Looking for interesting gluten free options for bread? You may feel that focaccia if off the menu, but Victoria shows how this simple no knead bread can be part of a wheat free diet. She tops hers with onion & thyme but the choices are plentiful.
Interesting breads are often off the menu for gluten dodgers. In fact, those following a wheat free diet are usually lucky to be offered so much as a gluten free crumb in most places, much to the constant dismay of my gluten intolerant boyfriend. After sharing a wistful reverie with me, which placed focaccia centre-stage in his most missed breads, I was determined to brighten his plate and create a more exciting receptacle for a slathering of butter.
Gluten free bread is the perfect choice for the idle or puny of arm, as there’s no need to knead. Gluten free dough is far too sticky to get that involved with and, besides, there’d be little point. Kneading bread releases the gluten in wheat flour to make a stretchy, springy dough. As there’s no gluten to work here, kneading would only serve as a particularly messy way to combine the ingredients together.
I set to work trying to calculate a way to recreate that oily, soft dough, peppered with bubbles of air, that is characteristic of a wheat flour focaccia. I decided that adding a little bicarbonate of soda to the batter, fizzed up with acid (in this case vinegar, but lemon juice will also do the job) might help the yeast along with creating a nice, fluffy loaf. It turned out rather well, if I do say so myself, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you.
You can top your focaccia with anything you like, from a simple scattering of sea salt, a few spikes of rosemary or a handful of sundried tomatoes and olives. I chose onions for mine, because I think they often get a rough deal. Onions seem forever doomed to play second fiddle to another, more starry ingredient, which is completely unjust, given how versatile and delicious they are. I used two small white onions and one red because that’s what I had in, but you can use whatever you like.
Hopefully, this focaccia will cheer the spirits of other gluten dodgers as much as it did my boyfriend’s. Although I may have made a rod for my own back with this bake. After polishing off the last of the focaccia crumbs, he looked up and, with hopeful eyes, asked, “Next time, can you try to make a baguette?”
Gluten Free Onion and Thyme Focaccia
1 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
1 tsp. caster sugar
200ml warm milk (you can use rice milk to make it dairy free)
250g gluten free plain flour (I used Dove’s Farm)
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 egg, beaten (I used a duck egg as I had some knocking around, but a large hen’s will work just as well)
¼ tsp. bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tsp. fine salt
2 large or 3 small onions, either white or red or a mixture, finely sliced into half moons
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Ground black pepper
Grease a 9-inch square cake tin with oil
Mix the yeast, sugar and a splash of milk together and leave to foam up a bit, while you get on with measuring out the rest of your ingredients. Sift together the flour and xanthan gum, add the egg, oil, salt and the rest of the milk and whisk the lot together. Scrape in the foaming yeast and whisk together until smooth, sticky and fully combined. Fizz up the bicarb with the vinegar and fold into the mixture, before smoothing the dough out into your prepared tin with a palate knife dipped in oil. Cover with a sheet of greased cling film and pop in the airing cupboard, or somewhere warm, for an hour to prove.
In the meantime, you can slice your onions and gently sauté them in olive oil until soft and golden. Season and take off the heat until later.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan)/375°F(350°F fan)/Gas Mark 5
Once the bread has doubled in size, take off the cling film and plunge your fingers in to the dough to make indentations to collect delicious pools of oil. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and scatter over the onions, picked thyme leaves, sea salt and pepper and bake for half an hour or until golden and nicely puffed up. This is nicest served warm and eaten on the day it’s baked.
Inspired? There’s more delicious bread recipes on Great British Chefs. Let us know some of your favourite toppings or ingredients for savoury breads here or over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.