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Gluten-Free Oat Challah

May 7, 2012

Yesterday I facilitated a workshop called Challah Back: A Beit Midrash in the Kitchen for a marvelous group of people. We went through the process of baking challah, step-by-step, and while the dough rose we studied Jewish texts on bread and challah: the Biblical origins of the word challah; why we have two challot on the Shabbat table; why we salt, etc. (interested parties can check out the source sheet here). For this occasion I decided to figure out a gluten free challah that would actually be considered bread.

What do I mean by that? According to Jewish law, bread is only considered bread if it is made from one of the five grains named in the Bible: barley, rye, wheat, oat, spelt. Bread made from other grains can be kosher, but you cannot say hamotzi over it, nor can you take challah from it. And these five grains are precisely the grains that gluten-free eaters avoid. The one exception to this rule is oat, which can be gluten-free for some* if it is grown, harvested, and processed separately from wheat. And that, my friends, is where gluten-free oat challah comes in.

The final step in my research was figuring out exactly how much oat flour I needed to use in order to make this challah worthy of hamotzi and hafrashat challah. A rabbi I consulted suggested that while no teshuva (responsum) has yet been written on this topic, he suggested the oat flour must be at minimum 51% of the total flour in the bread.

(sidenote: I am not a Jewish law scholar by any means. Please consult your rabbi.)

With that, I got to work! I took my standard gluten-free bread recipe and started grinding up some gluten-free oats in my grain grinder. I also increased the honey. By weight, this recipe’s flours are 60% oat. And if I might say so myself, it is mighty delicious and has all the familiar challah tastes and textures: sweet, rich, and just the right amount of chewiness.

a spring picnic with GF oat challah, homemade jam, and massaged kale salad. perfect!

Gluten-Free Oat Challah

1 package active dry yeast (about 1 tbsp)
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup honey (85 grams)
2 eggs (egg-free version: 2 tbsp flax seeds blended with 6 tbsp warm water until frothy)
1/4 cup (50 grams) grapeseed or other vegetable oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp xanthan gum

1 cup (140 grams) tapioca flour/starch
1 1⁄2 cups (200 grams) gluten-free oat flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes it, as does Cream Hill Estates)
1⁄2 cup (40 grams) coconut, quinoa, brown rice, teff, or other gluten-free flour (note: if you use teff flour, you can reduce your xanthan gum to 2 tsp).

Place the yeast and honey in the bottom of the bowl. Cover with the warm water and whisk for 30 seconds to dissolve the yeast. Let the yeast foam and bubble for a few minute. Mix in wet ingredients first (eggs, oil, vinegar) and then add the flours, salt, and xanthan gum. Mix well. Add raisins if you like. Pour into a lightly oiled 9×5 loaf pan and smooth the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 15 minutes before it’s finished rising, preheat the oven to 375. Remove the dishtowel and bake until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes out of the oven in the pan before removing. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool 30 minutes before slicing.

I have this snazzy braided loaf pan to trick people into thinking I actually braided this challah (gluten-free bread dough is a similar texture to cake batter. Very not-braidable). But any loaf pan will do!

kaiser baking pan

*Note: There are some celiacs who cannot digest oats, so I realize this recipe will not work for those folks.


part 5: beauty of/in process

February 29, 2012

Part 5 in a series on bread and baking.

watercolor on paper, by micah bazant

watercolor on paper, by micah bazant

watercolor on paper, by micah bazant. detail.


watercolor on paper, by micah bazant. detail.



bread and baking part 4: on the road to gluten-free

February 26, 2012

Part 4 in a series on bread and baking.

I’m going to say something fairly obvious about gluten-free bread. It has no gluten in it.

No I know. Duh. But really.

Those who have dabbled in gluten-free sweets or even baked from a gluten-free mix (even Betty Crocker makes GF mixes now) know that while it’s not completely the same, it’s pretty damn good. And every gluten eater can enjoy a slice of flourless chocolate cake, a good bowl of pudding, a meringue, or a French macaron. These are all gluten-free, by the way. That’s because sweets don’t depend on the actual gluten in the flour – in fact, the best glutinous sweet treats are made with pastry flour, which is low gluten. Bread flour? High gluten.

