Friday, February 29, 2008

Breatharian Revisited

Our foods, like our lives, are works in progress. Nothing is static, at least not for long. And being an inveterate tweaker, I'm constantly playing with the variables. One of the beauties of hanging out on food lists is that there are other food geeks who love to tweak as much as I do. They often come up with ideas that jump start me off in a new direction or affirm the germ of an idea that has been fermenting in the back of my mind.

A few months ago, one of those tweakers mentioned cold ferments in relation to sourdough breads. I had noticed that when I keep my starter in the refrigerator, not only do I not have to feed it as frequently, it also doesn't taste as...well...sour. Don't get me wrong. I like a tangy bread. But then, I have other aesthetics to please. The ones that are shorter than me. What can I say? They outnumber me. sour sourdough. Got it. So I keep my starter in the refrigerator. But TLS was talking about keeping the whole thing in the refrigerator. All the time. It took me a while before I could wrap my brain around it. Sometimes the gluten/gluten-free barrier makes my brain shut down.

Then I decided why not? Let's cook dangerously. I started making up my bread the night before and just shoving it in the refrigerator until the morning. Then I'd pull it out, pop it into the oven at 100* for a couple of hours or until it rose to my satisfaction and baked as usual. Good bread. Really, really good bread.

Then a few weeks ago, she recommended this book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. And I'd like to recommend it as well. Just let me say up front, it's a bread book. And it isn't gluten-free. But this book has a fine attention to detail. As I read through the book, I found myself nodding in agreement, because my experience in the kitchen confirmed what they were instructing. But they've written it down in such a way that organizes it and explains everything, including how to adjust the bread in order to change the texture in the final product. They talk about "slack" dough making a better crumb than a dough that must be kneaded by hand. And guess what, Breatharian? Gluten free dough is best when it is slack, so this entire idea is well suited to the gluten free bread.

They spend a couple of pages talking about how wetter doughs will yield a "custard" crumb, which is a desirable texture in bread. I can avow and affirm that this is indeed true and, while they attribute this quality to the gluten in the bread, I can also avow and affirm that gluten free bread is able to achieve its own "custard" crumb. Perhaps not to the gluten-oriented palate, but to the Breatharian one, the texture is heavenly. All of the Hobbits, including the tallest one whose palate still bears the memory-taint of gluten, noticed and commented on the marked difference in the quality of the bread after doing a long rise, cold ferment. Bug pulled out a slice of day-old bread and inquired, "Did you bake this today?" Poking an inquiring finger into the slice, I felt it give under my finger, then spring back. "Nope. But it sure feels like I did." He spread ghee on it and devoured it without even considering toasting it. How many gluten free breads can you say that about?

In the past year, since the Glutenator laid the groundwork for the sourdough bread and made me believe gluten-free sourdough was possible, I've been tweaking the basic recipe to improve the texture and longevity of the loaf. The Glutenator once observed that Martha Washington's recipes called for a great deal of eggs...many more eggs than contemporary recipes require. She theorized a couple of reasons for this: 1) everyone raised chickens and eggs were ubiquitous and 2) wheat flour of the day was lower in gluten than current strains of wheat.

Building on the theory that more eggs provides more structure for flours that have less gluten, I've added more egg whites to my recipe. Also, having discovered a much cheaper source for guar gum, I'm adding it with abandon to my recipes. Both of these do wonderful things for improving the texture of the bread.

I'm experimenting with the outer limit of how long a loaf of bread can rise in the refrigerator before the yeast cycle is exhausted. Hertzberg and Francois recommend no longer than five days for a gluten bread and I'm theorizing that a gluten-free bread would probably not sustain itself for that long. Currently, I've allowed bread to ferment for up to 48 hours and still turned out a very successful loaf. I've been trying working toward finding the exhaustion point, but it is difficult to stay that far ahead of the Hobbit appetite. But still I try...

Almost Everything Free Sourdough Bread (v. 2.0)


2 cups gluten-free flour
2 cups kefir-fermented apple juice

Mix thoroughly and let stand for 24 hours.

In a bowl, measure out:

1/2 cup tapioca starch flour
1/2 cup potato starch flour
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 teaspoons guar gum

In a mixer, whip up 6 egg whites until frothy.

Into the meringue, pour:

1/3 cup olive oil
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 cups sourdough starter

Mix in dry ingredients. This yields a rather thin batter for a bread. It will be about the consistency of toothpaste, but not spreading out with the ease of pancake batter. Pour into bread pan and return to the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight. Remove to a warm oven to rise. The dough may have a skin on top of it. I judge that the bread has risen sufficiently when the skin has stretched to cracking around the edges and the dough underneath takes on a more liquid appearance. Bake at 350* for 1 hour or until done.

