Sunday, September 30, 2007

In search of good bread

It's been a while since I've posted...this month totally got away from me! For the past few weeks, the day job has been bruising, some family visitation occurred, and I was taking a photography class that took up a lot of brain space rather than time. It left the Food Allergy Queen curled up in the fetal position on the couch with the clicker. But oh well, we all end up in the same place at the end. Still hungry! :)

For those of us allergic to gluten (the protein in wheat and other grains), the daily temptation of wheat-based baked goods is really a struggle. They are all around, slowly creeping up on us like zombies out of a bad horror movie. Moist blueberry muffins! Chocolate chip cookies! Crispy panini sandwiches! Pop Tarts! auuuuugggghhhh. Personally, what I miss the most as the FAQ is really good bread (and butter too, but that's a separate topic). Great bread is a work of art as important as the Mona Lisa. Come to think of it, man can live without art, but not without bread...I'm getting dramatic for comedic effect, but you get my point. If I have any say in the matter, my very last meal on the planet would consist of Caesar salad, a brilliant dry-aged steak, hot chocolate souffle, coffee and Acme Bakery bread and butter (See Jan 07 post on Zuni Cafe where my first taste of Acme Bakery bread happened). I would go in a blaze of anaphylactic misery, but I was going anyway, right? I LOVE bread and butter. I'd almost rather have it than dessert. (Almost, but not quite. It's a pretty close call, actually, depending on whether the dessert was chocolate or not, but I digress.)

There are lots of gluten-free breads out there. The ones with rice flour I understand seem to be the best. There are oat breads, spelt breads, sprouted-grain Ezekiel bread (yummy) and all kinds of other grains that I can't have either. The trouble with most gluten-free bread substitutes for me is the texture. It's INCREDIBLY difficult to duplicate that chewy, soft-yet-firm texture that gluten provides to baked goods. Xanthan and guar gums provide some chewiness in most gluten-free recipes, but still it's not the same.

In the past, I've sampled Bob's Red Mill GF (gluten-free) bread, which is made with garbanzo and fava bean flour (some call it "garfava", which cracks me up) in addition to other flours. While it has the best texture, it has a "beany" flavor and very odd smell when it bakes. If I require a firm bread for a sandwich, I would use this one because you can slice it thinly. But I'm not terribly fond of it.

My usual baking cookbook standby, The Gluten-Free Kitchen by Roben Ryberg has been the best I've found so far for taste and texture in baked goods. She uses potato flour and corn starch as the base in her recipes, and the flavor is much much better (if blander) than other cookbooks. However, the standard white bread recipe in here just didn't work for me. I don't remember specifically why, I just remember being disappointed. However, because most of her recipes are still MUCH better than other food allergy cookbooks, I was confident to order from Miss Roben's online store Allergy In addition to a wide variety of allergy-friendly premade foods, the store offers custom-designed mixes, and today I tried the Potato Bread Mix.

The verdict? Light, with an airy, cakey texture. Bland. Not bad, just bland. With it, I made the first peanut butter and jelly sandwich I've had in a year, and was underwhelmed. I think I'll putter around with the ingredients listed to see if I can come up with a recipe as textural as Bob's with the clean taste of Miss Robens. But I miss that chewy, luxurious texture and mouthfeel most of all. *sigh*

So there it is. Another adventure, another "eh". If anyone has found a great gluten-free white bread recipe without rice flour, please share! In the meanwhile, I'll keep searching. It'll be my Holy Grail. Just hopefully without a Killer Rabbit (it's a Monty Python joke for those of you keeping score).


Anonymous said...

Hello FA Queen,

Welcome back... such a wonderful re entry... interesting post...thank you for sharing..

Linilla said...

I haven't found rice breads to be good either! But then, I am allergic to yeast so I have pretty much give up on finding appealing bread. I sometimes make a cornbread but that's not good for sandwiches.

Like you, I cannot eat wheat, cow dairy, soy, gluten, tomatoes, citrus, and peaches. I am also allergic to all molds (yeast, mushrooms, etc.), black pepper, black tea, white fish, white beans, flax oil, coconut, peanuts, and many spices. And yet I eat enough to have a weight problem!

Food Allergy Queen said...

Hi Linilla, I was thinking if you can't have yeast you can still have fruit breads (banana, date) because they're leavened with baking soda. But it would definitely make for a weird BLT. As far as the weight problem goes, I'll bet when you nail down your diet you'll whittle down. I found that when I had a weight issue it was due more to inflammation from allergies than anything else! Good luck. The FAQ.

Erin said...

I'm so glad my husband found this site for me. I just found out Friday that I'm allergic to 33 things. Like everyone here so far, I'm allergic to wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, and yeast. I am also allergic to eggs, vanilla, and chocolate though too!! Ugh! French Meadow Bakery makes a great yeast free bread that I love, but it's unfortunately not wheat or gluten free. So, I guess when you add no eggs to list you can just kiss any baked good good-bye right!

This is going to take some adjusting for sure.