Food Blogger Spotlight: Zoë Francois and Jeff Hertzberg on Gluten Free Breads Recipes

For this week’s Food Blogger Spotlight, we’re doing something a little different and talking to two fabulous cookbook authors about baking gluten free bread recipes. When Zoë Francois and Jeff Hertzberg began working on their most recent bread-baking book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, they discovered early on that there was a huge desire for healthy gluten free breads. Jeff, a doctor, and Zoë, a pastry chef, set about developing a series of recipes for their gluten-free, yet still bread-hungry, readers. They quickly realized it wasn’t an easy feat, but powered through and have included an entire section of their book dedicated to bread recipes that will tempt even the most gluten-obsessed bread-fiend.

To keep with the Food Blogger Spotlight theme, Jeff and Zoë also blog at Artisan Bread in 5, while Zoë keeps her own personal blog at Zoë Bakes. If you love baking, I highly recommend you check out both! You might also check out their first book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking.

Let’s welcome Zoë and Jeff as they share their experiences with gluten free baking.

Be sure to read to the bottom so you can enter to win your own copy of their book!

Before writing Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, what were your initial thoughts on gluten free baking?

Jeff: I’d never tried anyone’s homemade gluten free breads, and the store-bought ones seemed awful, really not tasting like bread at all, just sweet and weird. And that texture! So it was a revelation to find that you can get really nice results at home. Zoë and I really had to collaborate on these. Translation: I started working on them, but got quickly flummoxed by the differences from wheat flour, and tried to punt it over to the professional chef. She really made them work beautifully, and I’m ever-grateful.
Zoë: I had very little experience with gluten free baking other than what I tried at various bakeries. Some of it was very good, but mostly cookies and sweets. The breads that I tried were generally from the frozen section of the co-op and not all that exciting.

Had you made any gluten free bread recipes before you began work on the book?

Jeff: I had not!
Zoë: No, I have to admit I was taken aback at how many requests we had for gluten free bread recipes. I didn’t realize just how many people were on gluten free diets, including several of my friends. It became immediately obvious that this was a big need and would have a prominent place in our second book.

What caveats did you run into while developing gluten free recipes for the book?

Jeff: The caveat is “BE PATIENT!” It’s not at all easy to convert wheat recipes into gluten free , so it’s going to take much trial and error if you don’t start with a working recipe. Remember also that in our method, we need to be able to store the dough in the refrigerator so that busy people have time for daily baking. It’s challenging to convert wheat recipes to gluten free , but it’s not at all difficult to mix and store the recipes from our book in your refrigerator. The method is exactly the same as in our wheat-based breads, it’s just as easy.
Zoë: The gluten free dough doesn’t feel the same as dough made with wheat flours. We wanted the dough to be mixed and stored in the same way that all of our other breads are made, but once it is mixed it feels entirely different. It is much softer, lighter and has no stretch to it. In order to get a smooth surface on the gluten free dough you need to wet your hands and rub it smooth – it is just as easy to work with, but feels different. For those used to baking with traditional dough, they will have to enter into this chapter with a sense of adventure. Suspend any expectations of how it will feel.

What resources came in handy when developing your gluten free recipes?

Jeff: We really relied on other bakers who’d been down this path before, and people were wonderfully generous with their ideas. That’s what makes baking so much fun. This hobby is really about connecting with people, and now that we’ve added gluten free recipes to our books, no one is left out.
Zoë: We credit several people in our book for helping us develop this chapter. Those folks generously shared their experience baking with gluten free ingredients with us. We wanted to make sure that the recipes were as easy as our other recipes, but more importantly they had to taste great. It was through testing and dialog and more testing that we came to the breads that are included in this chapter. I had read several books about baking gluten free breads, but in the end it came down to trial and error. None of the books were storing the dough and that really changes the whole equation. In order to have a dough that bakes well after 5 days we had to change the ratios of the recipes. The experience was a real challenge and yet in the end one of the most satisfying accomplishments.

Which gluten free recipe in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day is your favorite?

Jeff: That would have to be “Not Rye (But So Very Close).” The teff flour is a bit sour and together with the caraway seeds, it gives the illusion of sour rye. Second place goes to any pizza– the toppings become the focus, so you really don’t notice the lack of wheat flavor (which is subtle in the first place). I’m a pizza lunatic, I could eat it every night. In fact, we just signed the contract for a third book, tentatively titled “Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day,” or something to that effect. Seriously, I defy a non-culinary school grad to distinguish our thin-crust gluten free pizza from wheat. At least if they’re willing to accept our offer of wine or beer with the slice.
Zoë: I tested all of the recipes and then served them to people, some who were used to gluten free baking and others who were not. For a picnic I made the gluten free brioche and my father said it was the best bread I’d ever made. He does not eat a gluten free diet and he loved it. It was so exciting to have the bread stand alone and be satisfying as a bread, not necessarily a gluten free bread!