This is a book well worth peeking in to. I've got my eye on a few recipes in it that might just be tweakable for a Breatharian. Tool Guy has been yearning for foccaccia and reminisces about the batches we used to buy at the farmer's market up the road from us. It just might happen, Guy.

It will take an experienced eye to be able to sort out the tips and techniques that the Breatharian can use and those that are specific only to gluten bread, but it is well worth playing around with and doing some of your own cooking dangerously. Let's hear it for the food geeks who sit around and email each other with their latest discoveries and inspirations! Thanks, TLS!


Anonymous said...

Do you know of any way to also make this egg free??? I would love to make this for my little one but he also needs it to be egg free for IgG allergy reasons.
Thanks in advance!!

Loztnausten said...

Ouch! Eggs are a hard ingredient to lose when tweaking baking. :( I've done it somewhat with the pear butter muffins, but I've never tried bread. I used gelatin concentrate or flax meal with water, but these work as binders and not as leavening agents. The end result is a rather heavy baked good. Ener-G's Egg Replacer *might* help things out. I was never able to experiment with it, because it has corn derivatives in it and corn was out for us very early on. If you decide to do some of your own "cooking dangerously" with it, please report back about how it turned out...I'd be excited to know if it worked!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick response. Also, what is kefir fermented apple juice?

Loztnausten said...

You happen to be catching me in a slow week. Last week was another story. ;)

The fermented apple juice is juice that has been allowed to sit for 24 hours (or more) with kefir grains in it as a fermenter. I've got the details on how to do it using coconut milk here:

The same principle applies to apple juice and it imparts all of the nice yeasts into the flour for making sourdough.

Anonymous said...

Easy on the guar gum. It can do a number on your intestines! Loosening them up, that is!

Xantham doesn't have that effect. It is more expensive, and you need very little of it.

Anonymous said...

Well, for my dangerous cooking based on this recipe was a 50% flop. That is, it grew with passion, deflated after cooling to the original size of the batter, and tasted pretty good! From a vertical bread pan, we had a good 5 inch loaf.

My "dangerous" ideas were using my GF sourdough sponge (2 cups of the deflated sponge), 2 cups Bob's Red Mill GF Baking Mix and 4 tsp sugar. It jumped to 95 yesterday, and even at 78-80 inside, the "proof" doubled in a few hours, more than filling an med size glass (8 cup) bowl. I knocked this down, and saved a bit (3/4 cup?) as my starter. WOW, sugar adds a lot of poof!

I then switched to your recipe, and whipped my eggs. Great idea. The whole mix half filled my large mixing bowl. I thought about baking it in a regular pan, and decided to use my bread machine. (It's an old machine with basic cycles. I put it on Basic Dark and ran it without the paddle.) Within 1.5 hours, it was overflowing my pan (just as the final "rise" began). 20 min of cleanup, and back into the machine the pan went. 1 hour and 45 min to go before its done!

We got back within minutes of the machine finishing the cycle. Much to my surprise, it had overflowed AGAIN (just barely), and had caved on cooling. Oh well.

"Tidying up" was fun. Once it came out (the rim overflow had to be broken off first because it was baked almost to burning), the bread obviously couldn't be cooled inverted. I cut off the part of the cave, and inverted the loaf part to cool.

Ah...warm sourdough. The children and I thoroughly enjoyed spreading butter on the "rejected cave" and devouring them.

Great crust. Good structure. Not white like "conventional" sourdough, because GF flour isn't white and neither are egg yolks!

I'm going to make SD rolls tonight. I need to figure out a more "conventional" bread like structure so moisture isn't a huge problem. The SD sponge is very moist on its own!

Great ideas in Ver 2!

To great bread ~


Loztnausten said...

ML, thanks for the caution on the guar gum. It doesn't seem to raise any reactions, unlike xanthan gum, which is a corntaminated product.

I'm *thrilled* to hear about your excursion into cooking dangerously! I've never assayed doing this in a bread machine, so you're breaking new ground. Go, girl! :)

Anonymous said...

could there be an acceptable substitute for the apple juice? we have no kefir grains here...but also no fermented dairy issues, though i'm guessing straight milk kefir would be too thick?

Loztnausten said...

Jenn, if you can do dairy, then let your kefir do a secondary ferment (without the grains) on your counter until there is a complete separation between the solids and liquids. Use the resulting liquid whey instead of kefirred juice. Since you don't have grains, I'm not sure if store bought kefir will separate to provide whey. Many commerical kefirs have thickeners in them to prevent separation.

