Thursday, March 31, 2011

This week's experiments: Teff Carob Dessert Breads

This week's experiments included my favorite, Teff Carob Coconut Bread made in a muffin tin and mini loaf. The starter was a bit soupy so the breads were a bit heavy but the taste was still excellent. On the plus side the muffins didn't need the usual requisite toasting so I could grab them for the ride to work without having to toast.

Teff Carob Coconut Mini Loaf and Standard loaf slice

Teff Carob Coconut Muffins

The possibility of making a gluten-free sourdough cake, while staying within the parameters of my pure food standards, has been floating around my mind for a few months. Tapioca has some good potential cake properties so I added a hefty amount of it to a 2 cups of Teff starter.

I used an angel food pan and was pleasantly surprised. Besides being a bit rubbery, the finished product had a lovely flavor, a nice texture, and good crumb. This recipe has great potential. To reduce the rubbery-ness I will lessen the amount of teff flour and add some more oil.

The top was crusty and the bottom was nice like cake. I may need to cover the pan as it bakes.

If I achieve the texture I'm hoping for I hope I can double or triple the recipe and get a standard size cake in the angel food pan that is light enough to lift itself for proper rise. Will report back after my next trial.

Teff Tapioca Bread/Cake - Nice crumb!

Teff Tapioca Bread/Cake rising in an angel food pan

Teff Tapioca Bread/Cake with a crusty top

Teff Tapioca Bread/Cake with a nice cakey bottom

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gluten-Free Sourdough Crackers

I have been working on cracker experiments for the better part of a year. I was able to get a nice looking product that even tasted fairly well only to have the crispiness turn into tough cardboard a few hours later. The birds feasted in the compost after each experiment.

I feel very sure my commitment to using a sourdough technique as well as only whole grain flours (no starch flours) has made this project more challenging. If I used chemical leaveners like baking soda/powder or thickeners like xanthan/guar gum I probably would have developed an excellent cracker recipe shortly after I started experimenting. But I don't give up easily...and I like a good puzzle.

I needed to use up a bunch of leftover home ground flours left from last baking session and thought I'd try the crackers one more time. I made my starter from leftover potato cooking water and the mish-mash of leftover flours. I had also wanted to work some more with coconut flour in my gluten-free sourdough baking. I got out my coconut flour cookbook and reread about its properties and found its high protein content absorbs more moisture than a low protein flour. I wondered if this would help improve the cardboard-y results.

It worked really well! The coconut allowed the dough to be rolled out very easily and the crackers cooked through! They were crispy right out of the oven and stayed crispy for a few hours. They still got a bit soft over the course of that day, however.

I talked to my friend, and videographer, Peggy, who is experienced in using a dehydrator for various raw foods. She explained the concepts of dehydration to me, warm air blown around by a fan. She suggested I bake the crackers for a period of time at a regular temperature to get most of the moisture out and then use the dehydration concept for a second period of baking. I have a convection setting on my oven and decided to use it at a low setting to take out the rest of the excess moisture to produce really crispy crackers.

Before my next batch I hunted around the internet looking for gluten-free cracker recipes and found a great blogger, Fresh4Five, using ground seeds and nuts in her cracker recipes.

I tried another batch with the addition of a small amount of ground sunflower seeds along with the coconut flour and together these improved the crackers to the next success point! They were a bit more dense, rolled out easily, cooked through, and were really crispy out of the oven. I tested them every few hours and they continued to be crispy! (Because I was the only taste-tester I ate more crackers over the last 2 days than I have in the last 5 years.)

I tried storing them in three different ways, 1. in the open air, 2. in a plastic bag, and 3. in a cloth in a barely covered plastic container, the way I store all my gluten-free sourdough breads. I just taste-tested them and found they are all still crispy but the one in the plastic bag is the best because it is slightly more crispy than the others.

So now I have my work cut out for me: further develop these cracker recipes, using a variety of flours in the gluten-free sourdough starters, figure out the best cooking and convection/dehydration times and temperatures, and...oh, yes...the many possibilities of flavors...(recipe to follow when perfected)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sourdough Bread #1 + Starter recipe

Sourdough Bread #1

This was my first successful gluten free bread. It has wonderful taste and texture, freezes well and has a long shelf life. It is a rather dense bread and although I happily ate if for 2 years I now prefer Sourdough Bread #2 and Sourdough Bread #3, from my book because they have a lighter, spongier texture. I have gotten mixed feedback from people about this recipe. Some have easy success with it and others find it less than dependable. The last time I made it, it was perfect!

