Skip to main content

Make Mine a Gluten-Free Cheese Sandwich

Toasted gluten-free sandwich bread. With pickle.

When food bloggers were challenged by a recent article in Food & Wine magazine to write with more verve and snap than a "boring cheese sandwich" I knew I had to head to the kitchen. Not to begin unwrapping my favorite snowy goat cheese (creamy with only a slight tang and a finish that barely flutters with August grass blowing in a southerly Aix-en-Provence wind breeze) but to bake.

Because, Dear Reader, in order to make a cheese sandwich- boring or not- you first need bread.

And bread is a rare event in my gluten-free kitchen. I bake bread perhaps twice a year, even though it's the perpetual tap-dancing Holy Mother of a Grail to the ever widening gluten-free world, the numero uno item verboten most newly minted celiacs yearn- with quasi-religious fervor- to replace.

The reason for my culinary indifference?


I've yet to sink my teeth into any gluten-free bread slice worthy of my undivided in the moment zen attention. Not to mention my desire (which, I assure you, is not passed around like cheap candy Valentine hearts). I have, instead, focused on other pursuits, alternative pleasures brimming in diversity, texture and taste beyond the comforting toothy sink into a little flour, yeast and salt [yet unlike the article's author, not so diverse as to embrace the slimy, coagulated, clotty, gelatinous, rubbery, or undulating]. Unlike the annointed bloggers praised in the Food & Wine piece, I'm a texture sensitive individual. Ask anyone. I'm not a fan of octopus. Or deer heart. I don't intend (ever!) to eat snake or head cheese. Forks and spoons are chosen with dead seriousness and a keen eye toward sizing to avoid contact with tooth enamel. My favorite spoon is plastic (and purple). But I digress.

The challenge facing me in light of the Pete Wells challenge was obvious. Bake a gluten-free bread worthy of a decent cheese sandwich- or at least, not a fucking boring cheese sandwich.

Having failed at several alternative bread attempts in years past (don't believe what they preach say about the wonder of bean flours by the way, unless you secretly long to sport a stretchy pair of K-Mart elastic waist jeans in order to accommodate your gassy girth) I looked to the burgeoning market of gluten-free bread mixes. Choosing one without the bloat-inducing legumes or worse, soy flour, I settled on a Gluten Free Pantry mix called Country French Bread and Pizza Mix.

The texture I was looking for in my cheese sandwich was rustic and crusty with a chewy, slightly salty bite. You know- very French or Italian. Like a torn off piece of focaccia. Worthy of your best Italian extra virgin olive oil. That was my daydream, anyway.

I beat up the Gluten-Free Pantry bread mix in my custard yellow beast of a Kitchen Aid according to package directions. Well, all right. Almost. I hardly ever follow directions. I made a tweak or two. Or five. Here's what I did, Dear Heart.

I proofed the yeast first in 105 110 degree F water (the amount of liquid listed on package directions) with a tablespoon of clover honey.

I used three whole organic happy eggs instead of two.

I added twice as much sea salt and a tad more light tasting apple cider vinegar (not that residue laden unfiltered sludge).

I thought I'd toss in some dried Italian herbs and a taste of minced garlic and onion, too- remembering (with a distinct shudder) the utter blandness of rice flour.

I scraped the dough into an oiled and floured 9-inch cake pan and did not cover it with oiled plastic wrap as suggested; I placed the pan in a warm oven (turned on to 200 degrees for a couple of minutes, then turned off) and let it rise for an hour.

A note on the cake pan choice. My virginal gluten-free experiences in attempting to recreate the breads of those golden and innocent pre-celiac baking days (how I loved to knead and bake fresh bread) taught me not to bake the dough in standard shaped loaves (it's not even dough, really, in any classic stretchy kneadable way, it's batter; and very sticky, stubborn beater-breaking batter at that). I had better luck baking it- instead- as a peasant style round loaf in shallow cake pans or pie plates. For some slightly miraculous reason, this creates more stretch and more air holes, resulting in a texture more closely resembling actual bread (not the usual gluten-free texture).

For this particular loaf I chose my 9-inch Springform cake pan. After the hour-long rising, I turned the oven on again- at 375 degrees F- and baked the bread for 30 minutes. It's done when it is firm in the center and sounds hollow when you thump it. Yes, on its bottom.

I also want to add a note about color- rice flour will not produce as brown or dark a crust as wheat flour, so don't let the lighter crust color fool you into thinking it needs to cook longer. Do the thump test.

Cool it on a wire rack for a few minutes, and then release the bread from the pan to let it breathe. Don't let it sweat in the pan. No one likes a soggy bottom, you know.