Sandor Katz has a technique for catching wild bacteria to make sourdough in his book _Wild Fermentation_ that might be worth a try. I was too impatient and latched on to the juice kefir idea. ::rueful grin::


Anonymous said...

ok, so can i just feed the remaining 2/3 cup starter i somehow have left (i'm not good at math...not sure how that works out) vs. starting a "new" starter everytime (obtaining 2 cups whey on a regular basis won't be too cost effective...i'll have to look into apple juice kefir otherwise)? ...not only am i new to gf but new to sourdough. double whammy!

very excited...tomorrow's the big day. ;)

Loztnausten said...

Save some starter from each batch...and it doesn't need to be much, a tablespoon or two will do. Just dump in new flour with the dab of starter, add water until desired consistency and Bob's your uncle! It's much more cost effective and your ferment will become more vigorous.

Keep me posted on how it turns out! :)

Jennifer said...

This bread was absolutely delicious. We've been gf/df/cf/sf and almost everything-else-free for about 2 years now and I can't tell you how much we enjoyed breaking out our bread knife for real! Best yet, the bread stayed tasty and excellently textured for over a week.

I used coconut milk kefir, which made it extra rich and may be why it lasted so long. It didn't rise so much, but I'm pretty sure that's a fault of our terrible oven and not the batter.

Congratulations and best of luck on your other experiments!

Loztnausten said...

I'm ecstatic that this bread turned out so well for you! And, yes, I'm similarly thrilled at how well it keeps. I've not tried coconut milk kefir and am intrigued by the idea. It's quite possible that the additional fats that the coconut milk provides kept the bread so moist for you.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jennifer said...

I usually have some coconut milk kefir around so that was the obvious choice for us. It also makes the bread so rich that it doesn't need butter. Ironically, though, our daughter is a fan of the tangy sour rice bread by "Food For Life" and won't touch this version. Go figure. We started her on a traditional diet from the start, so she's a big fan of fatty, sharp and savory foods, which I'm pleased at, but then, we get to eat more of this yummy bread, too. Give the kid meat, eggs and sauerkraut at nearly any meal and she's happy.

Thanks again for the great bread recipe!

Anonymous said...

Ok...I think I am going to brave this in the next week. What type of GF flour do you recommend or what types are suitable for this recipe for the starter? And, I have some dairy kefir grains but no extras to put in apple can I use what I have and put it in apple juice and then transfer it back to dairy or is it a once used in juice must always stay in juice kind of thing? Thanks. And thank you so much for this blog. Suzette

Loztnausten said...

Teff is a flour that I highly recommend as a starter, since it has the lacto-bacilli "magnetic" properties of rye flour without the gluten. You don't have to use all teff, but it would be good to mix in with whatever other flours you're planning on using.

I've never played with putting grains back into milk after juice, but it might be possible.

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the kind words! :)

lissybeth said...

I'm trying to make this for this first time and have a question-- what is potato starch flour? I have potato flour and potato starch, but perplexed as to which one to use. Don't want to mess this up. :)

Thanks so much!

Loztnausten said...

Potato starch and potato flour are two different things and you'll get two very different results from them. Potato flour is simply flour made from dried potatoes. Potato starch flour is made from the starch fraction of the potato. Much the same difference as corn flour and corn starch. The starch is a much lighter powder. Wiki has a good explanation:

HTH! and thanks for visiting!

lissybeth said...

I'm a newbie to traditional food prep and baking bread too. Last night I baked my first loaf and it was delicious! I have to admit that I swelled with a bit of pride as I took the first bite and gave some to hubby who loved it as well. I think I can do this! TF cooking seems to have me in the kitchen non-stop, making mess of each and every crevice, but it's SO worth it! :)

Question about the bread, is there any way to keep the starter preserved until I'm ready to make another batch of bread or do I need to mix it with another batch of flour right away? I'd rather not be baking bread everyday if I don't have to, at the same time I don't want to lose my starter.


Loztnausten said...

Woohoo! Let's hear it for successes! They keep us plugging away in the kitchen, mining for more, right? :) You earned that swell of pride!

I store my starter in the fridge and have gone three or four days without using it and still had it do well. Longer than that might need a bit of "feeding"...a couple of tablespoons of flour with some water and it will continue to be good to go. Keeping in the fridge keeps it from becoming overly sour, as well.

Thanks for reporting back about how it worked for you!

Anonymous said...

Omg! I am so happy I stumbled upon this... That said, as a diabetic I am supposed to avoid starches altogether, heh heh, especially potato starch, sigh! (I LOVE potatoes!) Also, I am half convinced that fiber is evil, so I am mentally trying to figure out if this is high fiber or low fiber.
Anyway, do starches get converted during fermentation? Or is this bread just not for diabetics? (Believe me, I plan to try it anyway, lol!)