Why I Teach Gluten-Free (and Vegan!) Bread Baking Classes

It all started with my friend, Ashley. You could, in fact, call her my gluten-free muse! You see, Ashley follows a gluten-free and vegan lifestyle (which, as Meghan Telpner is fond of saying, has cured an incurable disease – Crohn’s). And when you are vegan and gluten-free, you can have some challenges around finding versions of your former favourite foods. One of these for Ashley, was bread. She could find breads she could eat at our amazing local health food stores, but they were often expensive. Or full of things like ‘potato starch’. And when you started out eating lovely unrefined whole grains, why would you want to switch over to white bread substitutes?

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Enter my quest. I decided that for Christmas (way back in 2009 – this has been a long quest), I was going to make an Ash-friendly loaf of gluten-free bread. How hard could it be? I knew how to bake sourdough and all-whole-grain-no-scary-ingredients bread from scratch. And I got consistently good results with whole-wheat flour along with additions of oats, quinoa, seeds – it was good bread. It made me happy, and so I needed to be able to share that with Ashley.

So off I went to the trusty internet in search of a gluten-free bread recipe.

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather, I was so surprised with what I found.

#1 – lots of recipes that were mimicking white bread. They included less-than-nutritious ingredients like tapioca starch, potato starch, and even commercial bread mixes as their main ingredients. No thank you.

#2 – Eggs. Eggs. Eggs, and more eggs. A lot of gluten-free recipes called for up to 6 eggs per loaf! That’s not bread, that’s cake. WOW. And if you’re vegan, eggs aren’t going to cut it. I also chose to leave out other non-vegan ingredients like butter, buttermilk, milk, and gelatin.

#3 – SCARY INGREDIENTS. Ok, so “xanthan gum” and “guar gum” are naturally-derived plant gums, so they must be healthy and good for you, right? Well… not so much. In my quest to figure out these gums (having never needed them before!), I googled “xanthan gum”. And you know how google does that magical auto-complete thing? It offered me “xanthan gum side effects” as a search option. I thought these might be hokey websites, but the links were to credible sites like WebMD, where I learned that people with digestive disorders (hi, most people that choose to go gluten-free) are extra susceptible to getting side effects from xanthan gum and guar gum that cause digestive distress. WHAT!?! This seemed ridiculous to me, so I was determined to make a bread without gums. And while I was at it, I was going to leave out all other other things that have no place in bread: gelatin, locust bean gum, psyllium husk or pectin. Not in my bread, thankyouverymuch.

So, I had to effectively start from scratch to find bread recipes that worked. After a whole lot of experimenting, (wherein I learned that even if you haven’t made delicious gluten-free bread, you’ve always got breadcrumbs), I came up with a few recipes that I am tremendously happy with. Not just as gluten-free breads, but as breads. These recipes make the most of the incredible (and individual!) flavours inherent in all of the gluten-free grains and seeds: chickpea flour, millet, flax, buckwheat, quinoa! YUM!!!  I have to say that I crave the Quinoa & Flax Seed Gluten-Free Bread (and the vegan version I do in my classes) with hummus and sprouts every week, and I think this is the best pita I’ve ever made (that just happens to be gluten-free).

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When I started sharing my recipes and stories with my classes at Meghan Telpner Cooks, I got resounding head nods and shouted agreement with my frustration at the price, availability, and taste of the commercial gluten-free breads on the market today. And I think everyone deserves the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven… and slicing into it, and topping it with your favourite treat (Lemony Hummus? Maple squash butter? The homemade “notella” chocolate & hazelnut spread or olive tapenade we do in class?) and EATING BREAD. Yes.

maple squash butter

olive tapenade

veggies

And since I’ve started teaching these classes, I’ve discovered a few other benefits.

#1 — It’s teaching AND performing at the same time.  My two favourite things, besides food.  And it’s teaching about food, so we’ve got that covered.

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dough2

dough1

#2 — I get Kitchen Fairies!!!!!  The fabulous Kristen (of Cook Bake Nibble) is a trained natural foods chef, and she has been helping me out!!!!  222319_10150171313940662_157037275661_6964353_5360181_n

(Stay tuned this fall for more Kristen-fun.  She is delightful and you will love her.)

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And the hilarious and industrious Jen is always willing to make more pita.  And more pita.  And endless amounts of pita.

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#3 — I get to let out any frustrations with multi-grain pita dough:

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#4 — And explain myself with really important hand gestures:

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(This is all about dough.  Seriously, you don’t want to miss out on the hand gestures!)

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#5 — I also get to cover an entire loft with flour, and then go home!!

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#6 — You get to eat bread!!!!  Real, delicious, whole-grain, gluten-free and vegan bread that you can make in your own kitchen!

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dough3

buckwheat slicing

So that’s why I am proud and honoured to have another gluten-free (and vegan!) bread baking workshop coming up at Meghan Telpner Cooks. If you’re interested, there are still a couple of spots left on Sunday, September 18th and Saturday, November 5th, and you can even meet my muse, the delightful Ashley, if you come to the September one. You know you want to.

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I’ve had a number of people asking about what they can do if they can’t make it to Toronto for classes. Well, I suggest you plan a vacation and take a few of Meghan’s classes (in November you could also fit in the fabulous Veggie Loving Transition Workshop with Meghan on the same weekend), like a few wonderful folks have done already. OR, you can wait with baited breath for my super-surprise-sneaky project… I’m working on a gluten-free bread baking eBook, and as soon as it’s done, I’ll let you know how you can get your very own copy.

So… Let them eat bread!

buckwheat loaf slicing

Photos in this post are courtesy of the talented Dominic Tremblay (@d_tremblay) and the ever-inspiring Meghan Telpner (@meghantelpner).

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Categories: Classes/Workshops, Inspiration

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15 Comments on “Why I Teach Gluten-Free (and Vegan!) Bread Baking Classes”

  1. KB
    August 30, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    What’s wrong with psyllium seed husks?

    • August 30, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      Ahhh, good question! There’s nothing inherently wrong with psyllium seed husks. In fact, I personally take them as a supplement and think they are fabulous.

      However, in many of these bread recipes I had found, they were being added to ‘white bread’ doughs made from starches without much nutrition (potato starch, tapioca starch) to make them appear healthier. I’d personally prefer to get my fibre from whole grains, rather than needing to add it to something that’s fibre-less or that has been stripped of its natural fibre.

  2. August 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Do your bread recipes include yeast?

    • August 31, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

      Hi Karlee —
      Most of my recipes do include commercial yeast. I have a couple of flatbread recipes that do not, and I am currently working on some gluten-free sourdough using the leavening power of the natural yeasties living in the sourdough. At this time, 3 out of the 4 breads in the workshop contain yeast.

  3. May 3, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    What is that delicious looking round bread that looks so crispy and crunchy on the outside but oh so warm and soft on the inside? That’s what I have been craving since I went on my gluten free diet. Do you have the recipe for that one?

    • May 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi Rachel —
      That’s a recipe (Artisinal Quinoa & Millet Crusty Boule) exclusively for participants of my gluten-free bread baking class. The next class will be November 3 in Toronto.

  4. November 12, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    We are vegan and gluten-free, too, and I never knew this about xanthan gum or guar gum possibly causing digestive distress! Wow – I’ll have to watch for this. Thank you! Your bread looks absolutely delicious!

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