Monday, April 12, 2010

Lessons From the CIA – The Importance of Liquids

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was planning to take a gluten-free baking class at the Culinary Institute of America. Saturday was the day. Chef Richard Coppedge, the resident gluten-free expert on the Hyde Park CIA campus and author of the book Gluten-free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America, was our teacher for the day.

After explaining how he had scrubbed down the kitchen to get rid of contaminants, we got busy baking doughnuts, and tarts, a yeast bread, a quick corn bread, pizza, and even pasta (oh my!) Despite the fact that the class was focused on baking without gluten, Chef Coppedge was very helpful in answering my questions about allergen-free substitutes in some of the recipes we made.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more of what I learned including baking without eggs and how to use gums in gluten-free baking, but what surprised me the most, and what I want to focus on today is the role of liquids and moisture.

I always thought that when I was adapting a traditional recipe to be allergen-free that I needed to keep to the exact same mix of dry to wet ingredients. What I learned is that gluten-free flours absorb more liquid, and that sometimes adding more liquid ingredients is the right thing to do. If you add more liquid to breads it will make them more batter-like, and that may be just the kick they need to keep them from being dry and crumbly. To adjust for more liquids, you may need to bake longer.

I also learned that carbonated water is a great trick for yeast breads (only if you plan to bake them the same day). The carbonated water will help with the rising action.

How do you know when your bread is done? When a cooking thermometer inserted into the center is 200 degrees. When your bread looks done on the outside, if it needs more time, turn the oven down to 325 degrees, and bake a little longer.

Another trick I learned was the importance of moisture when making bread. Before baking, the bread should be placed in a closed humid environment for 45 minutes (this is called proofing). The microwave is a great place to do this (not cooking, of course). Also, having moisture in the oven will ensure a nice crust on the bread (none of that crumbly stuff). In class we had access to fancy industrial ovens with humidity controls, but of course none of us have these at home. Chef’s recommendation was to lightly spray the walls of the oven (not the light) with warm water before pre-heating. Then, during the cooking process the moisture needs to come out, but not until the crust is brown. At that point, you can slightly crack the oven to vent it.

I have a lot more to share, and some great recipes that I’ll be adapting to be allergen-free. In the meantime, try some of these tricks and let me know what you think.


Gluten Free Sourdough Baker said...

HI Colette,
What a fabulous blog! A few years ago I went to a Culinary Summit and heard Chef Coppedge present. I learned so much from this humble and articulate man.

I bought his book, Gluten-Free Baking, and used the wealth of technical information as a guide. My allergies are such that I could not eat many of the recipes he offers. (I can't have butter, eggs or sugar so that leaves out most of the desserts.) (At the conference I did taste his Molten Chocolate Cake, OMG! ecstasy!, but paid dearly for it, felt like I was drunk, had to take a nap and miss one entire afternoon of presentations)

Anyway, I had already developed a gluten free sourdough starter and bread recipe but became allergic to the chick pea flour in the bread and hard to start all over.

Using Chef Coppedge's hints and tips I was able to create a new body of work that is much more allergen friendly to those of us with multiple food allergies.

My studies developed into a bread baking class and a bread baking manual that I sell on my website. Who knew?

Looking forward to more of your blog posts!
sharon a. kane

Colette said...

Sharon, you've really taken on a challenge with gluten-free sourdough!

The molten chocolate cake is right up my alley! I have to work on that!

Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

Hi Colette, that KAF blend sounds very similar to my own blend that I stir up when baking for gluten-free friends. I've found it works very well for scones, cakes, etc. Haven't tried it out for yeast bread yet.

I was really interested in your comments about what you learned about moisture in your CIA lesson. I also found that to be true. My gluten-free blend requires a lot more moisture than does my usual unbleached all-purpose flour. The first batch of my GF scones were drier than a Brillo pad on a back porch in Tucson!

Colette said...

Jean, yes -- as I have been experimenting I find that I'm better off using too much liquid and cooking longer if needed.