Unless you can produce a certificate that says you are coeliac very few people are going to take you seriously if you say you follow a gluten-free diet. It has become one of ‘those’ diets. Gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, raw food, Atkins, juice: all diets that restrict or remove certain food groups or types for different reasons. There is no doubt that if you have coeliac disease you should not consume gluten. For the rest of us there is so much conflicting information available it can be very difficult to make an informed decision on what might be best for your body. One thing is certain: with all the chemicals and processes involved in producing food these days, it is best to eat as much natural, unprocessed food as possible. So does that mean you have to give up grains, bread, or gluten?
I’m very much a believer in moderation in all things and until recently assumed that all gluten was equal. It turns out that isn’t quite the case. My main issue with the gluten debate was that if we have been eating it for ever, how can it suddenly be causing problems? There is a simple answer to this and it lies in the fact that the majority of the wheat we eat today has been hybridised to maximise yield and disease resistance, and minimise growing times. This has led to the occurence of previously unknown proteins in wheat that our digestive systems are not necessarily equipped to deal with.
Ancient grains are what they say they are: ancient. Their structures are closer to how grains were when they entered our diets, thousands of years ago. So while Kamut and spelt contain gluten, they are more easily digestible sources. Therefore if you can reduce the amount of hybridised wheat in your diet that can only be a good thing. Over the last few weeks I have been both working with my friend Magda of Healthy for Longer and attending one of her courses. Magda is a nutritionist with an amazing depth of knowledge and an impressive array of qualifications: you can also check out her blog here. We did a Gluten-Free Baking demo together and I have just attended her excellent Feed Your Family Right programme with a group of ladies interested in the hows and whys of a healthy diet to engage and satisfy the whole family.
I made this bread for us all to try as an alternative to the usual bread made with strong wheat flour. Homemade bread really is so much better for you than shop bought (and far tastier) and if you can find the time and effort to make it yourself this one is no more difficult or time consuming. Give it a go and you’ll be surprised how quick and easy it is. Double the quantities and put a loaf in the freezer each time you make it. Far from being an added stress in your life, making bread can reduce your stress: get out all your frustration when you are kneading your dough and enjoy the sense of satisfication of creating something. I made this loaf with Kamut, an ancient grain that can only be grown as certified organic; spelt, which contains a moderate amount of gluten; rye which while not ancient, contains less gluten than wheat; polenta, which is gluten-free; and oats which can contain gluten but can also be gluten-free. Put them together and you get an incredibly tasty loaf: one that my 12 year old has specifically requested again as he liked it so much. Let me know what you think!
200g Kamut flour
150g spelt flour
50g rye flour
50g oats plus extra to sprinkle on top
1 teaspoon fast acting dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 egg to glaze (optional)
Put the kamut, spelt, rye, polenta and oats into a large bowl, if kneading by hand, or the bowl of a stand mixer, if using a dough hook:
Add the yeast and salt in different places.
When you are ready to add the water and honey give the ingredients in the bowl a quick mix and then add the water and honey.
Either knead using your dough hook, or mix to combine and tip out onto a clean surface and knead for around 5-10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and quite silky.
Put your dough into a oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm or a tea towel.
Leave to rise until it has roughly doubled in size:
Tip out onto a floured surface and knead briefly to knock back.
Shape into a loaf shape and put into an oiled 2lb loaf tin.
Brush the surface of the loaf with beaten egg, taking care not to let it drip down the sides of the loaf. Sprinkle with oats.
Cover with oiled cling film or a tea towel and allow to prove again.
Set the oven to 200°C.
When the loaf has roughly doubled in size again bake for 30 minutes.
The loaf should be well risen and browned, and sound hollow when tapped on the base.
Tip out onto a wire baking rack and allow to cool completely.