So here we are again. It’s our weekend but still I am not out on the hills or on my bike. Today being Monday, I have a meeting to go to tonight so I could not go walking today as I would not be back in time. It’s never a good look turning up to a meeting covered in mud (which usually happens with me out walking on the hills even on a dry day), eating all the cakes yourself because you are so hungry and then falling asleep during the talks.
I decided (yet again) that I would be taking Mr M and Beatrix up Stuchd an Lochain on Tuesday. I am beginning to think Mr M has been talking to the weather gods because we have gales and torrential rain forecast for tomorrow. Now I am by far a fair weather lass, but I do recognise that there are sometimes you just have to listen to the forecasts. So a day crafting tomorrow I think.
Of course, no walking or cycling means no tales of danger and excitement to report again. Today I have been making more of our gluten and dairy free bread for the tearoom so I thought what better than to share our gluten free bread recipe that will, of course, be going in my book, Mother Murphy’s Diaries, once it is eventually finished.
Who doesn’t love a slice of homemade bread spread with lashings of homemade jam or lemon curd.
I go through phases where I make homemade bread for us at home and when my children were growing up I loved spending a Saturday morning making enough bread for the week. We would often then have some homemade bread rolls and soup for lunch before heading out for the afternoon. Now there is just Mr M and myself at home, I don’t seem to have the need to make so much bread.
If we are to believe what the history books tell us, bread originated in Egypt and first grinding stone, or quern, was invented in Egypt around 8000 bce. The unleven bread produced then would be much like the chapattis and tortillas we have now. Eventually leavened bread (where a rising agent such as yeast is added to produce fermentation and cause the dough to rise) became a symbol of Egyptian culture. It is thought that the first leavened bread was most likely to be the result of some floating yeast landing in a bowl of thick gruel. How do historians even know such things!
Later in medieval times, along came the trencher bread. These were flat, old loaves of bread that were cut in half and used as plates during feasts. It is believed that after the diners were finished with the food, the used trenchers were given to the poor. Later they were made from wood and often had writing on the back of them which was thought to encourage conversations once the food had been eaten.
Casting back a while in the short history of Mother Murphy’s tearoom, we actually set about making some trenchers in our craft sessions. We did not make these out of bread, but took some cork mats, did a bit of decoupage on them and these were used to stand hot teapots on the tables. We had great fun with this and the crafters even came up with their own sayings for the trenchers. Of course, the table cloths still bear the evidence that I was allowed to use glue!
Now bread over the years has changed and we now have the most amazing choices from loaves, sliced, unsliced, white, wholemeal, seeded, sweet, spicy, rolls, wraps, chapattis and tortillas. Of course, there is the heavy processing of bread now to meet the daily demand for this and bread is now manufactured to last more than a day or so in the supermarkets.
In 1961 the British Baking Industries Research Association in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire developed the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP) which developed a method of producing bread with greater volume and lightness, that was labour efficient and low cost. Let’s not go into the real ins and outs and of the merits of this process except to say that making your own bread, whether gluten or gluten free has got to be better than the bread produced using this process! There is of course also the debate that this processing method has increased the gluten content in the bread we eat today.
Our gluten free bread in the tearoom
Nowadays I have to admit to not being a big bread eater but we do need a good bread to serve to our customers. In the tearoom, it is not practical for us make homemade bread for all our customers as we would be constantly bread making and have no time for cake making or talking to our lovely customers. However, we have tried to buy in different brands of gluten free bread and have not really found one that we are totally happy to serve. Actually we have found some that we would be ashamed to serve in the tearoom!
So with the taste of these often disgusting gluten free breads still in our mouths, Mr M set about having a go at making some gluten free bread and, after a few trials, disasters and lots of food waste, he now makes an exceeding good loaf of gluten and dairy free bread. All the customers love this bread, not just those needing or choosing or a gluten free diet. Mr M is very protective of his bread though and sometimes we joke that customers will need to come along to the tearoom with a note from their GP confirming that they do indeed require his gluten free bread before he will serve it to them. He has a fear of somebody coming and needing (no pun intended) his bread and finding that he has given it away to all the other customers.
Now, as often happens when you get a husband and wife working together, we often have little “discussions”. One of these little discussions was about him making the bread. The result of the discussion was him saying to me, “You could always have a go at making the bread”. Anyone that knows me will recognise that this is just fighting talk to me. Let’s just say that in the tearoom you will often get Mr M’s lovely gluten free bread but you are now just as likely to get Debra’s gluten free bread. I have challenged the customers to tell us which they prefer but they have all declared that they are equally as good as each other. Very diplomatic customers!
