Daring Bakers: Easter Breads


The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den . She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world.

We actually don’t do a whole lot for Easter–in fact, this year we did absolutely nothing as family members had other engagements and we’d just spent the previous day banging around our new house with no running water… More on that tomorrow! But way back when I’ve been known to make fun and flavorful baked goods at Easter time because why not? I’ve even made the somewhat traditional hot cross buns, though I admit that they weren’t the top of my favorites list. (The bunny rolls might just hold that honor.)

Low-FODMAP Spiced Carrot Breakfast Buns

Low-FODMAP Spiced Carrot Breakfast Buns

At any rate, we were free to use any recipe that fit the bill and the other day, in my feed reader, popped up this Low-FODMAP Hot Cross Buns recipe that seemed promising. But not so promising that I didn’t tweak it on several levels to the point that we’ll consider it an adaptation and I’ll share the recipe below. First, we’re not a big fan of buckwheat flour–it’s one of the few flavors that I just can’t get behind, then there was the dried paw paw (which probably means papaya, but it wasn’t something I had on hand). Hot Cross Buns usually include currants or raisins (which aren’t Low-FODMAP) so I substituted dried blueberries–closer in color and texture, and in such a small quantity as not to present any FODMAP issues; we also subbed macadamia nuts for the pine nuts (both Low-FODMAP, but Todd’s not a fan of pine nuts). Finally, I disagreed with the lack of sugar. Sure, the grated carrots and dried fruit add some sweetness, but sugar adds tenderness to baked goods, and that’s not something you want to forgo with gluten-free baking, so I added some back in.

The results were dense but tasty, and will work perfectly for breakfasts this week instead of my usual overnight oats. If I make these again (and there’s a good possibility of that) I’ll add a pan of water to the pre-heating oven to keep the dough from firming up too much in it’s first “baking” (really more of an accelerated proofing), maybe that will allow the buns to rise a bit more.

Low-FODMAP Spiced Carrot Breakfast Buns
adapted from Resist the Sloth

Makes 18

2 cups lactose-free milk, warmed (between 90-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 packet Active Dry Yeast
3 cups Gluten-Free baking blend
1/2 cup Millet Flour
1/4 cup Potato Flakes
1/2 Tbsp Xanthum Gum
1/2 cup Macadamia Nuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup dried Blueberries
2 Tbsp ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground Nutmeg
1 tsp ground Ginger
1/2 tsp ground Cloves
1/2 tsp ground Allspice
1 egg, gently beaten
2 large carrots, grated (approx. 2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 215 degrees Fahrenheit. (optional: place an oven-proof bowl of water in the oven while it’s pre-heating)

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm milk and let sit while the yeast puffs up. If it’s drafty in your kitchen (or the a/c has just kicked on), cover the bowl to keep the milk from getting too cold.

Combine the flours, potato flakes, gun, nuts, blueberries, and spices in a large bowl; stir to combine.

Combine egg, carrots, sugar, and butter in a small bowl; stir until mixed.

Make a well in the flour mixture and add the carrot mixture and milk mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spoon dough into a gall-sized plastic bag, seal, and snip off one corner. Pipe dough into muffin or doughnut pan wells.

Bake at 212 degrees F for 20 minutes, remove the pan of water (if you used one) and increase the temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 25 minutes, or until the customary hollow thump of a well-done bread can be heard.

The Proof is in the Bread Box


After a successful-yet-leaves-room-for-improvement attempt at last month’s Daring Bakers challenge I wanted to try the given recipe again but tweak it a little.

What I’d ended up with was a tasty, if somewhat dry, pastry that I thought could do with some enriching to make it work better with the vagaries of gluten-free baking. In order to create a more tender dough, I planned to add an extra egg (providing both fat as well as some extra protein for stability), a little more butter, and using all milk instead of 3:1 milk to water.

In addition to the recipe changes, I knew the other hurdle I had to jump were the conditions that the dough resting in during rising. I’d yet to have gluten-free yeast doughs rise the way standard doughs would and my hypothesis is that they (the gf breads) are super sensitive to temperature and drafts. To be truly scientific I suppose I’d need to make two doughs, identical but for the flour used, and see how the compared. But I had company coming over and I opted to test a solution, instead of proving the problem.

Back in my pastry chef days, we were lucky enough to have these amazing proof boxes that kept a truly balmy humidity. At the Plantation, before I started making breads from scratch, they’d load muffin pans with slices of frozen bread and pop them in there and they’d be just shy of over-proofed in no time flat. I don’t trust my current oven, even at its lowest setting, not to cook the dough before it’s had a chance to rise (though the pilot light of a gas oven does work wonderfully for this). Instead, I needed to manufacture a safer environment for the delicate dough in its place–and I figured the perfect environment was hiding in my garage.

Not the garage itself, of course, but my counter-top roasting oven!

This combination of pans and racks allowed for just enough warmth, humidity, and protection from drafts for a perfect rise.

This combination of pans and racks allowed for just enough warmth, humidity, and protection from drafts for a perfect rise.

