freefrom pizza

Freefrom Pizza

Bread Matters - the state of modern bread and a definitive guide to baking your own
by Andrew Whitley

Andrew Whitley's passion for bread had its genesis in a student trip to Russia in the late 60s with five friends. Due to a misunderstanding about the exchange rate, the six had to live on rations for three - which did not stretch much beyond dark Russian sourdough rye bread. After the initial revulsion, Andrew, at least, was converted - not just to Russian rye, but to bread as the staff of life. After a spell as a producer in the BBC Russian Service, he hied to a Cumbrian smallholding where he could grow his own food and bake his own bread.

In 1976 he started the Village Bakery, baking wholemeal bread with locally stone- ground flour at a time when industrially made white breads were still regarded as perfectly nutritionally adequate by both the medical and the scientific authorities.
As the Village Bakery began to gain recognition as a ‘craft’ bakery in the late 1980s an awareness of food allergy/intolerance was also emerging. In his search for interesting breads and techniques, Andrew experimented with unusual flours, many either wheat or gluten-free. Soon he was receiving enquiries from wheat and gluten allergics seeking an alternative to brick hard, grey prescription loaves.
Not one to turn down a baking challenge, Andrew embarked on an in-depth investigation of baking without gluten, wheat or baker’s yeast. By the late 90s the Village Bakery was almost as well known for its gluten, wheat and yeast-free breads as for its original craft-baked loaves. Indeed, when he finally decided to sell the bakery in 2002 it was to a local company, Bells of Lazonby, who not only wanted to continue with the Village Bakery ‘special diet’ range, but to build a dedicated gluten-free facility to launch a second GF/WF range, OK Foods.

Bread Matters, has, as Andrew says in his introduction, been fermenting for the 30 years that he has been making bread - and pondering on why it is that people have often chosen, or been forced to eat, bread that is not very good for them. Why and how this can be he investigates at some length in the introduction.
However the bulk of the book is about baking itself. The tools that you need, the flours, the raising agents, mixing, kneading, proving and baking. Detailed instructions are followed by detailed recipes for everything from his beloved Russian rye to ciabattas and croissants.

His descriptions of how to set about it will enthuse even the most heavy handed - and even if you cannot bring yourself to actually get baking, just reading about it is rivetting.

Although much of the book is devoted to mainstream breads, there is a lengthy chapter at the end on gluten-free baking - a whole art in itself. Andrew’s rules and the pizza base recipe opposite give an excellent flavour of his lateral approach and his excellent techniques.

You can buy the book (cost £16) direct from Andrew's website - or here at Amazon.


Rules for Gluten-free baking

Enjoy it!
Break the rules of wheat baking. No more kneading bread (no gluten to develop).
No faffing about with pastry; work it, roll it, recycle it to your heart’s content - there’s no gluten to go all leathery on you. Enjoy the feel of sloppy, wet dough. It’s child’s play.

Don’t expect it to be the same
Wheat gluten is unique. You can’t mimic it except by using strange additives that aren’t food. Enjoy the different tastes and textures of gluten-free ingredients as you learn how to put them together to make foods that fit your lifestyle.

Think laterally
If gluten-free flour doesn’t produce a loaf suitable for sandwiches, why not make wraps instead? They’re just pancakes by another name, easy to make - and fashionable!

Make it wet
Gluten-free flours need much more water than wheat ones. There’s no point in kneading a gluten-free dough because it won’t become any more stretchy and if you make it firm enough to be kneadable it will bake like a brick. Gluten-free doughs and cake mixes must be sloppy - really sloppy.

Don't expect to keep it
The starches in gluten-free flours turn crystalline quite soon after baking. You won’t be using dubious enzymes or preservatives (I hope) so your bread will age fairly quickly.
To preserve that first-day freshness, slice the loaf and freeze it.
Slices are quick to defrost and always in peak condition.
Gluten-free cakes, especially if there are nuts in the mixture, keep fairly well.

Pizzas Bases
A bit of lateral thinking is required to produce a dough that will be thin enough for a pizza base and yet not fall to bits as it is being handled.
This recipe can be adapted to make pancakes or wraps to be used for filling and eating cold. For a sweet pancake, add some honey or maple syrup. The trick is to get the right sloppy consistency so that the mixture flows out thinly enough in the frying pan. Makes 2 medium pizza bases.

10g fresh yeast
250g water (30ºC)
140g corn (maize) flour
20g buckwheat flour
50g brown rice flour
40g manioc (tapioca) flour
20g chestnut flour
5g sea salt
(535g total)
olive oil for brushing
Toppings of your choice: tomato paste, tomatoes, peppers, anchovies, olives, herbs, mozzarella etc

Dissolve the yeast in water and add to the other ingredients. The dough should be very sloppy, like batter. Leave to stand for 15-30 minutes to allow the yeast to work.
Heat a griddle or frying pan, brushing with a smear of olive oil if the surface is not non-stick, and ladle in a good dollop of the mixture with a swirling action to make a thin, reasonably circular layer of batter. Cook over a high heat for about 3 minutes, then flip over and cook for another minute. The ‘pancake’ should be cooked but still quite soft and floppy. If your mixture was too thick, your pizza base will be also.
Turn the pizza base out onto a baking sheet and cook the remaining mixture in the same way. Cover the pizzas with the usual toppings. Bake in a hot oven (220C/430F/Gas mark 7) or under a grill for 5-7
minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.

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