In the gluten free world, two authors have emerged as the undisputed masters of gluten free baking- Carol Fenster and Bette Hagman. I love Bette Hagman’s breads based on her four flour blend, which incorporates bean flour and sorghum for amazingly light and elastic gluten free breads. But I’ve also owned Carol Fenster’s cookbooks for years- and while many of her books have been quite successful, her recent book “Cooking Free” has caused a great deal of buzz on gluten free message boards and web sites. Part of the appeal is that she has developed a very flexible flour blend which you can adapt to your personal taste (and allergies). After first ordering this book, I tried a bread with her blend using sorghum, potato starch, tapioca and corn flour, which she said she used most often at home. I felt that the bread was heavier than Bette Hagman’s recipes using bean flour, so decided that the next time I made a recipe I would definitely use bean flour.
Last night I started some Vindaloo Vegetable Stew from my “Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker” cookbook, and had some for breakfast and lunch with basmati rice. Noticing that we didn’t have much rice left for dinner, I decided to spice up the meal by following the Northern Indian tradition of serving flatbread with meals- so I dipped into Carol Fenster’s “Cooking Free” and decided to try the recipe for Herbed Flatbread on page 26. I’ve been a longtime fan of her pizza crust, which is earthy and nutty and uses italian seasonings to flavor the dough. I was attracted to her flatbread recipe because instead of Italian spices it used an intriguing blend of caraway seeds, fennel seeds, dill weed, ground cumin, dry mustard and minced dehydrated onion. The recipe sounded both savory and like it would complement my tomato based spicy vindaloo nicely.
It found it quite easy to make. I spun the ingredients in the mixer and then patted it out in a jelly pan, flouring the dough and then patting it down with a freezer type ziploc bag that had been sprayed with cooking spray. This method ensured my hands didn’t get all gummy and also that I didn’t have to drown the poor defenseless dough in flour. Then I brushed some locally produced olive oil (bought at the wonderful European dairy and produce shop The Milk Pail in Mountain View) onto the dough, and sprinkled some course kosher salt on top, baking the bread for 15 minutes.
The smell of delightful seasoned bread filled the house and I couldn’t wait to take it out of the oven. It was beautifully browned and was flaky when I tore off a piece to enjoy. The recipe said it served 12, but in my opinion only if those 12 were the “nibble on a raw spinach leaf and call themselves full” type. For my, um, healthy appetite, it could serve three. This time when I made her flour blend, I used Sorghum, potato starch, tapioca starch, and garfave bean flour- and it was just perfect, adding elasticity and lightness to the finished product. I think I’ve found MY favorite blend- and this recipes is a real keeper- I’d give it 9/10, but you should try it yourself and see what you think!