Ask the ChefsApr/May 2013 Issue

In the Kitchen: Prevent Bread from Browning, Chia, and More

©George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Q: What can I do to prevent my bread from browning so much before it finishes baking? The top of the loaf gets dark but the inside is still doughy.

A: You’ve hit upon the No. 1 complaint of gluten-free bread-bakers. Because gluten-free dough is very dense, it often requires a longer baking time. Try lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees the next time you bake. After the loaf is partially baked, cover it loosely with a piece of foil for the remainder of the baking time.

You can also use two smaller loaf pans instead of one large one; the added surface better ensures a thoroughly cooked loaf.

Another trick is to remove the bread from the pan and set the loaf directly on the oven rack for the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking time. This way, the air can circulate evenly around the entire loaf while it finishes baking. Not only does the bread cook better but this technique creates a crust like that of a wheat bread.

Q: I heard that chia contains more nutrients than flax seeds and that it makes a great egg replacer. Is this something new?

A: Chia seeds have been on the market for several years. Also called salba, chia is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber. Like flax meal, chia seeds soaked in hot water become a viscous gel that can be used to replace eggs in baking. (For each egg replaced, mix 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons hot water; let sit for 5 minutes until thickened.) Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds are easily digestible without grinding.

Chia is now available as a flour, which can be added to gluten-free blends to boost the nutritional content of your baked goods.

Q: My granddaughter has both celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. Can you please suggest some ways to create low-carb recipes?

A: Like your granddaughter, we should all be striving to reduce our overall consumption of simple carbohydrates, such as white gluten-free rice flour and starches and table sugar. These “empty” carbs quickly convert to glucose as they’re digested, causing blood sugar levels to spike and ultimately leaving us feeling tired and hungry again.

As a first step, I suggest replacing sugar with an equal amount of a sweetener, like date or coconut sugar, that is lower on the glycemic index. In addition, try using a zero-calorie sweetener, like Stevia in the Raw or a similar product designed for baking. Replace 50 to 75 percent of the white sugar in a recipe with an equal amount of zero-calorie product.

Second, use nutrient-dense flours, such as amaranth, chickpea, sorghum, quinoa and gluten-free oats, in place of some of the white flours in your baking. High in protein and fiber, these flours are digested more slowly, keeping blood sugar levels more stable. (For ratios of flours to starches, see our formula for high-protein flour blend at this page.)

Finally, replace 50 percent of the fat in your recipes with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce, pureed white beans, mashed banana or avocado puree. This not only increases the nutritional profile of your recipes, it also lowers the calories, an added bonus.

Q: I've noticed that some gluten-free recipes call for sorghum flour, while others call for sweet white sorghum flour. My local health food store only carries the sweet variety. Are sorghum flour and sweet white sorghum flour essentially the same thing or do they have different baking properties?

A: They are the same. All food-grade sorghum is actually sweet white sorghum. It’s just labeled differently by different companies. The important exception is red sorghum, a new flour product that has similar baking characteristics but it contributes a dark hue to baked goods. Stick to white sorghum for your gluten-free cookie and cake recipes and try the red variety for darker breads and gingerbread.

Q: I made a recipe for banana bread that calls for a flour blend that includes quinoa flour. The only change I made was adding walnuts. It looked just like the picture and tasted good going down but it had a very bitter aftertaste. Can you tell me why? What can I do to fix it?

A: Quinoa has a slightly bitter aftertaste. Combining quinoa with walnuts (another slightly bitter food) can amplify the bitter taste. Try toasting the walnuts first. Place them on a cookie sheet and toast them in a 350F oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Alternatively, use toasted pecans instead of walnuts, if tolerated. Pecans are a little sweeter on the palate. Other suggestions are to add a bit of brown sugar to the dry ingredients or try substituting an equal amount of gluten-free oat flour (or oat flakes) for the quinoa flour.

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