Sunday, September 02, 2007

Baking for Bette: Sorghum Bread

When Seamaiden of Book of Yum announced a blogging event to pay tribute to the life of gluten-free baking pioneer Bette Hagman, I knew I wanted to participate. Bette passed away this month, after a long life as a successful gluten-free cookbook author who brought bread (and cake, and pizza, and cookies, and....) back into the life of many many people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance who thought they would never eat their favorite comfort foods again.

Confession: I own two of Bette's gluten-free cookbooks but I haven't cooked a single recipe from them. I figured now was a good time to finally try one of the recipes, but on the day I planned to pull them off the shelf and bake something, I discovered that - alas - the books were not on my bookshelf. They are apparently still in a box in my storage space, probably buried under many other boxes. So I scoured the internet to see if there were any of her recipes I could find online. The first one that I found called out to me: Sorghum Bread, a recipe Bette created for gluten-free sorghum flour purveyors Twin Valley Mills. Sorghum is by far my favorite GF flour - It is mild and finely ground and sweet, with no unusual flavor or grittiness. It is a whole grain, yet has the appearance and texture of one of the more refined flours. It works in nearly every recipe and I've been using it more and more as a replacement for white and brown rice flours. It is delicious! I served this bread with Shabbat dinner this week and all of the people at the table, several of whom have never tasted gluten-free bread, raved about it.

I changed some of the measurements and procedures for this recipe, adapting it to be kosher and pareve. I am posting my adapted version here, though I cannot take any credit for the recipe as a whole, as it's still definitely a Bette Hagman recipe. Because I rarely eat any refined sugar, the original recipe would have been far too sweet for me, so I reduced the amount of sugar. If you use a sweet non-dairy milk substitute such as Vance's DariFree Original Powder Beverage you should be able to get away with reducing the added sugar to 1 1/2 or even just 1 tablespoon. If you use unsweetened dairy milk powder or prefer a sweeter bread, you will want to use 2 tbsp of sugar.

The appearance and texture of this bread are just lovely. I can only imagine the work that Bette must have put into the chemistry experiment that is gluten-free baking in order to come up with just one recipe, let alone the hundreds she has published.

Bette, thank you for the contributions you made to the gluten-free world. Even though this is my first time preparing one of your recipes, I can feel the impact you have made on my life indirectly. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have become gluten-free at a time when there were so many fabulous recipes available on the internet and in a plethora of cookbooks. If it weren't for you, I might not have had people to reassure me that I could still eat the foods I love. You were truly a pioneer, and every gluten-intolerant person's life is better for it. Rest in peace.

[We ate half of the loaf before I even got a chance to photograph it! Oops.]

An Adaptation of Bette Hagman's Recipe for Twin Valley Mills

[ Gluten-Free / Dairy-Free / Soy-Free / Pareve / Vegetarian Option ]

1 cup sweet sorghum flour
2/3 cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/3 cup Vance's Dari-Free or other powdered non-dairy milk substitute
1 tsp salt
1 tsp unflavored kosher fish gelatin or equivalent agar-agar (vegan gelatin substitute)
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp dry quick-acting yeast granules
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup lukewarm water

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease an 8 1/2" by 4 1/2" loaf pan with vegetable oil and dust with rice flour. When the oven gets to the right temperature, turn it OFF and do not open the door.

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, or in the mixing bowl of a standing mixer, whisk the eggs, vinegar, and oil. You can use a sturdy electric hand-mixer, or a wooden spoon (if you have lots of elbow grease to spare) if you don't have a standing mixer. Add most of the water, saving a few tablespoons. Slowly fold in flour mixture a little at a time, with mixer on low setting. The mix should have the consistency of a thick cake batter. Add the remaining water to attain this texture. With the mixer on high, beat for several minutes or until the dough is smooth and well-blended.

Pour into the greased and floured pan, cover with a dishtowel and allow to rise in the warm oven for 30 minutes or until the dough reaches the top of the pan. Turn the oven back on to 375 F and bake for 10 minutes, then cover with tin foil and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Immediately remove from pan and allow to cool before slicing.


Alisa said...

That is so wonderfully sweet, and the bread looks delicious.

I have never come across sorghum in stores, I will have to keep an eye out for it.

CeliacChick said...

Lovely photo!

nannyaj said...

This is a lovely tribute, I admire your talent.

MotherLode said...

Thank you so much for this post. Bette was an enormous help to me when we realized we were GF. I called her, and she shared a lot with me, a total stranger. Later, I was a tester for her Breads book.

I was just thinking of her, and thinking of calling her. What a shock to realize she died over a year ago.

What a lady.


Yael said...

Just made this with flaxmeal and without the DariFree for my daughter in muffin pans for Shabbos rolls while we have challah. They taste yummy and came out perfectly! Thank you for posting this recipe.

Anonymous said...

where do you find sorghum flour? I have looked EVERYWHERE!!!

ByTheBay said...

Anonymous: Where do you live? It's very easy for me to find at any place that has a wide variety of flours from Bob's Red Mill, at health food store (esp Whole Foods) and online. I often order flours online - Try Sorghum Flour
or try Authentic Foods Gluten-Free Sorghum Flour.

It's my favorite flour to bake with, I rarely even use rice flour any more. So I buy it in bulk.