It all started with my friend, Ashley. You could, in fact, call her my gluten-free muse! You see, Ashley follows a gluten-free and vegan lifestyle (which, as Meghan is fond of saying, has cured an incurable disease – Crohn’s). And when you are vegan and gluten-free, you can have some challenges around finding versions of your former favourite foods. One of these for Ashley, was bread. She could find breads she could eat at our amazing local health food stores, but they were often expensive. Or full of things like ‘potato starch’. And when you started out eating lovely unrefined whole grains, why would you want to switch over to white bread substitutes?
Enter my quest. I decided that for Christmas (way back in 2009 – this has been a long quest), I was going to make an Ash-friendly loaf of gluten-free bread. How hard could it be? I knew how to bake sourdough and all-whole-grain-no-scary-ingredients bread from scratch. And I got consistently good results with whole-wheat flour along with additions of oats, quinoa, seeds – it was good bread. It made me happy, and so I needed to be able to share that with Ashley.
So off I went to the trusty internet in search of a gluten-free bread recipe.
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather, I was so surprised with what I found.
#1 – lots of recipes that were mimicking white bread. They included less-than-nutritious ingredients like tapioca starch, potato starch, and even commercial bread mixes as their main ingredients. No thank you.
#2 – Eggs. Eggs. Eggs, and more eggs. A lot of gluten-free recipes called for up to 6 eggs per loaf! That’s not bread, that’s cake. WOW. And if you’re vegan, eggs aren’t going to cut it. I also chose to leave out other non-vegan ingredients like butter, buttermilk, milk, and gelatin.
#3 – SCARY INGREDIENTS. Ok, so “xanthan gum” and “guar gum” are naturally-derived plant gums, so they must be healthy and good for you, right? Well… not so much. In my quest to figure out these gums (having never needed them before!), I googled “xanthan gum”. And you know how google does that magical auto-complete thing? It offered me “xanthan gum side effects” as a search option. I thought these might be hokey websites, but the links were to credible sites like WebMD, where I learned that people with digestive disorders (hi, most people that choose to go gluten-free) are extra susceptible to getting side effects from xanthan gum and guar gum that cause digestive distress.WHAT!?! This seemed ridiculous to me, so I was determined to make a bread without gums. And while I was at it, I was going to leave out all other other things that have no place in bread: gelatin, locust bean gum, psyllium husk or pectin. Not in my bread, thankyouverymuch.
So, I had to effectively start from scratch to find bread recipes that worked. After a whole lot of experimenting, (wherein I learned that even if you haven’t made delicious gluten-free bread, you’ve always got breadcrumbs), I came up with a few recipes that I am tremendously happy with. Not just as gluten-free breads, but as breads. These recipes make the most of the incredible (and individual!) flavours inherent in all of the gluten-free grains and seeds: chickpea flour, millet, flax, buckwheat, quinoa! YUM!!! I have to say that I crave the Quinoa & Flax Seed Gluten-Free Bread (and the vegan version I do in my classes) with hummus and sprouts every week, and I think this is the best pita I’ve ever made (that just happens to be gluten-free).
When I started sharing my recipes and stories with my classes, I got resounding head nods and shouted agreement with my frustration at the price, availability, and taste of the commercial gluten-free breads on the market today. And I think everyone deserves the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven… and slicing into it, and topping it with your favourite treat (Lemony Hummus? Maple squash butter? The homemade “notella” chocolate & hazelnut spread or olive tapenade we do in class?) and EATING BREAD. Yes.
And since I’ve started teaching these classes, I’ve discovered a few other benefits.
#1 – It’s teaching AND performing at the same time. My two favourite things, besides food. And it’s teaching about food, so we’ve got that covered.
#2 – I get Kitchen Fairies!
#3 – I get to let out any frustrations with multi-grain pita dough:
#4 — And explain myself with really important hand gestures:
(This is all about dough. Seriously, you don’t want to miss out on the hand gestures!)
#5 — I also get to cover an entire loft with flour, and then go home!!
#6 — You get to eat bread!!!! Real, delicious, whole-grain, gluten-free and vegan bread that you can make in your own kitchen!
So… Let them eat bread!
For more pics from past workshops, visit Linday's blog Kitchen Operas.
Question of The Day: What is your favourite kind of Gluten-Free bread?