Sunday, March 28, 2010

vegan gluten-free bread

soft, spongy and delicious

I recently stumbled upon a new blog called Manifest Vegan. Allyson, the author, had posted a recipe for gluten-free focaccia and I actually did a double-take because it did not look like your typical gluten-free bread. It looked springy, pliable and positively wonderfully...nothing like the dense, crumbly and cardboard tasting brown rice bread in my freezer made by a company who shall remain nameless.

When I got down to the bottom of her post and saw the ingredient list, I jumped for joy. It was so simple - eleven total ingredients and only 3 different flours! For those of you familiar with gluten-free baking, you know that some recipes can call for up to 6 different types of flour, so finding one that calls for only 3, is a delight.

I baked Allyson's gluten-free focaccia and it greatly exceeded my expectations. It was everything I wanted it to be and then some.  It has it's limitations but I do believe if I tinker with it a bit more I can solve those (or perhaps you can!).

Immediately after Marty and I tried a piece, I was back in the kitchen baking up a second loaf  in a 7"by11" pan to use as sandwich bread. That loaf turned out to be a bit too thick for sandwiches so the following day I baked my third loaf in a 9"by13" pan and it worked perfectly! I cut this into 8 equal-sized pieces and then cut each piece in half horizontally (to essentially total 16 slices). In the photo of pb&j's, you can see the difference between the thickness of the two batches (7"by11" is sandwich on the left and 9"by13" is sandwich on the right).

This bread is best eaten fresh from the oven but over the past few days I've eaten it a number of ways in order to give you a proper review.
  • Frozen and defrosted in the microwave - seemed to be the closest to fresh from the oven as I could long as you make sure you only microwave it long enough to defrost it and not a second more
  • Stored at room temperature overnight - dried out and crumbly
  • Stored in refrigerator a couple of days - dried out and crumbly
  • Frozen and defrosted at room temperature - dried out and crumbly (might have been better but I think I let it sit too long which basically produced the same results as storing it at room temp overnight)
  • Slathered with Earth Balance and roasted garlic, then toasted* to make garlic bread - very good...interestingly enough, I tried this both with fresh bread as well as a dried out and crumbly piece and they both tasted the same so if your bread does dry out, toasting it (where it's toasty on top and bottom but still soft in the center) might resurrect it
  • Cut into tiny cubes and toasted* to make croutons - very good

    * As with most gluten-free breads, this does take slightly longer to properly toast.
If you're not familiar with gluten-free baking or with vegan baking, the ingredient list might seem a little daunting, but it's really not too bad. I usually get my xanthan gum and Ener-G at Whole Foods (it's expensive but both boxes will last you at least a year). I get my almond meal at Trader Joe's (or you can make your own by pulsing almonds in a food processor but be careful not to overdo it or you'll get almond butter). Lastly, the brown rice flour and the potato starch can also be found at Whole Foods but I prefer to get them at my local Asian market because it's much cheaper.
Gluten Free Focaccia
This bread takes about 2 hours to make from start to finish
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 cup brown rice flour, scooped into cup and leveled off
  • 1 cup potato starch, scooped into cup and leveled off
  • 1/2 cup almond meal, packed
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (use only if making focaccia...omit if making sandwich bread)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons Ener-g egg replacer
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (you could also probably use honey, molasses or maple syrup)
  1. Oil your pan (8" or 9" for super puffy bread or 9"x13" for sandwich bread) and sprinkle the bottom with almond meal.
  2. In small bowl, heat 1 1/3 cup water (I usually put it in the microwave for about 50 seconds - you want it warm but not hot). Stir in sugar. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit, undisturbed. It should get foamy/creamy (if it doesn't your yeast is dead and you'll need to get some more).
  3. In large bowl, mix brown rice flour, potato starch, almond meal, xanthan gum, salt and rosemary (if using). 
  4.  In small bowl, heat 1/4 cup water (microwave for about 15 seconds). Add in Ener-g egg replacer and beat until foamy and thicker (I use a small hand held frother from Ikea but you can also use a'll just take you a little longer). Add in olive oil and agave (or other sweetener) and mix thoroughly.
  5.  By now your yeast should be good to go. Add the yeast and other liquid ingredients to the flours and mix well. The dough will look more like cake batter than bread dough.
  6. Spread your bread batter evenly into the pan. ***If you want to top your focaccia/bread with anything, now would be the time to do it (sliced tomatoes, olives, extra rosemary, coarse sea salt, oatmeal, nuts/seeds, etc).*** If desired, dimple the top of the dough using a wet fingertip.
  7. Let rise about 1 hour in a warm spot.  It should grow a little bit.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top turns dark golden.
  9. Let cool for about 10 minutes.  Turn out onto cooling rack and let cool.  The bottom of the bread will get soggy if it is on a non breathable surface, or left in the baking pan too long…I highly recommend placing on a wire rack.  This bread is best left to cool completely.  I ate a piece right out of the oven and it was kind of wet, almost like it wasn't cooked all the way, but when I let the whole thing cool it was just fine.


  1. Looks delicious, Crystal! I admire your ingenuity and determination to find the perfect combo of conditions... And it is so much fun to read about what is happening in your corner of the world :)

  2. Yum, sounds delicious! Now I'm wishing I could eat yeast again. . !

    Thanks for your comment on the coconut macaroons--I'm so glad you liked them! (And you can't beat having a culinary hit with your guy, right?) Happy holiday to you--whichever/whether you celebrate! :)