Now that I am experimenting with gluten-free cooking I have discovered one true tragedy. Real bread is an impossibility. Sure there are lots of recipes that SAY they have good bread. But the bottom line is that for REAL bread you need gluten. The gluten is what makes the dough ‘thready’ and that holds it together during rising and after baking. So now it is time to dig into some food science (Harold McGee) and see what I can come up with to fake it. And, no, Xanthan gum is NOT a substitute.
The situation is even worse for pizza – all the G-F recipes I’ve seen call for spreading some kind of batter across a pan and then par baking. That’s not a pizza either. So again, another challenge.
The other food I feared for was pasta. There are two kinds of pasta. There is the extruded kind that is most often what you buy dried. It is made only of flour and water and is actually harder to make at home. Macaroni is the quintessential example of this. And extruded seems to work quite well for corn, rice and probably lots of other gluten free flours. I recently made a really nice macaroni and cheese with brown rice macaroni from Trader Joe’s. So that one isn’t a problem. But for homemade fresh pasta you are talking about rolled pasta – typically made with egg. And I was worried that it would prove that gluten was a necessary component of the elasticity in this kind of pasta dough. Research provided me with a host of recipes and experimentation proved that bean-based flours were not going to work. Nor was the relatively grainy brown rice flour. So I went with some other things I had tried. Again most recipes called for Xanthan gum so I used it but next time we are going to try it without. The ONLY thing wrong with the pasta I came up with was a bit of a slimy texture – almost certainly due to the Xanthan gum.
This pasta I made into taglialini – very fine square cut threads of pasta – a lot like angel hair. I rolled it on a cheap Italian stainless steel hand cranked pasta maker and it did take a little extra work at the thicker stages to develop the dough smoothly. But after that it worked great and I even rolled it one stage thinner than most recipes suggest. without any trouble.
Gluten Free Pasta Take One
2/3 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup fine cornflour
2/3 cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup white rice flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp Xanthan gum
3 tbsps olive oil
Put all dry ingredients in a sturdy bowl and stir to combine. Add the six eggs and olive oil and thoroughly mix, then kneed in to make a stiff dough. Adjust flour if needed or add a little water. Once thoroughly combined, wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to rest and then reknead.
Break about 1/6th of the dough ball off, rewrap the rest to prevent it drying out and then roll the small piece according to your pasta maker instructions or by hand until very thin (less than 1mm or about 1/16th of an inch. I then cut it using the pasta maker cutting attachment into taglialini.
If you want to use it right away, put a big pot of water on to boil as you start rolling. I then made a sauce before cooking the pasta. In this case it was a typical light Italian sauce made by frying 6 finely minced cloves of garlic in 1/4 cup of olive oil along with a sprinkling of chili flakes. I then added 1/2 a bunch of Italian parsley, finely minced and about 2 cups of cherry tomatoes cut into halves and cooked until the parsley wilted. I added a squeeze of lemon.
Then I cooked the pasta in boiling water for just under 2 minutes, and served with the sauce and a sprinkling of shredded parmesan.
For sources of good gluten free recipes, see the following: