Gluten-Free Crusty Baguette anyone? Sorghum, a good alternative to wheat

Do you know why I started to bake bread? Well… I don’t. Meaning… I cannot recollect all the different reasons why I decided to learn how to bake. But I know for sure that I started to dream of baking my own bread during pregnancy, when the smell of store-bought bread was enough to make me noxious. I remember craving my homeland sourdough pagnotte… and not daring eating regular bread for 8 months straight. But I did not put my hands in the dough until 2 years later. And I remember the one thing that set my will finally in motion. It was the deprecation of bread by enthusiasts of low-carb diet (low-carb is not a bad concept per se, but maybe it should not be carried too far). I remember thinking “this is not right, bread is our history, bread is holy!”.  Indeed low-carb diet enthusiasts have begun to make their own bread, too, and this is not surprising. I could really not imagine a world without bread, could you?

Recently, there has been quite a lot of fuss around antinutrients in wheat, and gluten in particular has been on the spot. Well, if it has to do with health, then I take the debate around bread more seriously. However, while celiac disease is certain, I used to have doubts about gluten intolerance sensitivity. What was that really? Maybe just another fashionable food attitude? Believe me, it is not just a trend. I will tell more on this in my coming posts, but here I can anticipate that in the past few months I experienced some gluten/wheat sensitivity myself (not sure if it is just a temporary sensitization and whether I react to gluten or to other substances in wheat).

So now I agree that we may all want to limit the amount of gluten in our diet. Hopefully, even in some cases of gluten intolerance sensitivity, it may be enough to just limit gluten intake and learn how to handle grains in a way which makes them more digestible (more on this in coming posts). On top of all these serious considerations, there is also my insatiable curiosity for anything related to bread and flours. Gluten-free, bakery perfect, bread? Is that really possible? How fun to try and find out myself. These pretty looking baguettes were made with sorghum, a type of grass which does not belong to the wheat family. To me they prove that great bread can actually be made without wheat. And I assure you that they truly are yummy and crunchy as they look (SCROLL DOWN FOR THE RECIPE).


BAGUETTE WITH SORGHUM

This recipe has been adapted from the marvellous brand-new book on gluten-free bread by Karin Moberg and Oscar Målevik, a must have if you understand Swedish. I slightly modified both the formula and the method and it still was a success.

94 g rice flour

82 g sorghum flour (sorgo in Italian, durra in Swedish)

54 g corn starch

20 g physillium husk

2 tablespoon fiber for baking*** (fibrex in Sweden)

1 teaspoon marine salt

25 g fresh yeast

150 350 g water, luke-warm

1 egg white

1 tablespoon barley malt or honey

***You can buy fibrex online here. Thank you to Kristiana for the tip!

As usual, combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and the yeast with the wet ingredients in another bowl. Then mix all together and knead for 5 minutes. I used the stainless steel beater of my food processor rather than the dough hook cause the mixture was very liquid at first. Let rest 45 minutes covered. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (Celsius, 475 Fahrenheit). Put your baking stone in, if you have one, or a baking dish in the medium rack and also an empty baking dish in the lower rack. Transfer on a clean surface and divide in three pieces. Delicately make each piece into a baguette and roll in rice flour. I placed the loaves to proof directly on parchment paper placed on my baking peel and covered with a kitchen towel. Left to rise another 1/2 hour. Score the loaves and with the help of the peel transfer them on the baking dish in the middle rack or on the baking stone. At the same time, throw some ice cubes on the lower rack and close quickly. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

CONSIDERATIONS: So you see… you really have no excuse to not have some bread on your table. Whether gluten-free or not, these baguette make for a great sandwich bread and are a lovely accompaniment to soups and salads. Differently from any gluten-free bread tasted before, the baguette were actually crusty and crunchy, I believe thanks to the addition of sorghum (durra in Swedish and sorgo in Italian). This is a plant that has been used in Africa and Asia since forever to make flat-breads. It is rich in proteins and minerals and it does remind of wheat to some extent. I am grateful to Friends of Adam for having imported this precious flour to Sweden (from US actually, so you guys from US surely can get it).  I hope this post will inspire to try alternative ways of baking bread, and I will elaborate more on alternative flours and healthy ways to handle commonly used grains in coming posts.

