Tips on baking without wheat for people on gluten-free diets and for coeliacs who don’t want to live without bread.
A few words on gluten
Gluten is a protein which most grains contain. It has no flavour, binds the dough and gives structure to the crumb. The more gluten a flour contains, the more elastic the dough. If you have an intolerance to gluten you will have to use special gluten-free flours when baking or making flour-based sauces. These flours are based on starches made from potato, corn or rice. They produce breads that are more dense and compact.
Spelt is a very old grain, it was already being grown in the New Stone Age in Mesopotamia. Spelt contains more protein, minerals and fibres than wheat. It has a higher water solubility than wheat and therefore can be digested more easily. Spelt has great baking qualities and is available in white and brown versions. It can be used for both cakes and breads though for cakes it’s best to use white spelt. (If you make bread with wholemeal spelt, use approximately 700ml of liquid for 1000g flour.) The dough has a soft texture and rises very well.
Rye has its roots in Asia and is older than wheat. It has a high mineral and vitamin content. Rye isn’t used widely because it gives a dense, sticky dough if it is used on its own. It is usually combined with wheat in order to gain more elasticity. A combination that works well is spelt and rye (both wholemeal). For a spelt bread for example you could use two thirds spelt and one third rye. That gives a full texture which is typical for wholemeal bread but it is also elastic.
Buckwheat has its roots in Asia and although the name may indicate it, it is not a grain. It is mainly used for flatbreads and pancakes, because the dough doesn’t rise much. Buckwheat has a distinctive earthy flavour.
Kamut was first used in ancient Egypt. It then disappeared and was rediscovered by a farmer in Montana. It is not easy to find, but if you ask in your nearest health food store they may have it in stock or may be able to order it for you. Kamut has great baking qualities and gives bread a sweet, nutty taste.
A tip for baking with gluten-free flour
If you start making bread with non-wheat flour, try spelt and kamut first, because they are easy to use and give good results. If you want to experiment take a high proportion of these baking flours and combine them with a smaller proportion of rye or buckwheat. Oat, quinoa or amaranth can also be used in this combination.
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