***Update: My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs, was recently released, which includes a gluten-free recipe I prefer to this one. The video is up top and the recipe is up top as well. I’m keeping this recipe up for reference. ***
As with the original peasant bread recipe, the size of the bowl is important: The vintage Pyrex #441 bowl is my favorite bowl to bake the peasant bread in — the perfectly round shape of the bowl creates a beautiful round loaf. Another cheaper, very good option is the Pyrex 322. I have kept the proportions almost identical to the original peasant bread recipe, but I have provided a half recipe here because this is how I have been experimenting this past month. It seemed less wasteful to make one 2-cup-flour loaf vs. two 4-cup-flour loaves during the experimental phase. Using water vs. milk or buttermilk creates a texture most similar to the original peasant bread recipe, but milk or buttermilk makes for a tastier loaf. If you are up for experimenting, and if you have two small Pyrex bowls, it’s a helpful exercise to make a batch of each so you can compare the taste and texture.
- 1 cup lukewarm water, buttermilk or milk**
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 1½ teaspoons active-dry or instant yeast***
- 2 cups (256 g ) gluten-free flour*
- 2 teaspoons (6 g) xanthum gum
- 1 teaspoons (6 g) kosher salt
- 2 egg whites (80 g)
- room temperature butter, about 2 teaspoons
**To make foolproof lukewarm water that will not kill the yeast (water that’s too hot can kill yeast), boil some water — I use my teapot. Then, mix ¾ cup cold water with ¼ cup boiling water. This ratio of hot to cold water will be the perfect temperature for the yeast. If using milk or buttermilk, zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds or so — just make sure the milk is not too hot to touch. It should be lukewarm. With buttermilk especially, be careful not to get it too hot or it will curdle.
*I buy Red Star active dry yeast and SAF instant yeast in bulk from Amazon. I store them in my fridge, and they last forever. Also, if you buy instant yeast, there is no need to do the proofing step — you can add the yeast directly to the flour — but the proofing step does just give you the assurance that your yeast is alive.
*** I have tried a variety of gluten-free flours in this recipe. I favor the ones made from rice flours (brown or white) versus bean flours. I have had success with King Arthur and Hodgson Mill brands gluten-free flours. I have had success in the past (for this lemon-thyme shortbread recipe for instance) with C4C, though I have not tried it with this bread mostly because my local market doesn’t sell it. I read online that its mix contains xanthum gum, so if you are using C4C, you might need to make adjustments, since the recipe below calls for xanthum gum.
- Mixing the dough:
- If you are using active-dry yeast: In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top. There is no need to stir it up. Let it stand for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and/or bubbling just a bit — this step will ensure that the yeast is active. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthum gum and salt. When the yeast-water-sugar mixture is foamy, stir it up, and add it to the flour bowl. Add the two egg whites. Mix using a spatula or wooden spoon until the flour is absorbed.
- If you are using instant yeast: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthum gum, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Add the water. Add the egg whites. Mix until the flour is absorbed.
- Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for at least an hour. (If you have the time to let it rise for 1.5 to 2 hours, do so.) This is how to create a slightly warm spot for your bread to rise in: Turn the oven on at any temperature (350ºF or so) for one minute, then turn it off. Note: Do not allow the oven to get up to 350ºF, for example, and then heat at that setting for 1 minute — this will be too hot. Just let the oven preheat for a total of 1 minute — it likely won’t get above 300ºF. The goal is to just create a slightly warm environment for the bread.
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Grease one oven-safe bowls (such as the pyrex bowls I mentioned above) with about two teaspoons of butter.
- Using a spatula, transfer the dough to the prepared bowl. Note: Unlike the traditional peasant bread recipe, there is no punching down of the dough here. I suggest using a light hand/spatula, in fact, while transferring the dough to the bowl.
- Let the dough rise 20 to 30 minutes on the countertop near the oven (or near a warm spot) or until it has risen to just below or above (depending on what size bowl you are using) the top of the bowl. (Note: I do not do the warm-oven trick for the second rise. I simply set my bowl on top of my oven, so that it is in a warm spot.)
- Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the loaf onto a cooling rack. If you’ve greased the bowl well, the loaf should fall right out onto the cooling rack. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.