Sunday, January 2, 2011

Curry Spice Flatbread- Gluten Free and Vegan

The hardest part about being gluten free to the majority of those folks recently afflicted is learning to do without the bread products. When you've been used to the texture of wheat bread in all its forms, it makes this diet change a challenge. And not a pleasant one at that. Commercial gluten free vegan breads such as EnerG's Brown Rice Bread or Tapioca Bread, has a texture that takes a lot of getting used to, very dry and crumbly, lacking much of a flavor. Food for Life's breads such as Brown Rice Pecan Bread or Millet Bread is just the opposite, very dense and moist, not the way you'd want a bread to be and the taste is, well, different. For a long time I gave up eating any kind of gluten free vegan bread. Especially since some of the ingredients in these products were questionable. So, I felt like it wasn't worth eating. It was time to challenge the change.
Our goal has been to simplify our plant-based diet, even eliminating the great majority of processed foods. Foods full of fat and salt, demineralized, devitalized, loaded with artificial food colorings, preservatives, free glutamates (brain cell killers), artificial flavorings, GMO's, etc, etc. Just because we are vegan and we are health conscious doesn't mean that we didn't enjoy the convenience foods. But upon learning that even so-called "health foods" on the market are processed as well and contain some hidden and not so hidden bad ingredients, though maybe not to the extent of conventional processed foods, we made a conscious decision to "clean up" our plates and our diets. Now, our version of convenience meals is heating up foods that we have prepared ourselves and frozen ahead of time, or just grabbing some fresh fruits, or throwing together a smoothie. It's nice to have some bread to eat for a fast meal along with other nutritious foods, and really, you couldn't get any simpler than this for a fresh bread recipe that tastes good and is very quick to prepare without any nasty stuff 'cause you're in control of what you put in. Good-tasting gluten free and vegan bread with some almond butter and fruit jam, or some hummus, or some...
Our good friend Zewdie is from Eritrea where they really know how to do things simple. She showed us how to make flatbread. Really, I don't have measurements because you don't measure. You just throw things in a bowl and voila! Actually, I'll explain, and then you get to work in the kitchen and get creative. In time and practice, you'll figure out what the consistency of the dough should be, how much salt to add, how thin to spread it on the pan, etc. Just get to work!
Buckwheat-use flour or just grind some in a clean coffee grinder or blender
sunflower seed, ground
1/4 cup cooked short grain brown rice
sea salt
That's all the ingredients you need for your first lesson in flatbread. Mix up the buckwheat flour, sunflower seeds and add a bit of salt, start with 1/4 tsp. Add in some water until all the flour is just moistened then go ahead and add the cooked rice. (Taste to see if enough salt). It will be very sticky, but now you will want to add in a bit more water. Not too much, you don't want it too runny, we're not making pancake batter here, it needs to be thicker than that.
By the way, before you do all this, because it's so quick to do that part, make sure you have heated up a cast iron pan. Coat the pan with oil and heat it over medium-high. Once you have made your dough, the pan should be ready and you can spread the dough across the surface of the pan with the back of a flat spoon, if necessary.
We love using our cast iron pans, they are the best. Of course we also like our stainless steel cookware too, but since we have decided that we go through too many non-stick pans and the fact that using them isn't good for our health, we decided to forego the non-stick and opted for cast iron instead. Culinary-wise, the flavor you get off of these pans is excellent, and we have found that in it's simple care, they beat the best non-stick cookware out there.
OK, so if you're using cast iron, you'll know it's ready to turn over 'cause you'll be able to slide the bread around, and it won't stick. Depending on the heat, maybe give it about 5-7 minutes. You can turn it over now. It won't take as long to cook on the second side. Hey, make sure you adjust your heat as necessary to avoid burnt bread. That's it!


Some basic tips to remember in gluten free baking/breads:
Vary the types of flours you use to change the texture and flavor of your finished product. Just remember: these are flours you should use in small quantities because they have a "sticky, chewy" texture- tapioca flour, arrowroot powder, potato flour or starch, cornstarch. They give "hold" to your product, but if you use too much you end up with a sticky, gooey mess. And it won't taste good.
Always use xanthan gum, this helps in the texture of your product and adds some elasticity that gluten free breads/baked goods lack.
All right. Are you ready for your next lesson in gluten free breads? Well first let me ask you if you've tried any of the gluten free pizza crust mixes out there. What did you think? What did I think? Yuck! Let's make our own. It's cheaper and tastes WAY better. This recipe makes a great pizza crust, or bread sticks, or flatbread, as in the above photograph. Or just plain bread to eat as in the old days.
1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour--or-- use a combination of 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 sorghum flour, and 1/4 cup potato starch (again, you should play around with the types of flours to find your preference).
1/2 cup fine corn flour--substitute another flour or increase amt. of sunflower seeds, if on an allergen-free diet.
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, ground fine
1 tsp. natural cane sugar or agave or other sweetener
1 tsp. EnerG brand baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning, opt.
1 cup water
Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add water and stir until completely moistened. If needed, add more water. You want a thick, yet spreadable consistency. At this point, you can cook it in a cast iron pan as in the method mentioned in the previous recipe, or spread it on an oiled pan and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Do this before proceeding on to the following:
For pizza: add sauce and toppings. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
For Breadsticks: cut into long sticks or wedges, drizzle with or brush on olive oil and sprinkle garlic powder, sea salt and paprika. Bake until browned.
For Curry Spice Flatbread: Spread very thin before cooking. Then drizzle or brush on olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite curry spice seasoning, garlic powder and sea salt. Bake for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle chopped cilantro on top and bake 5 more minutes.
Have fun!