Gluten-Free Giving

Two loaves of Mark Engelberg’s Gluten-free, Vegan Bread

Mixed and poured:  4 pm

Baked: 5:15 pm

Gave to a family with wheat allergies

There’s a family I know with a new baby. If you’ve ever been a mom, you know what it’s like those first few months of tending a newborn. There are so many beautiful moments of feeding and marveling at the soft skin and the little toes. Of watching the baby sleep, his tiny chest rising and falling rhythmically. But tending these little people is fatiguing, then add a newborn who needs surgery, who has struggles that other babies might not have, and you have one sleepless, survival-mode mommy…

I asked if I could bake for them. And that’s how I’ve been introduced to the world of gluten-free baking. And what a world it is? It’s like speaking a foreign language.




Xanthan gum

(Then add–Tapioca flour, sugar, salt, potato starch, cornstarch, yeast, olive oil, and water)

Can you believe I fit all of those ingredients into one loaf of bread? With so many distinct grains and starches swimming around in there, it’s no wonder it’s generically (and badly) named Gluten-Free, Vegan Bread.

First of all, I want to know who Mark Engelberg is, the creator of this recipe. The recipe I used is here, and has been copied all over the web. But where is Mark? I tried to find the man, but couldn’t. What I’d like to know is: How did he ever think to put such an odd mixture of ingredients together all in one bowl? Why did he think that sorghum and teff and millet would all get along? And where’s the rice flour? The spelt? The quinoa? It stuns me.

Anyway, this recipe was easy to mix and bake–a bit horrible to look at, but the phone call this morning proved what a powerful thing bread products are. “So good!” my friend said. “So… good!” They’ve been living bread-less for some time caused by major gluten allergies, and buying wheat-free products doesn’t fit well within their budget. It took a bit of a dent out of mine… 🙂

But what fun to make something that will help feed them for at least a few days. I handed over both loaves without trying the bread myself, and will bake another two tomorrow so that they can store some away in the freezer. And maybe I’ll try some of the teff peanut butter cookies just for the fun of it. Or the millet crackers… Anyway, here are some photos to give you an idea of the strangeness of this concoction.

Gluten-free batter before the rise

Gluten-free batter after an hour rise

ME's Gluten-Free, Vegan Bread, (which needs a new name, in my humble opinion) Baked

So, please share this post with folks who are struggling to find a good, no dairy, wheatless bread. Apparently it’s yummy. And if any of you happen to know Mark Engelberg, please tell him I’m looking for him. His story of kitchen creativity is one I’d like to hear…

And I have some ideas for a new bread name.

Xantapmillsorteffcopo Bread anyone?

For those of you with more time on your hands…

  • The word gluten really rolls around in your mouth, doesn’t it? With the “glu” reminding us of “glue” it doesn’t present that lovely of an image when you’re thinking about foodstuff…
  • I had to amend the recipe a bit because the color on the bread was frightful! I really was scared… They say to put foil over the bread after ten minutes of baking but I pulled it off because of the horrid color that was developing. I punched the oven up to 450 near the end of the bake and finally was able to get a bit of color–and I don’t think I dried out the bread. Though, I never did taste it, so who knows?!!!
  • Sorghum is a type of grass that is used for its grain, also for fodder, and a variety of other things. I mean, a lot of other uses. There’s a type of molasses made from it, and in India they make biofuels from it, and in China they make a liquor called maotai… I’ve never tried maotai, have you?
  • Teff is a species of lovegrass 🙂
  • There’s a foxtail millet, pearl millet, barnyard millet, guinea millet, little millet, browntop millet, Japanese millet, but where’s the Mark Engelberg millet? I mean, really…
  • Xanthan gum is a rheology modifier. Just thought you’d want to know.

7 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Giving

  1. Just wanted to say I loved this story! My girlfriend told me about it on Facebook tonight. I’ve been gluten free for 5 years now because I have Celiac Disease. This story is how most of us feel in the beginning 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Yevette:
      Welcome. So fun to have you here…

      I spent about a year not eating any wheat, trying to figure out an allergy that was bothering me… It was difficult staying away from the very thing that raised me (being a baker’s daughter and all…) I did find out that it wasn’t the wheat, but it gave me an appreciation for the folks who have to steer clear of many of the most basic (and inexpensive) foods available to us.

      I’d love to hear how you feel now, after being gluten free for five years. What sorts of foods have you found satisfying and nourishing that replace wheat-based products, and what is one of your favorite new grains that you like to use. Teff maybe? Millet? Rice? It’s fascinating to me, and perhaps others would like to know.

  2. I could not believe it when I saw that you had baked gluten-free bread! My daughter and son have been gluten and casein (milk protein) free for more years than I care to count. They have an intolence to them that is related to autism. I have had so many failed baking adventures. My daughter sadly loves to bake but gets so frustrated because everything is so much harder and the failure rate is so high. It was somehow encouraging to hear your adventures. I am not sure why.
    As always, you are a blessing to us,

    • Phyllis–thankfully, this recipe that I made is about the easiest thing you could mix up. Just mixing, waiting a little, then baking. After a few bakes I’m sure all the little kinks would get worked out–like what’s the best method in her kitchen for rising the batter, and how to get the top looking a little brown…

      The one thing that saddens me about all this for the gluten-free folks is the cost. These ingredients are frightfully expensive. I haven’t taken the time to add everything up, but buying such small quantities at such high prices probably puts one loaf of homemade bread at around $4. That’s just a wild guess, but eek! Anyway, perhaps there are other buying sources that non-gluten folks know about. I hope so!
      Blessings to you and your family…

  3. How wonderful! Jane those look so delicious!! Thank you for this recipe. I have two cousins with autism and they are on gluten & dairy free diets, my aunt will thank you for this!

    Hope you’re having a blessed Lent!

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