That’s because the defining qualities of good bread – a good crumb (that network of starch and protein filled with air pockets) and a nice crust – are directly caused by the interaction of the proteins in the gluten with yeast and water. By the way, I’m loosely paraphrasing from a lengthy chapter in Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. All this is to say that good gluten-free bread is a great deal harder than its sweet counterparts. And by the way, I lack a science minded brain so if you are some sort of chemist and the way I’m talking about this is making your brain hurt, just move on.

So when I first went gluten-free in the fall of 2008, I felt pretty hopeless. And angry at the world. But I’ll spare you the details. I stopped whining and got over myself and started experimenting. And at some point I realized that things like this were possible:

gluten free bruschetta with local tomatoes, summer 2009

But now that I bake gluten-free bread with some degree of regularity, I would say that my reasoning for continuing to love bread baking, and the ways that it is a spiritual practice, remain the same. I love to focus on my baking, though a lot of the focus here is on weighing different flours. I love to plan. And I really love feeding my friends, especially since I can now feed my gluten-free friends fresh bread. If you have been eating store-bought GF bread for awhile and you have a slice of the bread below, warm, slathered in butter! What a treat.

And the true magic I see in GF bread?

Farmers work in partnership with God to give us so, so many types of grains, nuts, and fruits to grind into flavorful flours. It took going gluten-free for me to recognize and appreciate them all.

When given new eating restrictions, many people, especially those who love to cook, find that they are forced to become more creative. I found this to be true with baking GF bread. The flours! Here’s a few of my favorites: buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, oat, millet, almond, coconut, corn, brown rice, tapioca…

I’m proud that my spiritual practice of baking bread continues on and that, like all spiritual practices, it ebbs and flows and adapts to what’s happening in my life, health, and heart.

With that, I give you a recipe! I love this recipe because if you have a few key ingredients in your pantry – tapioca flour and xantham gum* – and some of your favorite GF flours, you can make delicious bread anytime.

gluten-free bread macro image

gluten-free bread: check out those air pockets!

Gluten-Free Bread

(Heavily adapted from Moosewood Daily Specials)

15 minutes active prep, up to 2 hours for rising, 40 minutes for baking
This is more of a formula than a recipe – which is to say, it is very adaptable to whatever GF flours you happen to have in your pantry. The only one you need for this is tapioca.

I highly recommend owning a kitchen scale. This recipe works better with ingredients measured by weight rather than volume, but you can make it work without.

1 package dry yeast (about 1 tbsp)
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tbsp sugar or 2 tsp agave, honey, or maple syrup (can be omitted)

2 eggs (eggless version – 2 tbsp flax seeds blended with 6 tbsp warm water until frothy)

1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tsp cider vinegar

2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp xantham gum
1 cup (or 140 grams, if you have a kitchen scale) tapioca flour/starch
2 cups (or 240 grams) mixture of brown rice, corn, quinoa, millet, amaranth, oat, coconut, almond, teff, and/or buckwheat flours. I usually choose three.

Any additional yummies – mixed herbs, or cinnamon and a handful of raisins, or a handful each of olives and walnuts, you get the idea.

Using an electric mixer (works best), place the yeast and sugar or agave in the bottom of the bowl. Cover with the warm water and mix for 10-20 seconds or so. Let the yeast foam and bubble for a minute. Mix in wet ingredients first (eggs, oil, vinegar) and then add the dry and any mix-ins. Mix well. It will be the texture of cake batter rather than bread dough – worry not! Pour into a lightly oiled 9×5 loaf pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with sesame, poppy, or nigella seeds if you like. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

15 minutes before it’s finished rising, preheat the oven to 375. Remove the dishtowel and bake until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes out of the oven in the pan before removing. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool 30 minutes before slicing. If you are slicing to toast, I recommend slicing thin. If you have a good knife, this bread should slice easily. You can also made adorable rolls by baking in a muffin tin. If you do so, bake for only 25 minutes. Perfect for lunches alongside a bowl of soup or with a few slices of good cheese.

gluten-free rolls

gluten-free rolls!

*A word about xantham gum. A lot of people are afraid of this product. It is some sort of weird thing made in a lab yada yada, I think it’s a byproduct of corn, you can do your research if you like. It’s used as a stabilizer in a lot of processed foods like creamy salad dressing and ice cream. If you don’t use it, the recipe ingredients need to be much more exact than they are here. The beauty of this particular recipe is that it tastes a little different every time, which I kind of love. You can keep track of your favorite combinations of flours but as long as the measurements are right, the texture should be great. But if you want to try recipes without xantham gum, check out Gluten-Free Girl’s bread recipe.


