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Gluten-free baking. The phrase is enough to set fear into the hearts and minds of even the bravest baker. Taking a simple thing like flour and replacing it with four or more different flours, adding gums, eggs, and who knows what else makes me want to just flee to the safety of the pricey gluten-free baked goods at Whole Foods.
But, because I knew there had to be more than met the eye, I invited my friend Kate of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking over one Sunday for an afternoon of bread baking and discussion.
Because I’ve heard quite a bit about xanthan and guar gums recently on various gluten-free blogs (not to mention Michael Pollan putting them in his “fake food” list) I asked Kate what she thought. “It’s a by-product of corn,” she said of xanthan gum, shrugging. In other words, it doesn’t bother her. Guar gum is a product of the guar bean. Both assist gluten-free flours in binding, and unless you want to do a lot of experimenting, they’re key ingredients in creating a delicious loaf of bread.
Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had terrible, dry, crumbly pieces of gluten-free bread. Even companies that sell their product in stores seem to have problems creating something that is more palatable than cardboard. But Kate is doing a fine job of making breads even gluten-eating people like me gobble up. The bread we baked at my house is her Oatmeal Millet Bread. She usually makes it in a bread machine, so it was interesting to see how it would work out using my stand mixer and an oven. It turns out that when making the dough you want it to be quite stringy when coming off the paddle, and it’s much wetter and stickier than a gluten bread dough.
While it didn’t bake up tall (an error we think was due to converting for the oven) the flavor was fantastic. Moist but not gummy, and it had a sort of nutty flavor.
Kate with our finished bread