Saturday, February 14, 2015

Natural dough enhancers and techniques that work!

I have become somewhat of a food geek lately, doing a lot of research on ways to naturally improve the texture and shelf-life of homemade gluten free bread. I don't like having to freeze my homemade bread to keep it "fresh", really? It's not practical and just a hassle to thaw out a couple pieces at a time when I want to make a sandwich.

I have tried so many tricks of the trade, but nothing has worked better for me than using soaked flours and grains, soaked white bean flour (soaking makes it more digestible and taste much better) and using a combination of powdered ginger and sunflower lecithin (I don't eat soy). Soaking the flours, grains and beans beforehand makes them healthier by minimizing phytic acid, makes them easier to digest and produces a loaf of bread that is much lighter in texture.

If you don't have a flour mill, I strongly encourage you to get one! I bought one a couple years ago and it practically paid for itself the first year! Buying whole grains cost less than buying flours, also, freshly milled flour is more nutritious to boot. You should soak whole grains for 12-24 hours in an acidic liquid, 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar per cup of water. This will help to break down the phytic acid contained in the grains. Then thoroughly rinse and dehydrate the grains before milling into flour. For those of you who don't have a flour mill, have no fear! Once the grains are soaked they soften and can be processed in a blender along with the soaking liquid. Just make sure you only soak the grains in the amount of liquid called for in your recipe. Here is a link to the first soaked recipe I tried. The bread was delicious! The recipe was created by Tessa The Domestic Diva. She promptly answered any questions that I had as well. Thanks Tessa!

If you are using whole grain flour, simply combine the flour (not the starches) and the water called for in your recipe in a glass bowl. For every cup of liquid used, add in one tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar, (you won't be able to taste the vinegar after baking), then thoroughly mix and cover the bowl with a clean towel. Allow the flour to soak for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Soaking longer than that will start to make the flour a little sour, but that's not a bad thing if you like sourdough bread. If you prefer a longer soak, usually necessary for beans, or just a more sour flavor, cover the soaking flour and place in the fridge after the first 24 hours of soaking to avoid mold. After soaking, add the soaked flour (allow it to come to room temperature if it has been refrigerated) and the remaining ingredients in your recipe to the bowl of your stand mixer. Prepare and bake the bread as you usually would.

Soaked white bean flour adds protein and structure to gluten free bread. I have to admit, before learning this soaking technique I stayed away bean flours. I tried them when I first started out on my gluten free journey, but they tasted and smelled terrible and really upset my tummy.

You can make white bean flour by soaking Great Northern beans in an acidic liquid for 24 hours.
Adding 1 tablespoon of buckwheat flour or groats will make the soak more effective, they contain a good amount of phytase.

As you can see, they absorb quite a bit of water!
Rinse well and dehydrate thoroughly, preferably in a food dehydrator set at 105 degrees. I let mine run for 8-12 hours. Then grind them in a coffee grinder or a blender. They will be brittle and grind easily, so no grain mill needed here.
This white bean flour is very soft and fluffy!

I have used whey protein and milk powder in the past for added protein, but bean flour is far superior! I use the Great Northern variety because they have the most neutral flavor. I don't recommend you grab a bag of pre-packaged bean flour at your local market and use it in your recipe, unless you want it to taste like beans! They are simply made of ground dry beans and very hard to digest. Soaking the beans first gets rid of the bitter bean taste and makes them more digestible (less tummy trouble) and more nutritious. I have experimented with a 12 hour and a 24 hour soak, the 24 hour soak made a big difference in the taste and smell, much less beany, almost has a sweet smell. Beans have very little phytase, the enzyme that breaks down phytic acid, therefore I recommend you add 1 tablespoon of light buckwheat flour or whole buckwheat groats to the soaking water, though this is not necessary if you don't have it on hand. Buckwheat has a good amount of phytase making it a great addition to any gluten free grains you plan to soak. I always incorporate light buckwheat flour into my flour mixes now too. It sound like a lot of work, but once you have a batch of bean flour made it lasts quite a while. You only need 1/4 cup per loaf to make a big difference! I have made sandwich bread, sourdough and pizza crust with the addition of this bean flour and my family couldn't detect any bean flavor, just delicious bread with a wonderful light texture! You may notice a slight bean smell when water is added to the bean flour, but once the bread bakes the smell disappears. I have to admit, I was pretty bummed when I noticed this. Afterall, this whole process was to omit the beanyness. However, the aroma coming out of my oven as it baked was out of this world! By far the best loaf of bread that I have baked so far!!

