Until I came to Seattle, I’d only met one person in my life who had a wheat allergy. But it seems that for the past year I have heard nothing but “I don’t eat gluten.”
Is this the new fad? The new Atkins? What is up with the United States and people with allergies and food issues? Is it the same everywhere or just here?
It came up again as I was searching for recipes for my Kitchen Stories series. My friend Joaquin told me I must meet with Jenny Asarnow who bakes the best gluten-free yummies ever.
My first reaction was “gluten-free, umm, why?”
I tend to eat a lot of bread because it is easy food to find and it is filling. And so far, it didn’t seem to be hurting me.
Or maybe it was.
I had to learn more. And where else would I go but Wikipedia.
Apparently, it’s the wheat that has changed, not the people. The grain that humans ate centuries ago is not the same one we eat today. It probably is a distant cousin. The grain has been genetically modified and now we react to it differently.
For example, one of Jordan’s national foods is makmourah; layers of flat bread divided by layers of onion and meat. Traditionally the bread was made from whole wheat flour without any white flour.
But those cooking this dish in recent years have noticed that in order to be able to knead the dough as needed to make makmourah, they now need to mix in white flour in with the whole wheat because the whole wheat they used has changed; it no longer does what it used to do.
I still think that there are a lot of individuals who follow a gluten-free diet as a weight loss methodology and pass it off as a trendy wheat allergy. But there are those small segments of the population who suffer an abdominal pain, stomach problems and fatigue as a result of eating gluten.
The unfortunate part for both groups is that most of the gluten-free baked goods are just not that tasty.
But I must say that Jenny’s gluten-free sourdough bread was the exception. It turned out to be as delicious as Joaquin promised.
Here’s how she made it:
Jenny starts with the sourdough bread recipe on Gluten-Free Doctor. She usually halves the recipe. Some of these ingredients sound rare, but can be found at most grocery stores, definitely at Trader Joe’s or Madison Market:
75 grams potato starch
75 grams tapioca flour
75 grams sorghum flour
17.5 grams sweet rice flour
15 grams sugar
5 grams salt
10 grams xanthan gum
5 grams guar gum
750 grams sourdough starter, which you have already taken out of the fridge the night before (must be at room temperature)
But then, like any good baker, Jenny adds her own secret ingredients:
¼ table spoon yeast
1 table spoon egg replacement (Egg Beaters)
1 table spoon flax seed
1 table spoon honey
Mix all dry ingredients together. Then add the starter. Then add all Jenny’s extra ingredients, which she adds to make the dough more elastic and not crumble. Mix all the ingredients in a mixer at medium speed. The dough will become fluffy, almost like cake batter but not as runny. It will not be as thick and knead-able as you expect bread dough to be – which is fine because you won’t need to knead it.
Let the dough rise for six hours. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 450° F for 1.5 hours.
Jenny made thin cuts across the top of the bread and added salt and sesame seeds on top before putting the dough in the oven.
And voilà! Delicious bread with no wheat flour required!