What sage advice can you offer home bakers who are just learning to bake gluten free ?

Jeff: It isn’t all that hard, this works just like our other recipes– you dump everything into a bucket, mix it, and then let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours. After that, it goes into the fridge. Don’t over-handle it when you shape the refrigerated dough into loaves or you’ll knock gas out of the finished product, which causes density.
Zoë: The gluten free recipes are just as easy to put together as the traditional ones, but you have to add the liquids slowly. If you add the liquids all at once as you would with our other recipes you will end up with lumps in the dough. If this does happen you can just throw the dough into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and let it mix on medium high for a couple of minutes and the lumps work themselves out.

Do you have any tips for home bakers who are setting out to develop their own gluten free bread recipes from scratch?

Jeff: You need to use xanthan gum, which mimics the action of gluten to trap fermentation gases, promote leavening and give stretch. Can’t succeed without it, especially if you’re going to store the dough.
Zoë: Start with a recipe you love and make subtle adjustments to it. Start by substituting a little at a time so you can keep track of the changes and keep the texture of the bread the same. One thing about gluten free flours is that each has its own flavor and texture profile. Potato flour and corn starch may look similar but that behave differently in the recipes. A sense of adventure is key!
I think just about any style of bread can be recreated with gluten free ingredients, but the flavors and textures will be different. I think they are fabulous, but are their own thing. There are some breads that really come close to the wheat breads people grew up with, but then there are loaves that are unique and should be enjoyed by everyone just because they are delicious.

Click here for more Food Bloggers Spotlight interviews.

Win a copy of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day!

I’ve got one copy of the book to give away, and it will go to one of my lucky readers. To enter, you can do two things:

  • Leave a comment on this post with your name and email address
  • For a second entry, post the following phrase on Twitter, verbatim: Win a copy of Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day on @wasabimon! #healthybreadin5

I will draw a name at random on Wednesday, December 30th, so be sure to get your entry in before then! Also, you must have a mailing address within the United States to enter this giveaway.

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Heather says

    I do not have a gluten allergy, but my mother doesn. I have tried for a while to get her mixes and recipes but, in my opinion, none fo them really tasted good. I am HOPING that you guys solved that. Would love to win this – and hand it right to my mother with a coupon for a shopping trip to the Natural Foods store for all the ingredients she could need.
    .-= Check out Heather

  2. Cindy says

    I had seen this book last week but didn’t realize it was for gluten free breads, how fantastic! I’ve been trying to perfect my own gluten free bread and it is a trial an error, but I’m keeping faith that I will find my perfect GF bread one day.
    .-= Check out Cindy

  3. Patricia says

    This would be perfect as I set off into 2010. I want to continue baking but definitely want to do something healthier.
    .-= Check out Patricia

  4. Bruce says

    I hate to be negative, but I hope their new book is better than “Artisan Bread …” My experience with that book was broad disapointment. The breads were mediocre rather than artisan. The errata list included roughly 10% of their recipes . The premise that the prep time was 5 min/day employed some creative accounting when initial prep time was worked in and no oven warm up time. Just to make matters worse, for a book with one secret method (make a big batch), this was an expensive book $27.99 – a book with fewer than 250 pages. I just couldn’t jump on the promotional band wagon that made their first book such a commercial success.
    .-= Check out Bruce

  5. Melanie McMinn says

    Our local gourmet pizza place does a lovely GF crust, but they sure are expensive. Would be great to make my own instead.
    .-= Check out Melanie McMinn

  6. Marcia says

    I made the basic gluten free bread for my daughter and she was delighted. One of the problems with other gluten-free recipes is the crust. It starts to soften withing a few hours of baking. This crust stayed nice and crunchy. Thanks!

  7. Kathleen says

    I have been wanting this book since it first came out. Bread baking is my favorite hobby and this looks just awesome. :)

    Off to Tweet this…

  8. laura bender says

    I make the bread from the first book all the time. I was told years ago to go gluten free, maybe I’ll have to try it soon!

  9. Jennifer Margulis says

    I so want this book. I’ve been having a bad reaction to wheat products lately. Pick me! Pick me! (I’ve never won anything until I won some cookbooks recently and I am already using the hell out of them!!)
    .-= Check out Jennifer Margulis

  10. Charmian@Christie's Corner says

    I’m fine with wheat, but many of my readers aren’t, so I would love to learn about gluten-free bread.