This goes to YeastSpotting thank you Susan.

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  1. If I eat wheat, I bloat, get diarrhea, headaches, irritability and I don’t sleep well. My mom was celiac and my daughter, daughter in law and I are all gluten intolerant. My grandson has aspergers syndrome and his behavior is noticeably improved when he eats our way.None of us eat artificial flavors(wheat) colors, msg or high fructose corn syrup.

    • hi Kristiana. I believe that there are different degrees of gluten intolerance. I bet yours is a case of severe gluten intolerance while others may just have minor forms and some of them may be reversible. I experienced the symptoms you just described but was able to revert the intolerance. But I have no familiarity for it so I bet there is some difference in the way you and I digest wheat. In my next posts I will describe ways to handle wheat which make it less toxic but, as you see, I am also posting quite a few gluten-free recipes that you may want to try. ciao!! ps: the more and more obvious link between gluten intolerance (and intestinal problems in general) and autism surely deserves more attention, happy you sensed it and could help your grandson.

      • marco milan says:

        Karen
        Is the rice flour regular white rice flour our sweet rice flour. Is the amount of water accurate? I tried the recipe twice and out is not working out. Too dry and dense. Your instructions read you used the food processor b/c the dough was too wet. That’s not my experience. Any recommendations?

        • Thank you so much for this comment! I checked and, YES, the amount of water I used was double the amount I specified. I have now updated the recipe and please let me know how it turns out next time you try.

  2. You are a briliant bread baker! The sorghum baguettes look out of this world delicious!

  3. So, first I had to research Sorghum, of course- it sounded somehow familiar but the german word was not ready in mind- it’s Hirse in german, if this is of any interest to anybody. Look indeed delicious, those baguettes! As I’m not afflicted by gluten intolerance I would maybe mix whole spelt flour and omit the fibrex….
    Intolerances are always relative, sometimes better sometimes worse- and so it’s important for the “worse” times to have the altenative strategies ready (I’m afflicted with histamin intolerance, which really can be a lot of sacrifice at times)
    So, thank you, I think I will be looking for Sorghum, Hirse, and try something along those lines, out of pure curiosity
    Have a nice weekend

    Ninive

    • you told me about this instamine intolerance. was it in salami and stuff like that? is it always there or goes in periods? my sensitivity to gluten/wheat has so far been pretty inconsistent. it seems I have it only if I have massive amounts of wheat and then it stays for a while. but when it calms down I can have small amounts no problem most of the time. is it the same with instamine?
      good idea to try sorghum with spelt, will have to try that too!
      ciao and have a nice week

    • “Hirse” is the oldest of all cultivated grains, it is the term for a whole family of grasses. Sorghum (“Mohrenhirse”) is just one of them, it has the largest seeds and is, therefore, more often commercially grown. Millet, the native European Hirse has smaller seeds.

      • from a German to a German! thank you for this explanation, it added a lot to my knowledge of this grain. millet? had no idea it was a “relative” of sorghum!

  4. I agree with so much of what you’ve written in this post – I can’t imagine life without bread! bread is our history! – but I also know so many people who are unable to eat wheat for various reasons, celiac or otherwise, my mum being one of them. She’s OK with other grains though, spelt for instance. I can’t believe these baguettes are totally gluten free – they look wonderful! Looking forward to your upcoming posts :)

    • yes, bread is truly the stuff of life! happy you like the baguette and the topic, I look froward myself to write and learn more on this. ciao!!

