There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
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This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gluten-free Crusty Boule and Gluten-free Cheddar and Sesame Crackers (26 of 42)

Well, not to drop names or anything, but one of the highpoints of this fortnight was when da Girlz and I had lunch with Iron Chef Michael Symon.  We met up at Lucky's Cafe in the Tremont area of Cleveland.  Lucky's is a great place with great food.  It has been featured on Diner's Drive-ins, and Dives.  Their Reuben is particularly special--they corn their own beef, make their own sauerkraut and sauce, and bake their own rye bread.  My saintly wife and I split a Reuben, and also split a Cuban sandwich, which was wonderful as well.  Our peeps split the Mac and Cheese, still being young enough to think their arteries are immortal.

And what can I say about Michael!  Well, actually, not much.  We did not exactly sit together.  Or talk.  But he was definitely THERE when we walked in.  He did leave right after we got there, but I am pretty sure he did not leave only because we came in.    Anyway, his aura certainly lingered with us during our lunch.  And really, that whole space/time continuum thing is  just a human construct to help us understand our place in the universe.  So, as I said, da Girlz and I had lunch with Iron Chef Michael Symon.

As for the assignment, we are back to baking gluten-free again.  It is not that we do not use flour, it is that we do not use wheat flour.  Instead, these breads use brown rice flour, sorghum flour, and tapioca flour.  As a stand-in for the gluten, we use a "gum," in my case guar gum because it was cheaper than the xanthan gum called for in the recipe.  Rather than making a whole batch, since we only had to make one loaf and some crackers, I made a half batch.  That is one of the (many) nice aspects of the AB/HB in 5 method, you can easily adjust the size of your batch to suit your needs. 

When I made gluten-free dough for previous assignments the dough was very wet, almost like a batter.  This dough was better, though still soft and sticky.  I mixed it, let it rise, and then refrigerated it overnight.  Next day, I formed the loaf, using wet hands instead of flour, and let it rise in my duct-tape couche.  I baked it in my cast iron pot, covered for 2/3 of the time, then uncovered.

I think it baked up pretty nicely.  There was a good crust, and a nice crumb.  As before, I noticed a sheen to the inside of the holes in the bread, perhaps due to the gum?  

The overall texture was different than wheat bread, softer or more tender, but not in a "Wonder Bread" kind of way, more dry rather than doughy.  Obviously, this texture difference was due to the lack of gluten.
All and all, this was one of my better efforts at baking gluten-free bread. 

As for the crackers, not so much.

The recipe called for rolling the dough out on a silicone mat to a thickness of 1/16 of an inch after covering the dough with plastic wrap to prevent sticking.  Did that.  Then we were to CAREFULLY score the dough with a pizza cutter (carefully so as to not cut the mat).  Did that.

 Then, we brushed it with water (I spritzed), sprinkled with sesame seeds (I used black sesame seeds), and baked it at 400 for 15 minutes.  Did that. 

 Well, rolling to an even 1/16th of an inch is easier said than done, as the picture attests.  I got a thinner area in the middle, which over-browned (burned) well before the rest was done.  And the score lines vanished.   Disappeared without a trace.  Without the scoring I just broke the sheet into free-form crackers, took off the overdone parts, and finished baking the rest.
Though my peeps ate all the free-form crackers, their free form lending a nice casual flair to the occasion,  was not happy with the results.

Now 1/16th of an inch is not very thick.  I wandered the house with my trusty caliper, measuring things. 

A thin bamboo skewer is twice that thick, about 1/8th of an inch.  So is the cardboard on a box from Amazon.  A compact  disc is about 1/16th of an inch.  And so, too, are two of those big rubber bands you get around celery and asparagus and broccoli. So I put some of those rubber bands on the ends of my rolling pin.  (Because I had to stretch them a bit to get them on, I used 3 on each side.)

Then I rolled away.  I used less dough, about half what was called for, to make it easier to work with.  The dough had gotten wetter as it sat, and that combined with the absence of gluten made it very easy to roll out.  I spread the dough on my silicone mat, covered it with plastic wrap, and rolled away.  It was slicker 'n snot!  It rolled out very evenly.
 I did not score the dough right then, I just sprinkled it with seeds and popped it into the oven for 5 minutes.  THEN I quickly ran my pizza cutter lightly over the dough to score it.  Then back in the oven to finish baking.   This worked much better--the scoring did not disappear since the dough had set a bit.

 The crackers baked very evenly, and turned out well.  The only change I would make would be to perhaps bake them a bit longer than I did, but I was a little gun-shy after the over-baked (burned) fiasco of my first effort.


  1. Your bread turned out much better than mine. It actually looks edible. Mine was not good. The flavor was ok but the texture wasn't like bread at all. Not sure what I did to it. Oh well!

  2. Your bread looks good as do the crackers. I was a chicken and didn't even try. Going around the house with calipers sounds like something I would do! Great idea about the rubberbands.

  3. You crack me up, Guff! Lunch with celebrities, and you got to use your duct tape couch again. Love the tip about the rubber bands. I don't want to chance cutting my silicone mat, so I might try parchment/foil.

  4. PS--I finally tried your mustard today. Love it!!! Thanks so much.

  5. Your goodies look marvelously delicious. Love the idea of using rubber bands for depth on your rolling pin. Ah, very clever, Guff.

  6. You are very clever, Grasshopper!! That's what I wanted to say!!

  7. The way you figured out to measure the thickness of the crackers is great! I don't have any calipers but I've always wanted one so maybe this can be a good enough excuse to buy a pair.

    Good method on scoring the crackers too. My scoring always disappears with baking so I usually just cut them to size and bake 'em up.

    Nice crumb on the Boule too and it looks very soft and a perfect crust for sandwiches!

  8. The rubber bands make me laugh because I received the rolling pin bands that KA sells in my Christmas stocking. I was thinking about trying them out for a post! You are far more resourceful! Your efforts paid off with your crackers and bread.

  9. Hey,
    So nice site, bread turned out much better than mine. It actually looks edible. Mine was not good. Thanks