    Thanks for hosting such a great giveaway!
    .-= Check out Charmian@Christie’s Corner

  11. Jenn says

    Having switched to a gluten free diet just 3 months ago, bread is the one thing I haven’t tried to tackle making. But I think I’m ready and I would love a good book to get me headed in the right direction!

  12. Ian says

    I absolutely love baking, and something like this would make my culinary life so much more exciting 😀
    .-= Check out Ian

  13. Lauren says

    Its always interesting to see how people work gluten free. I have celiac, so this book would be fabulous!
    .-= Check out Lauren

  14. Lauren says

    Oh, I’m not in the States, so I guess I can’t enter (I missed that the first time I read it). Happy Holidays and great interview!!
    .-= Check out Lauren

  15. kakuke says

    Well, I’ve been going wheat-free for a new years now and baking gluten-free can be a headache, especially when you’re not equipped with recipes. So that would be delightful to win…:)

  16. Tricia says

    I am just beginning to bake my own bread and have found that I have several family members with gluten issues and need to be able to make bread that they can eat. This book would be a wonderful way to do that and to share with them to make their life healthier.

  17. Margaret says

    I love making bread, but have just started making it without the machine. Found out I love kneading bread dough.
    .-= Check out Margaret

  18. Ellen Allard says

    I would LOVE to win this cookbook. I am a pretty avid gluten free baker and blog about my successes (and also about my difficulties!) but I would definitely love to learn more about the art of baking gluten free bread.

  19. Janet says

    Wonderful interview & thanks for giveaway
    opportunity. I would love to expand my
    no-knead repertoire – with
    particular interest in whole grains and
    gluten-free alternatives I really want to learn about.

  20. Kimberly says

    While no one in my family has gluten issues, my husband is on a sodium-restricted diet, so can’t eat most store-bought bread. I’d love to bake healthy low-sodium bread for him.
    .-= Check out Kimberly

  21. Marcia says

    I’ve been wanting to try gluten free recipes for sometime now – and bread is a weakness… so would love to win this book.
    .-= Check out Marcia

  22. Erin Herold says

    I love my AB5 book, and have the HB5 as well, but would LOVE LOVE LOVE to share the awesome bread love with my sis-in-law with an autistic, celiac son.

  23. Jessie says

    Excellent interview! I’m just starting to bake my own bread, and have found it to be a rather therapeutic experience.

  24. Darla Chafin says

    Wow! How exciting… a whole section on GF! We always had fresh homemade bread BEFORE we went gluten free. GF has made such a difference we don’t cheat, but some new recipes sounds so great! Thank you! I’ll be watching for this book… and thank you for letting us know it has a GF section. I usually don’t check because the answer is usually no, and then I sulk. No sulking here!

  25. Darla Chafin says

    Wow! How exciting… a whole section on GF! We always had fresh homemade bread BEFORE we went gluten free. GF has made such a difference we don’t cheat, but some new recipes sounds so great! Thank you! I’ll be watching for this book… and thank you for letting us know it has a GF section. I usually don’t check because the answer is usually no, and then I sulk. No sulking here!

  26. Pam says

    I just made some of Jeff and Zoe’s gluten free bread and it was so easy and SO good! Nice blog!

    Enjoy and Happy New Year’s!

  27. amy v. young says

    I’m so excited for this! I just started eating gluten free because of health problems. It’s really hard not having bread, I come from a ‘bread/rolls’ type of a family. :] I can’t wait to try these out. thanks bunches!

  28. Sonila says

    I really enjoyed reading this interview!
    You are right it is not the same as working with only one gluten-full flour, wheat, but is just as fun to do your own gluten free bread baking.
    Thank you so much for including a gluten-free section in your book!

  29. Stacey says

    Me, me, me please!

    I’ve been going gluten free for about 2 months now. I’d rather not have any bread than nasty GF bread at the store. Just tastes weird.


  30. Wendy says

    I came ac(and, like many posters, I also have friends with celiac disease I’d like to treat to good bread). For myself, I love the idea the healthy breads with gluten- would love to be able to have a copy. Happy Holidays!

  31. Marvin says

    I have organized a panel of experienced gluten free bread making members of our support group to share their baking experiences at the Jan 18 monthly meeting. I hope to be able to tell them about your recipes and perhaps even share samples to evaluate. The Red Star yeast people directed me to your website.

  32. Cheryl Jantzen says

    I am making their boule bread now and can’t wait to see how it turns out! I have a portuguese sweet bread recipe that’s been in the family for generations and would love to convert it to GF since I’ve been diagnosed with Celiac.

    Looking forward to winning! :-)


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  2. […] news! I’ve picked a winner at random from everyone who entered the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day giveaway. From all the entries, the person whose name came up was Darla Chafin, who wrote […]