  5. Barbarina, Barbarina mia! che belle queste baguette…. mai sentito il sorgo. non mi puoi mica mettere strane idee in testa…. ora dove lo trovo io il sorgo? non avrò pace finchè non lo avrò trovato visti i risultati!
    baci topino!
    Sandra

  6. Gluten free is extremely popular these days. Many people seem to be gluten intolerant and if all gluten free bread looks as good as yours I would swap the normal one right now!
    The crust looks mouthwatering. You are a proper baker dear Barbara! (and an excellent photographer!)

  7. Your breads are always so impressive…you truly have a gift for baking. The baguettes look delicious.

    • you make me blush… thank you Karen, it is true, baking is one of the few things that comes natural to me. I wish it was like that for everything else! ;) ciao

  8. Can’t wait to give this a try! I consider myself fairly knowledgable about the different kinds of flour, but can honestly say that I’ve never seen a recipe for bread with sorghum flour before. Great post, very informative. I’m thankful that I don’t have any wheat sensitivities, because I do so love my bread! But, this looks like a great alternative and great recipe to try in its own right.

    • I was also surprised when I read about sorghum. and I also knew I had to try it at once :) I also had no sensitivities until recently which makes me think we should all be careful and try not to overdo it with grains… or at least prepare them in a way which make them more digestible. will write more on this. ciao!!

  9. notedicioccolato says:

    Sembra impossibile siano gluten free da quanto sono belle e lievitate bene. Il tuo pane ha sempre un colore magnifico da far invidia ai migliori panifici. Ora però a me il sorgo chi me lo leva dalla testa ?!?!? Un bacione, buona settimana

    • eheh. lo so io sono come te: appena sento una farina nuova so che la dovro’ provare prima o poi, una vera ossessione. grazie per il graditissimo complimento. bavioni e nuona settimana a te

  10. Ciao barbara,
    belle le baguette…..complimenti.
    A riguardo del glutine e del grano, secondo me il problema sta nella qualità di quest’ultimo ( il grano ) che dicendo grano è molto generale.Ci sono molte varietà di grano ed alcune si sono meglio adattate all’industria alimentare mentre altre varianti hanno resistito e quindi sono state abbandonate da un certo tipo di agricoltori .Quindi bisogna andare a cercare farine che sono state fatte con i cosidetti Grani Antichi i quali non si sono resi disponibili alle manipolazioni dell’uomo e dell’industria che deve sempre massimalizzare le produzioni.
    Se si osserva in italia spesso si trovano farine dove la cosa più importante è la prestazione del prodotto che viene fatto,il prodotto deve essere bello, leggero, alveolato …..non importa se non è digeribile …non importa se dopo mezza giornata è immangiabile non importa cosa è stato messo dentro insieme alla farina per fare tutto ciò ……l’importante è che sia vendibile.
    Curiosa in questo blog ( se già non lo conosci) secondo me si leggono delle cose interessanti

    http://www.ilpastonudo.it/

    Ascolta il video di questo agricoltore che coltiva Biologico

    http://www.ilmulinoapietra.it/

    secondo me dice delle cose importanti..

    Ciao

    Michele
    http://freebakery.blogspot.it

    • ciao Michele. grazie per questo commento elaborato e pensato. vedro’ con interesse il video dell’agricoltore.
      anche io, come te e molti altri, pensavo bastasse ricorrere a farine fatte con grani antichi. e seguendo questo ragionamento qualche mese fa ho cominciato a mangiare molto kamut, segale e farro. possibilmente integrali. purtroppo ho cominciato ad avere reazioni anche con questi grani. sto ancora cercando di capire cos’e’ che non va e come rimediare e qualche idea l’ho avuta e la sviluppero’ prossimamente su questo blog. ciao, Barbara

