Most of us who cannot eat gluten will have tried to bake a loaf of gluten free bread at some point in our food journeys. It tends to end in one of two ways: either we create something with the texture of a brick and the taste of sawdust, or succeed in making a passable loaf of slightly cake-like bread that can be used as a missile on the second or third day after baking. The majority of us (including me!) will give up and go back to buying our loaves of bread from the supermarket. They crumble if we try to butter them, if we make a sandwich and try to lift it up it disintegrates (so we learn to pack all sandwiches in foil or plastic to hold them together as we eat), if we bite into it it dissappears in a mouthful of air and fluff, but we're desperate for a small piece of the normality that our gluten-full brethren get to enjoy on a daily basis with nary a care for the exquisite textures and flavours that they are about to devour. So we pay the crazy prices supermarkets demand for their processed starches and flour additives, and learn to accept that we will never get to eat 'real' bread again.
When the new ranges of gluten free 'sourdough' breads appeared on the market, I was overjoyed! Finally! Real Bread! Then I tried them and realised the 'sourdough' label was not much more than a marketing schtick because it was nothing like the sourdough bread I remembered eating and it pushed me over the edge and into the kitchen. Enough was enough! I would have bread! I baked loaf after loaf after loaf. Each loaf brought me one step closer to the dream, and made yet another loaf of breadcrumbs for my increasingly rotund chickens to enjoy. It was an uphill climb filled with mathematics, bizarre grains, strange techniques and gloopy pastes. Nothing that used to work for wheat bread seemed to work and the challenge was compounded by the fact that I wanted my bread to be vegan as well as gluten free! Did you know that pretty much every single gluten free loaf on the market contains egg as a binder? I blended flour after flour until eventually, I came up with a combination of 10 different whole grains and flours that gave me a loaf that was every bit as exquisite as the loaves I enjoyed in my wheat-eating days. It had a crust so crunchy you could chip your teeth, surrounding a soft and light crumb that somehow, was still edible (untoasted!) a full week after I had baked them. Fermented for days (making it wonderfully digestible), made predominantly with two of the most nutritious grains available in the west (Buckwheat and millet), with a sourdough starter innoculated with all the beneficial bacteria found in water kefir (which is renowned for its probiotic goodness). It was so delicious in fact, that I simply had to share it with as many people as I could, because everyone deserves to eat real bread! If only it was so simple...
The grains I used were organic and ground by hand by myself. Each loaf was shaped with love, scored with care, baked with painstaking attention to detail and took three days to make from start to finish. This made it incredibly expensive to produce, but I wanted to keep it as affordable as I could while still making enough to fund further product development. The final pricing structure means it is about the same price (or cheaper if you buy the bigger loaves) as those supermarket loaves I mentioned earlier, but world's apart in flavour and goodness. Yay!
The kind of product development I do requires an in-depth knowledge of non-gluten flours and how they behave, as each recipe I create uses a different balance of grains, flours and starches to achieve the final result. It's the kind of knowledge that took me years to get, but that I will be sharing with the participants on my upcoming Gluten Free Masterclass on the 21st and 22nd of January. You can find out more and book a place Here . In the meantime, I hope you'll come and visit us at the Wildcraft Bakery when we reopen on the 10th of January.
We'll also be taking part in Veganuary and holders of the Vegans of Leeds Discount Dining Card can get an exclusive 10% off their purchases at the bakery so don't forget to buy your cards at the Vegans of Leeds Website!