After mixing up a slightly stickier dough than previously had been made, I stacked the dough in it’s oiled bowl on a rack over a pan on another rack in the roasting oven. Sounds convoluted, but I promise it’s simpler than it sounds. To keep the lid slightly open I’s flipped the included rack upside down so the “wings” propped open the lid, then heated the roaster at 200 degrees F while I mixed up the dough, with the empty cake pan inside. Then, when it was time to add the additional rack and the dough, I poured some cold water into the warm pan to create some steam, turned off the roaster, and “closed” the lid.

After an hour the dough had actually doubled, though it was still a little sticky (not uncommon with rich doughs) but a gentle kneading with a bit of extra flour took care of that.

My modified "beautiful bread" twists worked so much better this time.

My modified “beautiful bread” twists worked so much better this time.

I used a similar technique to roll out, fill, and form the decorative twists and this version of the dough was much more pliable than the first (though I only used a double thickness for each twist instead of the quadruple, so that could be part of it, too). And instead of the cinnamon-sugar of the original, I used some Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter (not entirely Low-FODMAP, it does contain honey, but I’ve been able to eat small amounts of this spread without trouble), but kept with the practice of brushing the dough with milk before baking, and letting it rest 15 minutes before baking.

DB Challenge results on the left, the "proof" of improvement on the right.

DB Challenge results on the left, the “proof” of improvement on the right.

Even tough I was encouraged enough with the progress so far, the real proof came when we pulled the pan from the oven and saw the soft, risen bread just begging to be gobbled up. Fresh from the oven it was wonderful and even after it’d cooled for a few hours it was denser, but not hard or dry–another common outcome of gluten-free breads. It was still best warm, though, so a toaster oven or microwave will be any leftovers friend.

Possibly the best King Cake's I've made, yet!

Possibly the best King Cake’s I’ve made, yet!

I made a triple batch of the dough a couple days later to make a King Cakes for Fat Tuesday, making long rolls of dough filled with strawberry preserves (Welch’s Natural qualifies as Low-FODMAP from what I can tell) and topped with a powdered sugar glaze and colored sugar for the holiday. While wonderful as a coffee cake, it also worked well after dinner, warmed and topped with a bit of lactose-free Ice Cream.

Proof box trial #2 was effective but still not as good as the first try.

Proof box trial #2 was effective but still not as good as the first try.

On the last batch I tried just using the roaster with it’s buffet inserts–and it worked okay–but I think it’s best to do the multiple-rack version. The steam hitting the bottom of the thinner buffet inserts started to dry out the bottom of the dough and not-quite cook it, so unless I’m making another boatload of bread dough, I’ll stick to the stack of racks and sturdier bowl.

Not to mention that it’s just pretty cool to find another awesome use for the counter-top roaster oven!

Daring Bakers: Beautiful Breads


Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste?

Fluted Cinnamon Twist

Fluted Cinnamon Twist

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but thank goodness our taste buds are blind as my “beautiful bread” wasn’t quite sure of its designation.

This month we were given the option of a couple different breads to choose from, mainly focusing on the technique of cutting and folding the sheets of dough layered with sweet (or savory) fillings to make pretty platefuls. Of course I substituted a gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose the recipe called for, curious to see how this recipe would fare compared to yeast doughs I’ve tried so far.

The basic assembly went surprisingly well....

The basic assembly went surprisingly well….

I was quite surprised at how malleable the risen dough was, as each quarter easily rolled out on a sheet of wax paper into a circle about an eighth of an inch thick. They also released from their respective sheets fairly well after each was buttered, sugared, and cinnamoned, and I thought I was doing so well, even to neatening up their edges a bit before proceeding.

It was just the twisting technique that didn't go quite as planned. More trials will be needed (aw, shucks!)

It was just the twisting technique that didn’t go quite as planned. More trials will be needed (aw, shucks!)

That’s when things got a little dicey. I’m not sure if I used too much cinnamon-sugar, separating the layers too much, or if the dough was still not malleable enough (even with the help of the xanthum gum), but my layers wanted to break rather than tuck and roll, so I sorta kluged it together the best I could, exposing the folds as was the point and giving them a milk bath before placing it into a very hot oven.

The layers do add quite a bit of visual interest, though.

The layers do add quite a bit of visual interest, though.

After 20 minutes and two different temperatures, the cinnamon bread came out of the oven golden brown, but not so much magically transformed–I suppose it’s not my turn for a miracle this month! A drizzle of a coconut oil-based icing (the suggested sweetened condensed milk is a lactose-bomb) and we were ready for the final test: the taste?

Breakfast or dessert, your choice!

Breakfast or dessert, your choice!

It tasted delicious! I went for the optional cardamom in the dough and it pairs nicely with the cinnamon filling. Even though the more demanding fold didn’t work this time (oh, I will prevail, eventually), I think this dough worked well enough that it might be this year’s King Cake dough for Fat Tuesday. Paired with a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea, this is not a bad way to start (or end!) a day.