  11. Isabella says:

    There is a difference between gluten allergy and gluten intolerance. Intolerance is an autoimmune disease where your immune system back fires when you eat gluten. The protein in gluten resembles some building blocks of the lining of the small intestine – villi. When you are sensitized to gluten your immune cells see this as something dangerous, attacks it, but also the villous lining of your intestine, flattening it out and decreasing the absorptive surface area of your gut. Your body starts to produce antibodies attacking the intestines, and if long standing and without proper diet you may get serious other diseases e.g autoimmune hepatitis, lymphoma etc. It is true that the range of symptoms of intolerance can vary quite a bit, some having symptoms directly after ingestion, while others can’t even tell they ate gluten, however, the antibody response is the same. Allergy on the other hand, is something completely different.

    with that said, this bread looks absolutely amazing! and a tip for you. sorghum is also called “hirs” in swedish. det är lättare att hitta i affärerna :)

    Hope you post more gluten free recipes!

    Isabella
    Medical doctor and gluten intolerant

    • Hi Isabella, read better my post, I am with you guys! I now made this more clear in the post. By the way, I am a little confused here… do you have celiac disease? I believe the only ones that have ascertained autoimmune reactions are people with celiac disease and, as I wrote, I never had any doubt on the severity of this disorder. I was skeptical (but not any longer!) regarding gluten sensitivity (sometimes called intolerance) which is not thought to be an autoimmune disorder (sapone et al, 2012 classify it as an allergy). Truly understand this problems now as I am experiencing myself some gluten or wheat intolerance/sensitivity (I am not sure yet what it is as it is not consistent – it comes and goes) and I plan on writing more on this topic while I gather more info on it and try out different solutions. Hirs, inte durra? Hope you try the baguette! :)

  12. Ann Bridges says:

    hello barbara,

    I am in the US. Is there a product like fibrex here? I see it as a swedish product..but i do not see an equivalent here. I am a professional baker…always trying out a new Gluten free recipe. My owner would LOVE it if I tried this bread out.

  13. Hi there,

    Thanks for this recipe. I cannot wait to try it. Do you think another starch would work? I am allergic to corn. Maybe tapioca? arrowroot? potato?

    Thanks,
    Zosia

  14. What a good post dear Barbara! After reading this post, there is a lot of thinking. I had the feeling that being gluten intolerant or sensible was a new trend, but I am wrong if a baking lover like you start to talk about it. I hope that this is not the future: I cannot think about a world without good wheat. Ciao and I am looking forward to read your next post! PS great bread even gluten free!!

    • hi Rita, than you for the trust. no worries, there are ways we can and should use to prevent (and hopefully treat) gluten and wheat sensitivity. One of them is actually using sourdough :) I will expand on this line of thought in my future posts. ciao!!

  15. wow!!!! mi piace! ma che bellezza! mai usato il sorgo ma so già come sostituirlo, dopo lo faccio :D ciaoo

  16. Gorgeous baguettes!
    I use sorghum flour to make GF cookies. I don’t have any problems with gluten, but I like to challenge myself with a bit of GF baked goods. I have also made GF pasta a couple of times.
    And yes, gluten intolerance is a condition. Recently recognized as such, it is the subject of active research. I have written about it last year in this article: http://www.northcoastjournal.com/food/2012/03/29/strange-case-gluten/
    If you go to the end, there are a couple of useful links.

    • I am totally with you in avoiding extremes. And the scientific side of me would like to understand what is going on in our body, what are the triggers and what sets them off. I suspect in time we will find that what we are seeing is a result of a change in the foods themselves (in this case, the variety of grains) and of the way we consume them (in this case, as you say, combination of grains). Fermentation is an important part of the equation, I believe. I am lucky that I have access to locally grown grains.

      • fermentation, soaking, and the combination of different grains (rather than stuffing ourselves with wheat only, like we have done in modern times in Western countries) have been the way populations have survived on grain rich diets for so long… we just have to remember what we were doing before. and if we will still want to eat wheat in the future we will probably have to change wheat varieties making them more similar to what they were before…

  17. I am gluten Intolerant which is one up from sensitive. I can have many “grains” I just can’t have wheat, rye or barley. So I feel that you are painting the GF diet with a very broad brush. I use rice, soy, millet, sorghum,
    corn, quinoa, amaranth and tapioca. So I don’t think we are going to hurt the world much. Do you really think that those three grains or lack thereof will throw the world into strictly animal based nutrition?

