It’s not what you think it means…
Gluten-Free-You… and it is a complete work in progress.
In a strange, weird and unexpected twist of fate I have reason to believe that I have a wheat/gluten allergy or intolerance which at this time is unconfirmed by an MD, but I isolated it from my diet about three weeks ago and have NEVER felt as good as I do since eliminating it. I have been playing with “pre-made” gluten-free flour blends from “Bob’s Red Mill” to some degree of disappointment. You see, I’m so used to wheat flour, white flour, AP flour, bread flour and pastry flour knowing intimately how each works, their suitable uses and what to add or substitute to make one more like the other depending on what the formula calls for. I can spot dough flaws just by feel and sight and know how to correct them. I know flour and how it behaves…I’m used to flour…. I love flour. I also love to bake… but have had some rather … disappointing trials since I switched to gluten-free flour. Or at least the “pre-made” blends. So far, I made cookies and pizza (both using “Bob’s Red Mill” gluten free flour and his pizza mix) with some disappointing results. (for non-commerical gluten free flour blends… see gluten free flour blends under recipes)
About a week ago, I made GF chocolate chip cookies that tasted good, but looked like Florentines with lumpy chocolate chips and had a lacy texture versus the crispy edged, soft-gooey centered cookies I was baking before going GF. I have to admit, I’m leery of trying them again and resting on solid disappointment. On a closer analysis, I think the fault may lie in the sugar I used and not the flour blend so I’m willing to try them again. (As soon as I can get to the grocery to replenish supplies like eggs, butter and milk.)
Tonight I tried the pizza mix…. I mixed the dough according to package directions and it felt sticky… overly wet. Not like my usual pizza dough and it smelled different… not as yeasty, kinda nutty. I love that yeasty bread dough smell. I wondered and almost feared the dough I just made. I questioned this dough every step of the way and then decided that i may need to “mask” the taste of the blend of ground whole grains by adding some garlic, onion, cayenne and garlic bread powders to the dough. That, at least, made it smell better. I stuck my fingers in the mixing bowl and the dough, instead of being a solid, elastic mass that would leave an imprint of my fingers stuck to my skin like glue… When I rinsed them off under water the dough dissolved slowly, leaving a slick reside and not rinsing clean away. I set it to rise, like the directions said then I got worried… I wondered how in the fu*k was I going to roll this out, stretch it, toss it and get it off the pizza peel and on to the 450 degree stone I keep in my oven. I kept checking the dough during it’s rising process, touching it, poking it until finally I pulled off about a tablespoon of dough pressed it between my fingers (most of it stuck) and placed it on my pizza stone and closed the oven… the sample piece. The tester…. I watched it. It rose a bit, then the edges turned brown. I opened the oven and touched this dough ball which felt springy, spongy and dense. I tore it in half and popped it in my mouth, chewed it and tried to figure it out…. it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either. I covered the rest in tomato sauce and tried that bite… better.
After letting it rise… I felt it up again and this time it was leavened but even more sticky so I dug the package out of the trash and re-read the directions…. “press dough into pizza pan with wet hands” … WTF???? You don’t make a good pizza by “pressing” dough in a pan. You make good pizza by hand stretching dough, tossing it in the air, catching it and feeling the smooth elasticity between your hands. (I’ve made so much pizza dough and made so many pizzas in my culinary career, I think I can safely call my self a pizza expert and know good dough from bad dough… this was bad dough.) I could feel the panic setting in realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to roll, toss and stretch my dough… so I “pressed” on and coated a small sheet pan with olive oil, wet my hands and grabbed a handful of this foreign dough. I pressed it as smoothly and as evenly as I could in a pan and baked it for 8 minutes as directed without toppings. 8 minutes later, the crust was bubbling a bit and sort of golden around the edges… ok, so far so good. I pulled it out, sauced it, topped it and returned it to the oven hoping that the crust would be crispy and light. The suggested 12 minute baking time later, the edges were certainly more brown and all the toppings were cooked through (home-made beef Italian sausage, bacon, asparagus, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella) I pulled it and its hefty weight from the oven. I could feel how dense this crust was before I even cut into it. It looked good… smelled good… Do you remember making pizza using bisquick biscuit dough as the crust? That’s what it looked like. And that’s how it tasted. Like dense, wet biscuit dough pizza. Disappointing to say the least especially since I’m used to a thinner, light, crispy yet chewy crust that holds up the moisture of the sauce and not succumbing to it like this one did. I think my expectation was that it was going to be like my earlier pizzas… and that’s where I’m conflicted. I feel so awesome since I eliminated wheat, gluten and flour products from my diet… but miss the taste, texture and crumb of what I have over more than 30 years of baking have been accustomed to. I want to just swap the flour to a gluten free one and have the same results… and that’s not happening.
After the perceived failures of the cookies and the pizza I wonder if I should give up baking all together… but then again, that would go against everything I believe in.