Rustic (Gluten-Free) Bread Baked in a Dutch Oven
The rhythm and method of baking bread from scratch is hands down my favorite kitchen ritual. From start to finish it bathes me in warmth and comforting aromas. It epitomizes what the words “home” and “hospitality” mean to me, and the breaking of a fresh loaf with others is a true act of love.
Over the years a handful of family members and friends began minimizing or eliminating wheat products and/or gluten-containing foods from their diets. Some due to a diagnosis of celiac disease, or of non-celiac gluten sensitivity*. Some due to carbohydrate restrictions for regulation of blood sugar levels. Others because adhering to such a way of eating made them look and feel better. (*Read about the difference here.)
Regardless of what prompted the transitions, parting ways with fresh, bakery-quality bread is commonly an upsetting struggle. As someone who absolutely loves to share my kitchen and its creations with those I care for, these dietary changes presented a challenge for me as well. They also presented inspiration for experimentation and learning about the gluten-free (GF) bread-baking quirks and new, interesting pantry ingredients.
My attempts thus far have yielded successes and, as is the nature of trial and error, some duds. One bread closely resembled a leaden doorstop; one was a sticky, underdone mess; and then there was the loaf that seemed promising but crumbled at the mere sight of my bread knife. It’s frustrating, but I laugh, learn from my mistakes, and try, try again! (Mishaps are re-purposed one way or another into breadcrumbs, croutons… bird food.)
Curiosity and persistence are in no short supply, and today I’m sharing a winner.
The base recipe called for a few items I’d recently run out of, and I ended up replacing buckwheat with millet flour and cornmeal with homemade peanut flour. I was worried the substitutions might lead to a gummy interior or lack of rise. Not so. This is a delicious bread. It has a tender and chewy crumb, it’s sturdy but not overly dense, and the crust is crisp. It also slices very well, as thinly or thickly as you like. Requiring only 20 minutes up-front (no kneading), one hour of hands-off resting, and just over one hour in the oven, this is a departure from most rustic recipes that are lengthy projects and very hands-on.
Notes About the Gluten-Free Ingredients
Each of the ingredients is important in its own way, and in combination, lends to the overall success of this bread. High in fiber, magnesium and antioxidants, millet flour has a mild flavor. With a protein structure similar to wheat, millet flour is ideal for GF bread. Its heavier weight can mean less rise, and requires pairing with lighter ingredients to offset the heft. Light and starchy sweet white rice flour and potato starch are key players in that respect, helping retain moisture for a tender crumb (they also promote a nicely colored crust). High-fiber psyllium, in tandem with the potato starch, combats any gumminess from the light, absorbent rice flour.
Gluten-free baked goods that require structure, like bread, typically include gums as binders to achieve this end. However, these ingredients are rather expensive, can also become “gummy” (surprise), and are often not tolerated well digestively. Combining the ground chia seeds with warm water creates the binding agent we need to trap gases within the dough and promote that airy quality desired in breads. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fats, fiber and calcium, and are a complete protein.
Sorghum flour adds a pleasant, subtle sweetness, and is packed with iron, selenium, protein, antioxidants and also fiber. As a medium-weight flour it lends to the sturdiness and good texture. Peanut flour provides another boost to the protein content, promotes tenderness, and helps balance overall taste and texture. It’s a good source of fiber, folate, potassium and zinc, and is relatively low in cholesterol and saturated fat.
We agreed this is the best GF bread recipe I’ve made yet, so don’t be surprised if future versions show up here as I continue to perfect and make it my own. With the holidays approaching, some festive add-ins might find their way into the dough during the last strokes — chopped fresh cranberries, orange zest and pepitas, or dried apricots and toasty walnuts, or maybe a variety of olives and sage or rosemary leaves. But those are ideas for another time. Today I’ll enjoy it plain with a light spreading of homemade pear butter.
Rustic bakery-quality bread formed with your own two hands and baked in your own oven is oh-so satisfying. But a rustic bakery-quality bread that’s a welcome and safe offering to all of those you care about? That’s love.
Tell me... What are some of the eating challenges, intolerances, and allergies you cater to for family and friends?
- 2 3/4 cup warm water, divided
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1/3 cup chia seeds
- 1 1/2 cups sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)
- 1/2 cup potato starch
- 1/2 cup nut flour, plus more for sprinkling (or GF-certified cornmeal)
- 1/2 cup sweet white rice flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup millet flour
- 1/3 cup psyllium fiber (or whole psyllium husks)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing the loaf
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1 cup of the warm water, the maple syrup and yeast. Stir briefly and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes as it proofs.
- In a coffee or spice grinder, process the chia seeds until fine and powdery; set aside. In another large bowl or on a piece of wax paper, mix together the sorghum (or brown rice) flour, potato starch, nut flour, sweet rice flour, and salt.
- Once the yeast mixture is bubbling and foamy, pour in the remaining 1 3/4 cup warm water. Using a whisk or the whisk attachment on your mixer, work in the ground chia seeds, millet flour, psyllium and 2 Tbsp olive oil until smooth. Let it sit 1 minute to thicken. (*Do mind the time -- too much longer than that and it will become too gelatinous and stiff.)
- If you're using a stand mixer, switch to the bread/dough hook; otherwise a sturdy wooden spoon and arm muscle will do. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the yeast and chia mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined. (The dough may appear wetter than most traditional bread dough -- that is okay.) Scrape the dough a well-oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Set aside in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- In the meantime, begin heating the oven to 450 F. Once the oven is hot, place a large dutch oven (5.5-qt.) with its lid inside to heat up for 30 minutes.
- When the dough has about doubled in size, remove the dutch oven from the oven and uncover. Quickly pour in 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil, turn the pan to coat, and then sprinkle a few teaspoons of your nut flour (or cornmeal) to lightly cover the bottom. Loosen the dough from the bowl and (very carefully!) place it inside the oiled and floured pan. Brush the top of the dough with extra olive oil and, if you like, sprinkle a bit more of the nut flour (or cornmeal) on top.
- Return the lid to the dutch oven, and place it back into the oven. Bake, covered, for 50 to 55 minutes. At this point, remove the lid and continue baking an additional 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown. (You can also test for done-ness with an internal thermometer. Heartier loaves of bread should be between 200 and 210 F.)
- Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes inside the dutch oven. Carefully turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack, and let it rest at least 1 hour before slicing to help the crust develop.
- Store in a tightly sealing container or bag at room temperature for up to 5 days. To freeze: slice the loaf, wrap it as one re-formed loaf in plastic then in foil, and place it into a large zipper-top bag. Defrost the loaf or individual slices in the refrigerator overnight as needed.
Instead of oiling and flouring the dutch oven, you can use parchment paper. Place the risen dough in the center of a large piece of parchment, and then use the parchment as a sling to safely lower the dough into the preheated dutch oven. Continue with the recipe as directed. (Don't worry if any of the paper hangs over -- the lid will weigh it down.)
Be sure to use potato starch; not potato flour -- they are not interchangeable.
Recipe adapted from Meaningful Eats.
+ + + +
p.s. I love hearing from you! Check back if you ask a question, because I’ll answer it here.
And if you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing. Thanks!