This month NFCA is having a gluten free college bloggers month with guest posts from 8 bloggers, 2 going live each week. I was honored to be a part of the 8, and my post went live last week. I shared the reasons for why I am an online student, and the story leading up to that decision. Mainly, it had to do with the cafeteria being unable to really handle food allergies, and the Student Development Office’s unwillingness to even let me try to prepare all my meals myself. But you can read the whole post here.
I noticed some people commented on the NFCA facebook page about how even though it was great that I was able to take classes online and even get a full degree online, that I was missing out on a very important aspect of being in college: the “college experience”. This consists of making friends, going to classes, and having a social life there and pretty much everything that goes along with being on-campus. I know that this isn’t usually what I talk about on this blog here, but I’m going to share some of the things that have happened in the last year and half for which I have been especially appreciative that God put me in an online program at just that moment.
A lot of people thing that the college experience is one of the most important things to being in college. I beg to differ. For some people it might, but not for everyone. And, I did get my full first year of college as an on-campus student and got to experience campus life. It was great, for the most part. And I’m thankful for my time there as I met 2 of my best friends I currently know there. However, that first semester I did online, was a semester I didn’t know was going to be my last semester that I got to see and hang out with my very best friend whom I had known for over 16 years in my neighborhood at home. Just after finals week, she had a major brain bleed, and was unconscious in the neuro ICU for a month, and after another bleed leaving her brain dead, her family chose to take her off of life support.
If I had been on campus that semester, I wouldn’t have gotten the chances to hang out with her several times that semester and even drop by her house just for a much needed hug. IMs would have been much less frequent and I wouldn’t have gotten to go to the hospital to see her that very first day after she had emergency surgery in the middle of the night because the campus’ semester ended a week later.
Also, if I was an on-campus student, I wouldn’t have even 1/2 as much time for baking. Campus life is very different, and free time…. is even harder to find than it is as an online student. And for me, baking is a stress reliever.
But, for those of you still worried that I’m missing out on something super important to college, I do go to a different school in the summer where I’m on-campus for 9 weeks. However, with that said, I’m extremely thankful that it’s only for 9 weeks. Because in addition to not being able to eat gluten, I’m also deathly allergic to milk and peanuts, being on-campus is a much harder thing for me now… and 9 weeks is about all I can handle. After I get home, I’m more than happy that I don’t have to spend 9 MONTHS of the year dealing with a college cafeteria. Though UND does a fabulous job of feeding me safely in the summer, it is always a relief for me that I’m not there for 9 months every year. I could probably do it, but it would result in a lot more stress and possibly several reactions each semester. Mistakes do happen (and did happen this summer), and we’re talking about my life here. Just one wrong bite, and I could lose my life. If it was just gluten, I might handle it a whole lot better. But that’s not how things are, so I deal with them as they are…
One day at a time.
Oh, and while you’re reading my guest post, go and check out the other posts from the other bloggers as well!
A while back I posted that I had finally come up with a gluten free (and dairy and nut free) bread that I was happy with. I was going to share the recipe, but well… I’m still playing around with it trying to make it better. So, since I have no idea how long it’ll take me to get to the perfect recipe, I’ll just share with you guys some tips that I’ve learned along the way when it comes to baking bread… minus the gluten. Some of these tips I’ve heard from other bloggers, but the only page I can think of that I remember I learned tips from would be from Cook It Allergy Free. I know there’s one other blogger who I really benefited from their advice, but I really have no idea who it was. Sorry! I try to link to people when I’m citing something they said or did (like any good student), but I really have no idea who or where it was! I know other tips have come from some friends on twitter, including Gluten Free Gigi.
So, here are some of the things I’ve learned when baking gluten (and dairy) free bread:
1. The dough will never look the same as any glutenous dough you’ve ever baked. If it does, the result will be a hard-as-a-brick, dry, and really hard to bake through thing that you won’t want to call “a loaf of bread” and will try really hard to somehow eat just so you can finish it (or you might really want to throw it away).
2. Your dough needs to be moist and stir-able before you put it in the pan. You do not need to knead it. Kneading is done to develop the gluten, and when there’s no gluten to develop, it’s pointless to knead it.