Yield: 1 loaf Prep time: 20 minutes Rise Time: 7-24 hours
Baking Time: 350 for 60-75 minutes

1 cup Boosted Brown rice starter
1 ½ cups room temperature filtered water
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup sorghum flour
½ cup chick pea flour
½ cup potato flour (not potato starch)
½ cup tapioca flour

Measure flours into a bowl and whisk together
Measure starter into mixer bowl
Add water and salt and stir to dissolve salt
Add dry flour mix to starter mixture and using an electric mixer, mix on low speed for 15-20 seconds until spongy. You can also mix by hand and do some simple finger kneading at the end to make it all come together
Do not overmix!
With a spatula gently push dough into oiled loaf pan
Use a hard spatula or potato masher to gently press into pan being careful to preserve sponginess of dough
Smooth top with hard spatula
Let rise 12-24 hours in cool oven or other warm place without drafts
The longer the rise, the better the texture
Bake at 325-350 for 60-75 minutes
Test for doneness using a skewer. The skewer should go into the bread evenly and come out mostly clean
Cool the bread in the pan on a rack
Remove from pan after at least 30 minutes
When completely cool, store either on the counter wrapped in a cloth and set in an uncovered plastic container or in the refrigerator in a cloth and covered
Freezes very well. Great toasted after freezing

Boosted Brown Rice Starter
Gluten free, Casein free

Prep time: 5 minutes
Fermentation time: 3-4 days

Start with one cup of brown rice flour and put it in a ceramic or glass bowl
Pour in slightly less than one cup of water and whisk smooth
Add 1-2 tablespoons of water kefir (water kefir recipe below)and whisk again
Cover with a cloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band
Leave it on the counter away from drafts or extreme temperatures

Feed the starter, with 1/3-1/2 cup of flour and little less water, roughly every 8 hours, 3 times a day, for a total of four days, whisking smooth and covering. If you know you won't be able to feed it after 8 hours, put it in the refrigerator after feeding. You won't have to feed it for another 12 hours if it's in the fridge.

After two days put the starter in a clean bowl and continue feeding. (change the bowl so that the dried out starter that clings to the sides of the bowl stays out of the living starter)

After about 48 hours the starter should show signs of viability.
If you don’t see any bubbles or hilling you can add another tablespoon of water kefir

By the third day you should see small bubbles especially during stirring

By the fourth day you may see bubbles of different sizes and there may be a hissing, bubbling sound when they come up from the bottom of the bowl

It should take about 4 days for a brand new starter to be ready for cooking. It may take less time in warm weather and more time in cold weather. With a little practice you will get to know when your starter is ready.

You can store a small amount of starter, ¼ - ½ cup, in the refrigerator for next time. Feed it every 2 weeks by taking it out of the refrigerator, letting it come to room temperature, feed it with a small amount of flour and water, whisk and refrigerate again.

If you plan to make sourdough products a few times a week you may want to use an ongoing starter kept at room temperature on the counter. When you’re ready to cook/bake, remove a small amount ¼ - ½ cup of starter and put it in a clean bowl. Feed 2-3 times a day with roughly equal amounts of flour and water and whisk smooth. Cover and set it aside to continue fermenting. This will be your starter for your next batch. Proceed with your recipe with the remaining starter.

Free Starter Recipe Download

Water Kefir for Boosted Brown Rice Starter
(water kefir is the booster for Brown Rice Starter)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Fermentation time: 2-4 days

2-3 tablespoons Water Kefir grains (purchase from Cultures for Health)
2 tablespoons sugar (I find organic dark sugar works the best, but any sugar works)
20 raisins (or a comparable amount of figs or prunes)
1 quart of filtered or spring water
1 slice of lemon

Nearly fill a wide mouth quart jar with water.
Add 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring to dissolve, 20 raisins and a slice of lemon or lime.
Add the water kefir grains to the jar or if this is your first batch add the contents of your bottle of water kefir grains into the quart jar.
Cover with a paper towel or cloth and secure with a rubber band.
When raisins float to the top, after around 24 hours, use a nonmetal tool and scoop the raisins and the lemon slice out and discard.
Ferment the water kefir for 6-12 more hours on the counter with the paper towel.
Then store, covered, in fridge and use as needed.
When you have used the liquid down to about an inch in the jar start a new batch in a new jar and pour the water kefir grains plus the liquid their in right into the new jar, cover and ferment.
Lasts about 1 month

To replenish:
Use up the water kefir to about an inch of water kefir and water kefir grains left in the jar.
When you are ready to make a new batch just a fill a clean jar with 1 quart of water, add sugar and dissolve, add the last inch of water kefir and water kefir grains, trying to get all the grains into the new batch. Add fruit, cover and let ferment.

Other uses for Water Kefir:
tonic, a small amount through the day
supplies lactobacillus and serves as an inoculant for lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, chutneys 2 Tablespoons per quart -2 cups for 2 gallon crock
soaking grains before cooking (2 Tablespoons) predigests and increases availability of enzymes and B vitamins
soaking beans before cooking (2 Tablespoons) predigests and increases availability of enzymes and B vitamins