Lecithin prevents the oil and water in bread products from separating, which helps to keep them soft for a longer period of time. Beware of lecithin that has been produced with chemicals though! I found a lecithin product at that is natural, soy free, non-GMO and produced without Hexane or Acetone! From what I have been reading online, Phosphatidyl Choline naturally found in lecithin, seems to be beneficial to our brain and heart as well. It comes in liquid and powdered form. Personally, I prefer the powdered form, no sticky mess and it can be whisked into the water or flour called for in your recipe. Lecithin can also replace some of the fat in your recipes as well. Simply replace equal amounts of oil with lecithin. I use up to 1 tablespoon of lecithin in my breads, but I have seen recipes that call for as much as 2 tablespoons per loaf.

Powdered ginger gives the yeast a boost helping it do it's job more effectively and also slows the growth of mold. Double duty! Gotta love that! A little goes a long way though, 1/4 teaspoon is all you need and you won't be able to taste it, I promise.

I have had my homemade bread stay soft and mold free for a full 5 days wrapped tightly at room temperature using these techniques! It does require some forethought, but the results are well worth it! Better, more nutritious bread! I make several loaves at once and freeze what we can't eat within 5 days. Breads also freeze very well when lecithin is used. Simply defrost the bread at room temperature, slice off what you need then tightly wrap it up again. 

Dough Enhancer:
Combine 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger and 1/2 cup of sunflower lecithin powder in a small container and shake very well. One tablespoon of this mixture per loaf works wonders! I hope you give it a try.

One other thing that I have been playing around with lately is malted buckwheat flour. I used malted barley before going gluten free and it really gave my whole wheat bread more loft and a softer texture. Malted flour is a great food source for yeast, it contains an enzyme called alpha amylase, which helps to break down complex sugars and starch in the dough to simple sugars, making them easier for yeast to feed on. Amylase also helps to keep the crumb soft as the bread cools down. The result is a softer, lighter loaf of bread with more loft. Some of the big chain gluten free bread manufactures use enzymes to keep their breads soft as well.

To malt buckwheat you need whole buckwheat groats that have not been heat treated. I love Bob's Red Mill organic buckwheat groats! iconsells this product and many other gluten free grains as well.

Soak the groats in warm water for 1 hour or up to 3, longer than that and they will become mushy.
I cover my groats with a coffee filter and poke several small holes in it.

Then pour them into a fine mesh strainer and rinse with warm water. You can leave the groats in the strainer placed over a bowl or pour them out into a shallow dish lined with a paper towel.

Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm spot. 
Rinse the groats a couple times a day for the next 3 days or so. (Leaving them in the strainer would have made this much easier!) You should see sprouts by this time. 

Allow the sprouts to get twice as long as the groat, then dehydrate at a temperature between 105-115 degrees. I have a dehydrator and set mine to 105 degrees. Temperatures above 120 degrees will destroy the enzymes contained in grains.

Once thoroughly dried you can grind them in a blender or coffee grinder, no flour mill needed.
I only malted one cup, a little goes a long way! 1 teaspoon is more than enough per loaf.

Natural Sources for Amylase.
There are many natural food sources of amylase that we can use is gluten free baking. One of the best sources of a-amylase and b-amylase is sweet potatoes. They are very high is this enzyme, that's why sweet potatoes are so sweet once cooked. Sweet potatoes are often used to make commercial enzymes for baking. If you have a food dehydrator you can make your own sweet potato flour. Simply peel, thinly slice and dehydrate them at 105F, then grind them into a fine flour. The orange flesh variety contain more amylase than the yellow flesh ones, but the lighter color is more practical for baking. Other sources are bananas, beets, cabbage, eggs, pure maple syrup, milk, honey, sugar-cane, and soaked or sprouted corn, oats, rice and beans. I don't think I will be using beets and cabbage in my homemade breads, but the others are very promising.

I know that was a lot of information to digest, but these are techniques that are definitely worth trying!

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