Sunday, September 26, 2010

Not because it is easy, but because it is hard

Bread fascinates me. Not only did the ability to produce bread play a role in separating successful from unsucessful cultures (see Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), bread -- or lack thereof -- has incited populous riots and measured the competency of governments. No wonder I believe that my ability to produce the humble substance somewhat also indicates my qualifications as food provisioner.

Believe me, after a few tries at bread made with grains other than wheat, I can see why producing wheat made or broke societies. Non-wheat bread requires at least air-tight packaging, access to several types of flours at once, and cold storage to stabilize the prepared bread. Difficult now, impossible 5,000 years ago.

Unable to consign myself to failure, however, I've continued my search for decent gluten-free bread. This week, I tried Gluten-Free Pantry's French Bread & Pizza. I basically followed the "oven method" instructions on the back of the box, using milk and vegetable oil. But I added about about a tablespoon and a half of crushed rosemary and about two tablespoons of garlic.

I spread the dough in a pie plate to make focaccia (instead of proper french bread or pizza crust), left it to rise for 40 minutes in a warm oven, and based it for 45 minutes. In the end, I had steamy, fairly crusty bread that sounded hollow when tapped.

In fairness, it maintained many of the qualities of other types of gluten-free bread. It was more crumbly than chewy, impossible to tear and it dried out fairly quickly, although it tasted great and, if consumed in the first 24 hours, would have made good sandwich bread. Next time, I'll add more rosemary, garlic and possibly some parmesan cheese -- like most gluten-free foods, the taste has to come from the added ingredients and not from the bread itself. But I'll give it points for ease and a slightly softer texture than other products.