulties of this essential bake. After all, bread is such a staple and whilst getting it right gluten free can seem an endless aspiration that is never quite reached, the path to enlightenment is pursued relentlessly in the hope of a decent sandwich!
The one-day bread course covered a number of techniques and bakes from pizza, foccacia and baguette (all made with variations on the same dough), to a white loaf, delicious brioche and Mexican tortilla wraps. The instruction was clear and the methods innovative in helping to overcome the challenges...... be it advice on how to shape a wet dough into a gluten free French stick or balancing unusual ingredients to ensure a robust loaf.
Traditional corn tortilla wraps are a familiar feature in our home kitchen and one of the early breads I mastered to ensure Mexican and South American food remained firmly on the menu. Made with Masa Harina flour, they are naturally gluten free and (especially if you have a tortilla press) are quick and easy to make. I was reassured to see Adriana making them in the same way that I do at home!
The absolute revelation for me however, was Adriana's use of a little gelatine (or agar agar/vegegel as a vegetarian alternative) in some breads to add structure to the bake. I would never have thought of putting gelatine in a bake, but actually it makes perfect sense. It made an amazing difference to how the bread stabilised and to how the crumb formed internally in the loaf, yet it made no difference to the taste and certainly didn't 'jellify' the bread in any way. We used the gelatine in both the white loaf and also the brioche. These two bakes were discernibly bread rather than 'cake' in texture and were less prone to going soggy when topped with wetter spreads.
I will be doing plenty of experimenting with the use of gelatine in some of my own breads as well as making those Adriana shared with us....... and will post as I become more confident in the balance and results......
The pizza that I made at home following the course, is with a versatile dough which Adriana uses for a range of bakes. It is quite a wet mix, but can be spread thicker for Focaccia, moulded in baking paper and a baguette tray for a French Baguette or flattened thinly to form a pizza base.
I have my own recipe for pizza dough which I love and I have no intention of ditching it.... it is soft and fluffy and lends itself to a delicious bread base. But it is a dough which is at its best with at least a little height and even 'deep pan'. Adriana's dough makes for a great thin or crispy base and is a great alternative for the pizza repertoire. And making it is fun.... It's a bit like stepping back into pottery classes in school...... to shape the dough involves a very wet hand to gently smooth the dough little by little into a fine disc on baking paper and it feels like you are moulding clay!
The base is baked, topped and then baked again...... which makes it perfect to freeze mid-way, ready to fetch-out at a later date for a quick meal. I've topped mine with delicious roasted vegetables and some delicious goats cheese......
I am sharing this fab pizza with the following :
Free From Fridays with Emma at the Free From Farmhouse
Fabulous Foodie Fridays with Lauren at Create Bake Make
Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma
Cook Blog Share with Hijacked by Twins
Credit Crunch Munch with Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours
Crispy-Based Roasted Vegetable Pizza (with Adriana Rabinovich's Pizza Dough) - makes 3 individual pizzas
110g plain gluten free flour mix (Adriana used Doves. I used my own blend A from this post)
55g ground almonds
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons caster sugar
14g dried active yeast
350 ml tepid water (blood temperature)
2 tablespoons olive oil
a selection of vegetables (e.g. courgette, tomato, mushroom, baby corn, squash, garlic, sweet pepper, artichokes, mushrooms, chilli or anything else you fancy) - chopped as you wish and roasted in the oven on medium to high heat for about 30 to 40 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoning
Parma ham - ripped into strips (optional)
cheese of your choice - grated or sliced - I used chunks of goats cheese
pine nuts and/or pumpkin seeds - lightly toasted
fresh or dried herbs
fresh black pepper and other seasoning as preferred
- Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6. To bake the pizza, you will need to bake straight onto a hot surface, so make sure you preheat your intended baking trays at the same time. I used upturned baking sheets to get as flat as possible.
- Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk lightly to make sure they are well-incorporated.
- Measure the water and olive oil into a jug and make sure the liquid is at hand temperature.
- Add the liquid to the flour mix and combine using either a wooden/silicone spoon or your hands, until the dough comes together. It should be soft and a little wet. If it seems too dry, add a tiny bit more water (cautiously).
- Beat the mixture with a spoon for about a minute until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
- Divide the mixture into thirds (for three pizzas).
- Cut three large sheets of baking paper and fill a jug or bowl with cold water.
- One at a time, spread each piece of dough on a baking paper sheet as follows : Dip your hands in the cold water and gently flatten the dough. Keeping your hands wet, gently smooth the dough from side to side, turning the pizza as you go, to gradually flatten and spread into a circle. Keep doing this until your pizza base is thin as you want.
- Set aside for about 20 minutes in a warm place.
- When ready to put in the oven, drizzle a little olive oil across the top and slide the pizza on the baking paper straight onto the hot baking tin surface (the direct heat helps it to cook and bubble up). Bake the base (without toppings) for 8 to 10 minutes until golden and crisping slightly at the edges.
- Remove from the oven ready for your toppings. You can cool and freeze or chill at this stage, to be topped and eaten another time.
- When ready, top each pizza with a thin spread of tomato passata, then a layer of roasted vegetables followed by any other toppings you are using and cheese.
- Place back in the oven for a further 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the other toppings are hot through and crisping.
- Remove from the oven, slice and enjoy.
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