Our secret to a successful gluten free loaf
If you read all the cook cookery books from the famous people such as Paul Holywood, Mary Berry and Jamie Oliver, you will pick up lots of amazing tips and hints for bread making. Indeed, I have used many of their recipes over the years and produced some wonderful breads. I enjoy the process of kneading, proving, re-kneading and finally baking the dough. Sharing homemade bread with others and watching their faces as they enjoy it is truly one of the best things about baking.
Then there is gluten free bread making. For this to work, you first need to forget everything you have ever learned about bread making. Forget about getting that lovely soft dough that can be kneaded and re-kneaded. Now imagine making something that looks a little bit like smooth porridge and you will start to get the picture of how gluten free dough appears. There are of course, less stages in gluten free bread as there is no kneading (you can’t knead runny porridge). Once you have made the dough, you simply leave it to rise then bake it.
I have to say that I do not believe (I may be wrong and am happy to be corrected) that gluten free bread will ever match soft, fluffy bread made with gluten. The gluten is of course the viscoelastic protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. This simply means that it is viscous (it binds together) and elastic (it stretches). This is the stuff that makes wheat bread so lovely and is perhaps one of the things that most people who cannot eat gluten miss the most.
Sometimes I do feel you have to accept that something will not be the same, like vegetarian sausages will never be sausages. Of course, you can still work at it and you can produce something that is tasty, enjoyable and 100% better than the manufactured gluten free versions. I am now very happy to serve our gluten free bread and our customers’ obvious enjoyment of it is high praise indeed.
Mr M’s (but sometimes Debra’s) gluten free bread (gf/df)
Makes two 2lb loaves
“You could always have a go at making the bread,” said Mr M to me during one of our discussions. Fighting talk indeed!
I use a free standing mixer when making this bread and it really does help to be able to have the mixer running when gradually adding the water and then the flour. I am sure you would be able to use a hand-held whisk too but it would just be a little more fiddly.
The loaves are sliced once they are completely cold and then frozen ready for slices to be taken out as and when required in the tearoom. Don’t be tempted to try and slice the loaves when they are even slightly warm. Believe me, I have tried this with disastrous results.
Our bread recipe is devised from the recipe that you can find on the back of a packet of Dove’s Farm Freee from bread flour. We have just been more specific in which oil, sugar and vinegar to use and the method we have settled on.
· 4 free range egg whites
· 12 tablespoons olive oil
· 2 teaspoons cyder vinegar
· 4 tablespoons caster sugar
· 2 teaspoons salt
· 900 ml tepid water
· 1kg gluten free white bread flour
· 4 teaspoons easy bake yeast
(I use Allinson’s)
1 Preheat oven to 220oc/200oc fan oven.
2 Put the egg whites, sugar, salt, vinegar, water and half the oil into a free standing mixer (or use an electric whisk) and using the balloon whisk attachment, whisk until frothy.
3 With the mixer running slowly, add the water slowly and continue to whisk until well blended and frothy.
4 Put the flour and yeast into a bowl and mix until well blended.
5 Change the attachment on the freestanding mixer to the dough hook and, again with the mixer running slowly, add the flour and yeast mix one tablespoon at a time until it has all been added.
6 Turn the mixer up to high and beat until you have a smooth batter with no bits. Remember to stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape down the side of the bowl to get all the flour well mixed. Turn the mixer back on and beat again until every bit of flour is blended into the mix.
7 Take the bowl off the mixer and add the remaining olive, stirring in with a spatula until just blended. You should have a mixture something similar to runny, smooth porridge.
8 Pour the mixture into the loaf tins, dividing equally between the two. (You could weigh them to make sure they are identical if you wish). Gently smooth the top with a spatula.
9 Put the loaf tins into a plastic bag and tie the ends of the bag to keep the air in. Try and get the bag to stand higher than the edges of the loaf tins.
10 Leave until the dough has risen up to the top of the loaf tins. This will take anywhere from 50 minutes to 2 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. I usually pop the oven on at this point ready for the loaves to go in when they have risen.
11 Carefully remove the plastic bags and bake the loaves for 50 minutes.
12 Remove from the oven and from the tins and leave the loaves to cool on a wire rack.
13 Once cooled completely, slice, put into a freezer bag and freeze. You can then take out slices as you need them
This week’s song?
Of course now I have started the precedent of adding a song to the end of my blog, I need a song for this week. What else could it be but:
Make It With You by the band Bread