It feels like I learn something useful from every new gluten free book baking that is published. Just when I think things are as good as they can get, someone comes along with a new technique that blows me away. That is what has happened here with Against The Grain by Nancy Cain. Ms. Cain produces a line of gluten free products and has brought that big scale knowhow to home cooks.
I thought my days of joyfully kneading bread dough were over. This photo excited me more than you can know.
The secret technique here is heat. Liquid ingredients are boiled before being added to the starch, this allows the starch to expand and mimic gluten filled flours. I have never seen this done before.
You will not find xanthum or guar gums, or even my current favorite physilium husk used here. The ingredients are all real food and many of the recipes include light buckwheat flour. This sounds easy enough, but I had a hell of a time finding light buckwheat flour. Not only do I live in a major metropolitan area, but the city next door includes a mill, the type that provides a variety of flours to customers throughout the region. Not even they had light buckwheat four. So I did the logical thing and used regular, easy to find, buckwheat flour. That did not work out well and I ended up having to toss the dough in the trash bin. Do not substitute regular buckwheat flour for the light, learn from my mistakes.
From there I turned to the interwebs. Not even the interwebs were very helpful, and it took a good amount of time to track down a source that is light, not milled on the same machines as wheat products, and can be ordered in reasonable quantities. Bouchard Family Farms in Maine is the answer. $16 for three pounds, shipping included. From Maine to Seattle took eight days to arrive. With light buckwheat flour in hand I returned to the book.
This is a big book, 400 pages with photos, and includes cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, all the sweet stuff you expect. The things I am most excited by are the chapters on flat breads and savories, these are the things I miss most and want so much to be able to replicate without gluten.
When it comes to trying recipes from a gluten free book, I also try the pie crust first, and this is where I started with Against The Grain. Much easier to make than other GF pie crust dough with a mouth feel that is pretty darn close to the gluten filled variety. The dough can actually be handled and kneaded. The rolling was done between sheets of plastic wrap as suggested, but I tested doing it with the wrap and found that it would have worked with a dusting of GF flour. Pretty amazing.
While the mouth feel and taste were really good, and the prep was a breeze, the final crust was not as pretty as it's gluten filled counterpart. It did not really brown (common for GF baked goods), was dry looking, and cracked when the pie cooled. Would those things stop me from making it again? No way. This is my new go to.
I am super excited to try more from this book. This afternoon I am going to make English Muffins, and later in the week, focaccia. I will let you know how it goes.
**This book was provided to me by the publisher. No money changed hands and my opinions are my own.**