3. You don’t need to make the dough rise, “punch down” then put it in the pan to rise yet again. As soon as I’ve mixed the dry and wet ingredients together thoroughly, I pour it straight into pans and let it rise in the pans(anywhere around 20-60 minutes of rising, however long it takes it to rise to the edge of the loaf-pan), then put it straight into the oven.
4. I’ve found that putting some sort of thicker moisture like applesauce or yogurt (soy yogurt works quite well) helps to keep the bread moist and have a good texture.
5. Raisins, sesame seeds, flax (ground), whatever you think of is really good. Raisins add moisture to the bread and taste too.
6. The flour combo: go with your gut. Use a base that you’re comfortable working with, and add some more whole-grains, but don’t add too much of them. I like teff (but in small quantities), and millet (in small quantities) and especially love sorghum (in larger quantities). Sorghum doesn’t make it taste really weird as it doesn’t have a really strong taste like teff and buckwheat do. But beware that each flour has a different level of how much liquid it absorbs. My favorite base flour is Grandma Whimsy’s Rice Flour Blend. This stuff is really seriously awesome and I can make most things without needing to add any gums.
7. Gums: believe it or not, gums are NOT always necessary for baking gluten free breads! If you do use them, do not use too much. A small amount goes a long way. But, if you do decide to try baking without, you’ll need to play around with the flour ratio more. Sweet white rice flour seems to do a good job at helping to keep my baked goods from crumbling, but I still need to play around with it more. Also know that if you use rice milk and apple sauce as the main liquid ingredients as opposed to soy milk and soy yogurt, the bread will be more brittle. So, have fun and play around with what you have and can eat… I’m still working on perfecting my bread soy-free at the moment.
8. The pan: I tried glass pans, and I kept on having problems. Somewhere I read that metal loaf pans work better and I have to agree. So, I stick with metal loaf pans. They just work better for some reason.
9. The oven: make sure your oven is calibrated correctly. We used to have an oven that was off by like 25 degrees F at some points on the dial and more or less at other points. Know your oven and check it.
10. Baking: Baking your bread at a lower temp for longer helps to bake all the way through. I used to try baking my bread at 400 F, but that resulted in the outside getting burnt while leaving the inside uncooked. I’ve found baking it at 350 for longer does the trick.
11. Do not cut the bread while it’s warm. I know it tastes great, but don’t slice up the whole loaf while it’s warm. It’ll be a lot harder to slice nice slices. Wait till it’s cooled off, and then slice.
12. The freezer: I like to slice the bread and freeze most of it this way. Then I just have to pull out as many slices as I need when I need them, and either nuke them or microwave them and they taste great and are nice and moist.
13. If your bread has a base of rice flour in it, and it’s kinda dry and not so fresh tasting after several days, pop a slice of it in the microwave for 10 seconds.
14. Never give up. Try someone’s recipe and then if it gives you ideas, get to experimenting. I started using Jules Gluten Free‘s bread recipe, and then made changes bit by bit to it and ended up with my own recipe. But only through trial and error and never giving up.
15. I turn the oven on for a minute, then turn it off before it really gets hot and put the loaves in the warm oven to rise. Having a warm environment helps the bread rise better.
16. I heat all the liquid ingredients. Starting with the milk/water, and then in the warm liquid I put the yeast in it to proof it. HOWEVER, I only put the yeast in about 5 minutes before my dry ingredients are entirely ready and all together. Otherwise the yeast um, well… gets a little out of hand. (no, I’m not using too much yeast) Oh, and that brings me to…
17. Don’t use too much yeast. Using more yeast just because the last time you made bread that much yeast didn’t make it rise enough, does NOT mean that you need more yeast. If you have too much yeast, your bread will taste distinctly too yeasty and you won’t want to eat it.
18. Yes, I actually use baking soda and baking powder (or as my family sometimes calls it “baking power”) in my bread in addition to yeast. It just seems to work. But I’m not sure I’d use them in every single kind of bread I ever bake.
19. If you mix the yeast in warm liquid before mixing it into your dough/batter make sure the liquid isn’t too warm or it will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise at all.
So those are my main tips for gluten free bread baking I’ve learned over the last 1 1/2 years. As I think of others, I’ll add to the list. Now go have some fun in the kitchen. I think I’m going to need to bake some more bread soon…