A Gluten Free Bread Wreath

December 14, 2011

I have been playing a lot with bread lately. Being a gluten free household, and being completely gluten free myself while pregnant and nursing, bread has not been something that I have found myself loving. When Jacob was first diagnosed with celiac, I remember standing in front of the gluten free breads at Whole Foods wondering just how much one loaf of bread weighed. It was the densest, heaviest, most awful tasting thing I had ever come across. Being a bread maker who had a passion for a crusty loaf of bread made fresh, this was a heart ache.
As the years have gone on (somehow it has been 5 years???) the breads have improved so very much, and more than that there are fantastic flour blend recipes that can be found to make a variety of breads at home. I have found myself returning, somewhat, to a love of bread making with my children, and it is always a joy to smell a fresh loaf in the oven.
The day before Thanksgiving I got a hankering for dinner rolls. I wanted the kind that you pull apart and that are so light and soft that butter just seems to melt over them. I missed those rolls. I pulled down every book I had on gluten free cooking, but I found nothing. As the hours wore on and breads for stuffing came out of the oven, I came across a bag of Pamela’s Gluten Free Bread mix in the my pantry. I had used this mix for a pizza I had made a while back, and I remembered that it had a recipe for white bread rolls. They suggested making up the dough, and placing it into muffin tins to rise and then bake.
It was the only recipe or suggestion I had found, so I went for it. The rolls came out smelling wonderful, and they were delicious. They were moist, not too dense, and they had a great flavor, but they were not what I had wanted. They were a slightly harder roll, and while they were a hit at the dinner table (Jacob ate 6), I still longed for that soft bread that I saw everyone else enjoying.
After the holiday was over, I played around with making rolls the same way, but with other bread recipes found in books, websites, etc. The result was the same, great flavor, but harder roll. Feeling a little deflated, I walked away from the kitchen for a few days (I am pretty sure that my family would have revolted if one more roll had come their way).
Deciding to give it one last try, I came back with a theory that maybe pull apart rolls got their softness from being baked against each other, rather that allowing heat and air on all sides, like the muffin tin created.
With that in mind, and Christmas coming soon, the bread wreath was born.

 

I made a batch of my favorite white sandwich bread dough, and using wet hands, I placed 1/3 cup mounds of dough into a wreath shape on a parchment lined bread board (you can do this on anything). Again, using wet hands, I shaped the tops to a smooth look, and then let it sit for about 10 minutes. I had heated my oven to 175, then opened the door to let a blast of heat out, and placed the dough in to rise for 60 minutes. I was feeling jittery at the end of the hour, as it hadn’t risen a ton, but I decided to carry on and see what we got.
70 minutes later, a rustic, yummy looking wreath loaf emerged from the oven, and my heart started to flutter just a little.
Of course as pretty as it looked, it was still missing that melted butter goodness that makes soft pull apart rolls so good. I decided on an herbal blend of parsley, basil and thyme, and mixed that with salted butter to paint on top. Since I had no thought of it before hand, I was grateful for the bay leaves and cranberries that I had stored that added the perfect holiday touch, and turned my pulled apart rolls into a festive holiday centerpiece.
Of course the biggest question is how do they taste? Well, I think that they are as close as  I could come to a pull apart dinner roll. They are soft, just slightly chewy, and they sop up gravy like nobody’s business. I am happy indeed.
** As a note, I have tested at least 6 different bread recipes for these rolls. I have found that most of the new blends of bread flour, especially “white” flour do well. My favorite came from Living Without Magazine. and Gluten Free Girl. The only mix that I liked these with was Pamelas. 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin December 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm

This looks delicious! I can't wait to try it… :) Thanks for sharing.

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Linda December 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm

This looks wonderful, thank you so much for sharing Heather:)
xo
Linda

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a little crafty nest December 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Dear Heather…Oh, this is too good to be true! That sounds awfully dramatic, but I truly and sincerely mean it! We've been gluten-free for a few months now and I tend to only make bread once a week (I find it best fresh that day, maybe the next). I also don't crave bread anymore, which is a BIG deal. But for those special occasions, these rolls look like just the thing! You are so clever figuring out the baking method. I love to bake, and I really miss the kneading and rising of the gluten-y breads of before. But we feel better and I highly recommend this lifestyle change. My 6 yr old has such atrocious eczema that has really eased up (not disappeared yet, though) and my 3 yr old has Type 1 Diabetes which often precedes celiac disease. Anyhow, it is wonderful to have this…I must look in your archives for more recipes! Lisa (Earth Mama) has helped so much with this, too. Enjoy your feasting…
xo Jules

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birdie December 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

hi Heather, this is wonderful, congratulations!! we are gluten free as well and I still struggle with making a really good bread ….sigh … thank you so much for sharing!

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olya December 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Heather, I'm so glad you got your rolls the way you wanted them. We just recently discovered an amazing dinner roll recipe, and I really mean 'amazing'. I don't bake gluten-free things all the time, but we did try quite a few popular recipes. the one we recently tried gives us dinner rolls that are light and fluffy and you can still cut them and spread butter inside. http://www.artofglutenfreebaking.com/2009/11/dinn

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Nina - Tabiboo December 15, 2011 at 10:30 am

What a great idea – about baking them together – and they do look fabulous. It's always hard to get bread making right, but I think your tweeking has really offered up somthing yummy and a great alternative.

Happy holidays,

Nina xxx

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