    • thank you for this comment which allows me to clarify that is not GF diet to be not sustainable BUT rather grain-free diets like the so-called “paleo-diet”. they use the evidence about gluten sensitivities to basically tell people to go grain free. dot. without exceptions. this attitude should not be encouraged. I believe we should use alternative grains and flours as much as possible (even when one is not gluten intolerant).

      • Sorry I reacted so strongly! I didn’t even think about the Paleo community. In the U.S. fibrex can be purchased
        onlne at http://nutrafiber.com/index.php. I am going to wait to make your rolls until mine arrives. I can’t wait.

        • Hi Kristiana, thank you for this nice reply. I see it just now because it ended up into the spam folder, for some reason. So great you found this online seller! I will add this info to my post, if you don’t mind, so that also other people interested in baking this bread can do it. keep me posted! ciao

  18. Lovely loaves Barbara, and thanks for opening this discussion. I look forward to your posts on grains and what you discover. I wish we could find the fiberex or something similar here.
    While I do not believe in any diet that eliminates any food group what you are saying about the changes in the grains and our ability to tolerate them has certainly impacted our diets and should be studied to understand what is going on with our bodies.

  19. Angela Faraguna says:

    Can you substitute dry yeast? I live in Virginia, and cannot find fresh yeast here.

  20. K Smith says:

    I am allergic to wheat, dairy, nuts, and soy so finding a bread without these things can be challenging to say the least. I love baking and I have tried a number of GF bread recipes and so was excited to try yours. Unfortunately, the bread turned out incredibly heavy–even for GF bread. I live in high altitudes and so usually I have to play with the amount of ingredients here and there, but have never had bread turn out this way before and I have tried it twice! I am sure that I am doing something wrong–any suggestions?

    • sorry about that, there was a mistake in the recipe (wrong amount of water). I have now corrected this, hope you can finally get the same lovely baguettes I got. ciao

  21. Excellent! thanks for the quick reponse. also, can the fibrex be susbtituted with a different flour or being left out?

    • fibrex is actually kind of important because it helps giving structure to the bread in the absence of gluten. are you using physillium husk? that also helps, you may want to add just an extra tablespoon of it but be careful, it may influence the taste. let me know how the bread turns out!

  22. I used 1 TBS chia seeds, and then for the other 1 TBS, used about 1/2 almond meal and used a combination of psyllium husks and flax for the remaining TBS. Worked great. Bread was a success and loved by even those in my household who normally complain about being forced to eat gluten free.

    • Meesa, thank you so much for letting me know about your successful bake! please don’t hesitate to post a picture if you have it. and I will try your version soon!

  23. Barbara, your bread looks fantastic! But for those with coeliac dis, please remember barley malt contains gluten, so stick to the honey :)

  24. Looks great! I’ve started using sorghum in my breads recently (I’m gluten free) and have been really enjoying the wheaty flavour and colour it lends the bread. It’s true that barley malt isn’t gluten free, so don’t go feeding it to any coeliacs! Honey sounds like a nice sub.

  25. It looks wonderful! Would you consider doing a video?
    Isabella

  26. Alas! I have found the Holy Grail!

  27. I’m in australia… I can’t get fibrex. What will happen to these baguettes without it?

  28. Hi all,

    The bread on the pictures look very yummy, my only concern is the “fiber for baking” (fibrex).
    Do you used to give fiber to the baking or for other reasons like remove moisture from the baked bread.
    I been trying to find Fibrex here in Uk, I found sugar beet but I don’t know if that will do the trick.

    Kind regards

    Sara

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  2. [...] a little lumpy (but no less delicious). This recipe is a combination from two wonderful blogs, Bread & Companatico and Art of Gluten-Free Baking. I tried the version that uses two egg whites and one whole egg [...]

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