Friday, November 12, 2010

Focaccia Fail

The other day I went to the Library, and I found a new gluten-free cookbook: Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America: 150 Flavorful Recipes from the World's Premier Culinary College.These recipes are unlike any other gluten-free cookbooks I have in that they use different flour blends, which I'm supposed to mix ahead of time and keep on hand. Just as different types of flours are used in conventional baking, depending on the desired end result (higher protein bread flour versus the soft and fine cake flour, etc), these flour blends are meant to do the same, only they're formulated to compensate for the lack of gluten.

I've never made focaccia before, gluten free or otherwise, so perhaps this recipe wasn't the best choice to start with, but it sounded easy enough when I read through it. I'm not exactly sure where I went wrong, but I think I made an error when weighing my flour. That's really the only thing I can think of, as the bread came out dense, heavy, and with an almost-tough kind of chewy texture. Either that, or the yeast just wasn't in the mood to play today because it certainly didn't do its job. However, it still tastes pretty dang good, and it made my house smell awesome, so it's not a total loss. I figure it can only get better, right?

Also, I didn't add any basil to my focaccia. My neighbor has two very prolific basil plants and doesn't mind if I go snag a bunch whenever needed, so I'm not in the habit of buying it. The only trouble is that basil doesn't survive a frost, and so this morning when I went to pick some, both plants were shriveled up. So I just added a wee bit more oregano and rosemary.

Here is what you'll need to make gluten-free focaccia:
The sparkling water and basil are missing from this picture. 

1 1/4 teaspoons Instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1/2 bunch fresh Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1/2 bunch fresh Basil
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1/2 bunch fresh Oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 oz) Flour Blend #1 (see below)
1/2 cup (3 oz) Flour Blend #3
1 1/4 cups sparkling water, room temperature
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
Olive oil, for garnish as needed
1 3/4 teaspoons coarse salt
Blend dry ingredients and herbs in mixer bowl. I used a ballon whisk to do this. See the lovely specs of oregano and fresh rosemary?
Here's the sparkling water! I measured it out at the last minute so it wouldn't go flat.
Add wet ingredients and mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.

This is what it looked like, so I added some extra sparkling water and olive oil.
After adding extra liquid, it finally came together, but it felt more like regular bread dough instead of the more batter-type consistency of most gluten-free breads. Still, I was afraid to add any more liquid to it, so I used it as is.
Mmm, rosemary.
Place dough into 9-inch pie pan brushed with olive oil. Well, this is actually a 10-inch pan because that's what I have.
Cover and proof for 30-40 minutes. You can create a proof box at home by placing a pan of boiling water in the oven (not turned on) with the dough. That will produce a warm, moist environment, which is what yeast likes. Unfortunately, even with an extra 10 minutes of proofing, mine didn't rise.
Post proofing. It didn't really rise. At all.
Bake in preheated oven at 385 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
For some reason, it was swimming in oil when I took it out of the oven.
Here is a close-up of the edge, see all the oil?
I was somewhat concerned about all the extra oil, but literally within minutes of coming out of the oven, it all got reabsorbed or something, because the next time I looked at it, the oil was gone.

No more oil! Where did it go?
Remove from the pan and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Allow to cool on rack.
Um, yeah. Despite liberally greasing the pan with olive oil, as instructed, and the dang bread excreting the stuff as it baked, I had the hardest time getting it out of the pan. I ran a knife around the outside, and turned it upside down, and it wasn't shifting. I ended up prying it out, which is why it looks like this.

A little torn up, but still mostly intact.

Now, I didn't brush with olive oil before sprinkling mine with salt, as I felt it was already oily enough. I maybe should have, though, as the salt doesn't want to stay on. Still, here's a close-up of the bread cut.
See how it's all dense? It's just as heavy and stodgy as it looks.
Here's a piece broken up. Like I said, it still tastes good; the texture is just way off. At least it doesn't develop a slimy mouthfeel or have any kind of aftertaste like you get with some flour blends.

I probably will try this recipe again to see if I can figure out what went wrong this time. I think it definitely has potential. I just need to get the dough rising and the texture right. Even though this is the only recipe I've made from Gluten-Free Baking, I'm adding it to my wish list because I definitely want to have my own copy. In addition to the flour blends and a wide variety of recipes, there are some very helpful tips and the book is really easy to read. It's written as though speaking to the home baker, not a culinary student. Plus, I have a bit of a cookbook addiction and always feel like I need more.

Here are the flour blends used in the above recipe. I weigh everything out, then combine well with a balloon whisk and store in the refrigerator in a labeled ziploc freezer bag.

Flour Blend #1:
9 1/2 oz (1 3/4 cups) White rice flour
7 1/4 oz (2 cups) Potato starch
7 1/4 oz (1 1/2 cups) Tapioca starch

Flour Blend #3:
5 1/4 oz (3/4 cup) White rice flour
14 1/4 oz (4 cups) Potato starch
1 1/4 oz (5 tablespoons) guar gum or xanthan gum
2/5 oz (1/2 cup) Albumen


SpamMan1234 said...

Failures FTW!

Ron Mylar said...

You are also providing the recipe. And I like all these things and want to try these recipes at home. Such that would be very interesting.