Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gluten-Free Madness

Due to a recent medical issue, my doctor has placed me on a temporary, but very restrictive diet. Most of the restrictions are quite easy to handle. All but one...gluten! Gluten-rich products have been my best friends for years and, for a short period of time, I must give them a rest.

Gluten is most commonly found in products containing wheat. I know that these days it is a heck of a lot easier, for those on gluten-free diets, to find a plethora of foods to eat. However, most of these products try to mimic the properties of wheat by using substitutions to produce foods like cakes, cookies, crackers, and more importantly, bread. In order to imitate the consistency and texture of these foods, strange additives, e.g. xanthum gum, are often included in recipes.

In reading my blog, I'm sure that you know by now that I've have never been a fan of additives, chemicals, and the like. So, I have been trying to use natural grains and ingredients that are commonly used in the traditional cooking of other cultures. In my search, I have found a wide array of flours, other than wheat-based flour, made from grains, seeds, nuts and even vegetables. Some of these gluten-free flours are made from the following:
- quinoa
- corn (a.k.a. maize)
- chickpea (a.k.a. garbanzo bean, gram, or besan)
- almond
- chestnut
- tapioca (a.k.a. cassava or yucca)
- millet
- potato
- etc.

Making bread out of the above ingredients has been quite the task. Making good-tasting bread has been an even tougher task. (Most taste like cardboard.) I had a eureka moment one day, when I decided to use the following two ingredients:

White rice flour

White rice flour is derived from polished white rice. It has a powdery consistency, much like cornstarch or icing sugar.

Buckwheat flour

Contrary to its name, buckwheat is derived from a plant related to rhubarb and contains no wheat at all. It has a dark, grainy texture and is available in kernels, groats and powdered form.

For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

1/2 cup buckwheat flour 
1/2 cup white rice flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

4 teaspoons olive oil 
3/4 cup water

This type of bread is considered a "quick bread", as it does not require the need for yeast.

To make it, follow these easy steps:
- Mix all of the dry ingredients together
- Add the oil and water to the mixture
- Quickly transfer the batter to an oiled loaf pan (use a little bit of olive oil to grease the pan)
- Bake at 375 F for 35 minutes

The result will be a dark loaf resembling the crumbly texture of Irish soda bread. It has a wonderful nutty-artisan quality and, when it's baking, it fills the room with a familiar and tantalizing bread scent.

I practically ate half the loaf in one sitting. (Take that comment with a grain of salt. I have been deprived for quite some time!)

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