When we first had Landon tested for allergens, his skin test only showed an allergy to eggs. And I agreed with that considering ingesting even the faintest amount of egg sent him into a vomitting frenzy. But here we are nine months later and I can count on one hand the number of “normal” dirty diapers the kid has had. [Why am I including this in a food post?!] I asked my allergist to re-test him and she declined [and we found a new allergist]. I asked my pediatrician for advice and he said it was either toddler liquid bowel syndrome or a food allergy. Since the first thing sounded fake [sorry Dr. K (Kidding. I’m sure that’s totally real. And totally awful)] I decided to start an elimination diet to see if I could clear it up. Landon doesn’t care for cheese and drinks almond milk anyway, so I decided gluten would be the first culprit to check.
I eliminated gluten from his diet and he stopped having awful diapers. I food tested him once with some pretzels [I’m not condoning food testing your own kids. It’s a scary business but our pediatrician suggested it.] and he immediately had a rough diaper that caused a rash everywhere the dirties touched. So, moral of the story: I have two wheat-free kids now. Because half of our family can’t have wheat, it made me question why I don’t have a from scratch gluten-free bread recipe that I love.
I hate to say it but this isn’t the recipe that solved all of my gluten-free bread woes. I made my Mountain Bread recipe like normal but used a Bob’s Red Mill pizza crust mix for the flour and added 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid. I used the pizza crust mix because I was looking for a flour that was high in protein so that it would stretch and trap the gases from the yeast. I used the mix because I’m not a use fan of keeping more than eight or ten different kinds of flours on hand and a lot of bread recipes that I come across call for some rather obscure stuff. Well. The kids liked the bead. It was beyond edible, maybe even close to good. But it wasn’t the kind of recipe that I’d make to impress my gluten-free friends [If you have such a recipe, be a dear and share it in the comments section: don’t forget it has to be vegan.].
The recipe was wonderfully soft but also a little dense and gummy. [Although I will say it made some superb toast the next day and stayed soft for a couple days.] So while I am going back to the books [and grain bulk bins] in search of the perfect recipe for gluten-free bread, I did find one that is going to work for our little family of four using spelt flour.
It’s probably a little confusing, but because Lucy and Landon are allergic to wheat and not gluten they can eat spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient grain and we’ll call it a cousin to wheat but there are a few differences. First, it’s more soluble [read: easier to digest] and secondly, it’s such a grain of antiquity that our bodies haven’t built up an allergy to it. Here: this explains it pretty well.
Spelt is so delicious. If you want to agree that it’s wheat’s cousin then it will be wheat’s light and hearty cousin that everybody loves from the first moment they meet. And really, more people should try it. NPR told me one-third of Americans are trying to give gluten the cold shoulder but I think those without obvious gluten aversions [celiac, diagnosed or not] should try to diversify their grains instead of giving them up. Whole grains are good; mixing it up is good.
So, this recipe was also based off my original Mountain Bread recipe.
Mountain Bread [with vegan adaptations]
Makes 1 loaf
3/8 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
a pinch of sugar
3/4 cup warm milk [almond milk]
1 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter [earth balance vegan spread]
1 1/2 tablespoons honey [agave]
2 1/2 – 3 cups spelt flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
[If you want your bread to be light and airy make sure you’re measuring the flour by scooping it into the measuring cup with a spoon.]
Start off by mixing the warm water [about 100F, but I don’t usually use a thermometer], yeast, and sugar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.
While this is resting, heat up the milk and butter. After the starter has rested, add the milk and butter, honey, flour, and salt. Mix until JUST coherently blended and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let it rise for 30 minutes. [*Listen up: this is important. Spelt isn’t like wheat flour. It’s more of a delicate flower. This is for sure a no-knead bread. Mix it until everything is combined and let it be. The spelt gluten isn’t as tough as wheat gluten so it will become dense if you give it a heavy hand.]
Because it’s chilly here, my bread needed a warm and cozy place to do its rising so I put it on top of my toaster oven and turned the oven on for a couple minutes. Some ovens have ‘proof’ settings or otherwise you could put your rising bread on your oven rack with a bowl of boiling water below. Heat your oven up to the lowest setting it will give you [maybe something like 170F to 200F] and then turn the oven off and leave the rising dough in the oven. If you have a cold or drafty kitchen that should give your bread a leg up.
Punch down the dough and let it rest for 30 more minutes. After 30 minutes transfer the dough to a baking mat or parchment. It is a loose dough but let it rise for another 45 minutes. Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 375F.
About 20 minutes into the last rise you might realize the dough is spreading too much. I like to pull the sides of the bread back to the top and make it look a bit more like the mountain it was named for [whip it into shape]. You can see where the bread was before I pulled the sides up. After that I sprinkled the top with flour, you know for the snow-capped mountains. It’s not necessary but you could add it and then tell all your friends you made your own artisan bread. ;)
After the final rest, bake the bread for 25-30 minutes. I transfer it to and from the oven with a pizza peel. You should be able to knock on the bread and hear a soft hollow sound when it’s done.
I like to serve ours with some faux honey butter. Put a couple tablespoons of butter in the microwave [not too long] to soften and then stir a teaspoon or so of honey. Somehow having “fresh” honey butter makes it feel like a feast!
I’m not giving up my quest for a hearty, delicious gluten-free, vegan bread. In fact I’m committing to trying out a few more recipes and different flours. And hoping we don’t have too many bread failures before I find “the one”.