In going Gluten-Free, Mr. Fox and I found that there were two things very hard to find good in Gluten-Free form: Beer and Bread. Mr. Fox’s current favourite beer is St. Peter’s g-free (although we are still waiting in hope for you, Snowman Brewing!) Bread turned out to be more of a challenge.
We tried various gluten-free breads on the market, but they all turned out lacking and often full of too many weird, chemically ingredients. Then, I found this article from Bon Appetit about how long rise time in bread allows for the yeast to break down gluten into a more digestible form. Huh. I’d never heard about this before, but I was more than willing to experiment.
Years ago, I had saved this recipe for No Knead bread from Mark Bittman’s New York Times column, but had never made it. Now I thought back to that recipe and remembered that it called for an extremely long rise time…hence no need to knead the bread. Time to try it out!
The first time I made the bread, I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out completely bland and flavourless. Ever have bread made with no salt? I do not recommend it. The texture of the bread was amazing though and, despite not enjoying it, Mr. Fox didn’t have a gluten reaction to it…time to keep making this damn bread until I can get it to taste good!
You are going to need a large, covered pot to make this bread. I use my lovely and giant Le Creuset Oval Dutch Oven, but anything heavy and covered will do. This is the critical step in what will make your crust amazing. The covered pot acts as a steam oven. Steam oven = crazy delicious crust.
It took a few attempts, but I finally working out a recipe that worked for me. In a very large bowl, add:
- 3 cups of flour (I use unbleached, all purpose)
- 1 tbsp of Kosher Salt (I use Diamond Brand, so should you)
- 1/2 tsp of Instant Yeast
Mix that together with a fork and then add 1 5/8 cups water (cold water is fine…this baby is going to be sitting on the counter for a while.)
Mix again with the fork until it is a big ragged mess (honestly, don’t bother getting your hands in there), then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let it sit somewhere for 18 HOURS. The recipe calls for warm room temperature, but I’ve made this in a huge variety of temperatures and never had a problem.
After 18 hours, your dough will be all bubbly and puffed up.
Now, sprinkle some flour onto a clean surface and scrape that dough out of the bowl onto it. I use a rubber spatula…again, not worth getting your hands in there…unless you like sticky, dough covered hands.
Once the dough is on the floured surface, grab the ends and fold it into itself a few times. The flour will help, but you will get a bit messy at this point. This will redistribute the yeast throughout the dough – a good thing. Cover the dough with the plastic wrap and let it sit for 15 minutes while you get it’s next resting place ready.
Lay down a tea towel and sprinkle it generously with flour, corn flour, corn meal…whatever you like on your bread (I use corn flour so that I’m not adding extra gluten at this point.) Now “shape” that pile of dough into a vague ball (or log) and place it onto that tea towel. Cover with another tea towel and let it sit for two more hours, but don’t wander too far away, you’ll need to turn on the stove after an hour and a half.
About half an hour before the dough is done, heat your stove to 450 degrees and place the large, heavy, covered pot in there to heat up with the oven.
Once the oven has heated up, take the pot out, take off the cover and flip that dough ball in there. The original recipe says to slide your hand under the towel and flip it in, but I have not figured out how to do that gracefully. I pick up the tea towel with two corners in each hand, bring it to the pot and flip/drop the dough in by letting go of two corners. If you have a better way of getting the dough into the hot pot, let me know!
If the dough lands funny, don’t worry about it. There is not much you can do now to reshape it. The only real option is to jiggle the pot a bit, but don’t get too stressed about it – the dough will rise in the oven and mistakes will be hidden.
Now slap the cover back onto the pot and put that sucker into the oven.
After half an hour, remove the lid from the pot and bake the bread for another 15-30 minutes. Your kitchen will smell really good at this point. Once the bread is lovely and brown, take it out and place it on a cooling rack. It will be difficult, but try and let it cool for about an hour before you devour it. You’ve already waited this long…almost there!
Now slice that baby up and enjoy! It’s amazing warm with just some butter, but it has also reopened a whole world of cooking for me – french toast, grilled cheese, BREADCRUMBS (very important.) My friends and family will attest that I’ve been pushing everyone to make this bread…please try it.
You may never buy bread again.