Michael Moore connects the dots and gives it to CNN

July 11, 2007

Michael Moore is a beautiful beautiful man. He calls CNN on their shit, straight to Wolf Blitzer, and he has no shame about it. He connects health care, problems with corporate media, and the war in Iraq. Blitzer keeps trying to gets soundbites out of him and he’s just not copping to those silly rules.

Via BFP.


no, not the George Michael duo

March 30, 2007

Today I’m heading up to Boston/Cambridge for the WAM conference (Women, Action, and the Media) at MIT. I’m looking forward to honing my blogging skills, learning about using media as a tool for social change, and meeting other feminist media folks. Hopefully I’ll manage to blog a bit at the conference.

Bloggers and others: are you going to be there? If you’re not going, you should be jealous, the lineup looks pretty excellent. More soon.


salty miscellany

January 7, 2007

I’d like to start by saying that I’m not exactly meant for journalism –the stories below all came out between roughly 3-7 days ago. But I’m assuming none of you read saltyfemme to catch breaking news. So I’m sure you don’t mind.

-Some words about former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek (who died last week) from Ha’aretz’s Gidon Levy that you won’t read in the New York Times:

[Kollek] brought approximately 200,000 Jews to the occupied territories – perhaps more than any other person. The settlement enterprise owes a great historic debt to Kollek.

The act of [the] unification [of
Jerusalem in 1967] was an act of occupation and the fact that a charming and charismatic figure like Kollek presided over it does not change a thing. Kollek demolished a neighborhood in the Old City and built the new neighborhoods on Palestinian land for Jews only – apartheid at its worst – and this should also be remembered in the balance of his considerable achievements.

Full text.

-On NPR listeners: On the Media’s Brooke Gladstone goes meta and sorts through some of the stereotypes of the classic ‘liberal’ NPR listener. (from last weekend’s show)

-Also from On the Media from the same show: a parody of public radio that could only have been written by the intimately involved. W-ACLU, 87.1-ALL THE WAY TO THE LEFT ON YOUR RADIO DIAL.” Not worth reading the transcript (it won’t be funny) but give it a listen. Janine Garofalo and Tony Shalhoub provide voices and perfect irony.

Out of the closet in Hollywood: good for the gays? (I always love that question, good for the gays, good for the Jews. Does anyone even know what that means?). Perhaps it perpetuates the American stereotype of gays: rich, white, and male!

-Not that I have anything to prove to any of you, but I’ve been told that I lack a sense of humor and that I live in a bubble, and I guess those two things go together sometimes. And I want to set the record straight. I love Justin Timberlake. And I also think the clip below could’ve been an advertisement for Babeland or Good Vibes. (I’m a few weeks late, but I don’t watch SNL – thanks to Snuggles for bringing it to my attention).

-finally, check out new comments on the femme post. And then post yours!


"Fine, just blow the place up."

January 2, 2007

Oh, what’s New Year’s without a little humor?

I don’t know where to laugh or cry. Alternet has compiled a list of the most outrageous right wing comments of 2006. I figure it’s a fantastic way to start 2007. Topics include white reproduction, gay mafias, Wolf Blitzer’s penchant for killing Jewish babies, and Cindy Sheehan as a prostitute. Some excerpts:

Fox News host John Gibson: “Do your duty. Make more babies…half of the kids in this country under five years old are minorities.”

Ann Coulter: “How do you know that [former President] Bill Clinton’s gay?”: “I don’t know if he’s gay. But [former Vice President] Al Gore — total fag.”

Right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel on Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.: So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian … is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father’s heritage, a man we want as president when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?”

More here.

Also, Alternet has lots of other top 10 of 2006 lists, including The 10 Most Important AlterNet Articles That You Missed in 2006, Alternet’s Ten Most Important Iraq Articles from 2006, and The Top Ten Most Discussed Articles of the Year. Check it out. And happy new year.

(P.S. The subject of my subject line is the Middle East. The brilliant man who uttered that phrase was none other than Rush Limbaugh. Here’s to 2007 bringing us more guys like this!)