And as for tasting it (I know you'll be tempted, before it's completely cooled), just make sure it's somewhat cool before slicing or it may just fall apart. And Babycakes, please. Use a sharp serrated bread knife.

Encouraged by the looks of how well this loaf turned out, I proceeded. Now, the fun part. What sort of sandwich did I have a hankering for? I decided to go with mozzarella as the cheese of choice because although the deft, sweet artisan log of goat cheese called to me, the gleaming creamy globe of mozzarella won out. We had found some shockingly vine-ripe tomatoes that morning (it pays to get out to the market early). Nothing tempts me into Sandwichville like perky fresh tomatoes and creamy mozzarella.

My contribution to the blogging of cheese sandwiches is this toasty wheat-free beauty crafted with warm-from-the-oven gluten-free herb bread, grilled until slightly golden in a dab of Italian extra virgin olive oil. In the center are slices of vine-ripened tomatoes seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzled with a kiss of organic balsamic vinegar and crowned with a cool round slice of mozzarella. I broiled it just until the cheese melts ever-so-slightly; then finished it with a selection of fresh bitter baby greens drizzled with a touch of organic balsamic and olive oil. The sandwich is served with a crisp, garlicky Kosher pickle.

How was it, you ask?

Not boring. In fact. It was blogworthy.


Gluten-free sandwich bread.


Update notes to reader inquiries - or how I stopped hating gluten-free bread and learned to love toast again...


TRENDING

Gluten-Free Baking Tips + Substitutions

Need wheat-free gluten-free baking tips? Help is Here. Here's what works- and what doesn't- in quirky Gluten-Free Baking and Substitution Land. From Karina, Gluten-Free Goddess®. Baking Substitutions for Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free and More Notes on GF Flours: Gluten-free non-wheat flours generally fall into three basic weights- light starch, all-purpose medium, or heavier whole grain. A blend of medium and heavy flours with some starch mixed in to lighten, tenderize, and help bind the batter or dough works best, and tastes best (too much starch can result in a gummy texture). Light, starchy GF flours include sweet rice flour, white rice flour, and the ubiquitous gluten-free starches- tapioca starch, cornstarch, potato starch (NOT potato flour, which is whole different animal) and arrowroot starch. Medium flours are akin to 'all purpose flour'- these include sorghum flour, certified gluten-free oat flour, and superfine brown rice flour. If you cannot find sorg

Gluten-Free Goddess Raspberry Jam Bars

Sweet and simple raspberry jam bars. Let's be honest. I am here today to tempt you. To coax you. To seduce you with a gluten-free dessert worthy of every single luscious calorie. In full transparency, I am admitting up front these are not fat-free. Or sugar-free. These aren't diet food. They're not proper for breakfast (unless you serve them with Champagne). And you won't be able to sigh ever-so-wistfully at parties and mention, off hand, how hard it is to eat gluten-free at family gatherings and parties. Because, Darling Reader, you'll score zero sympathy points once people sink their teeth into the luscious raspberry jam filling nestled between buttery toasted coconut-almond crunch topping and tender hazelnut cookie crust. Nope. In fact, these decadent raspberry coconut-almond bars should come with a warning:   Be careful who you share these with. Because they are sure to fall madly in love with you. Seriously. Karina xox

Gluten-Free Goddess Brownies- The Best

Why bake a gluten-free brownie from scratch and not a mix? While baking mixes are perfectly acceptable in a pinch, and no doubt a boon to busy cooks on a gluten-free diet (well, honestly, who isn't busy, preoccupied, overwhelmed, and anxious these days, I ask you?), your taste buds will tell you why. In a heart beat, Darling. A dark chocolate brownie made from scratch is deeply delicious and decadent. Impressive, even. Company worthy. Dare I say, date night worthy. I'm not kidding. This brownie recipe is swoon inducing. (You know what they say about chocolate.)  But here's the best part. Throwing this recipe together takes only a few minutes longer than opening up a box of mix. In fact, you can whip up these luscious gooey babies in a mere ten minutes. In less time than it takes you to scan your daily dose of cute animals IG feed.  Seriously.  So what is more rewarding? Watching baby donkeys frolic on Instagram or stirring together this rich, tender, dark chocolat

Gluten-Free Goddess Blueberry Muffins- No Xanthan Gum

Baking Without Xanthan Gum, I Am. When I first set foot on this lonely gluten-free road (it was 2001, remember, pre-gluten-free boon; there was nary a gluten-free bagel or wheat-free blueberry muffin in sight), I wrestled with converting my beloved tried and true wheat flour recipes, gamely baking and tossing too many gluten-free hockey pucks and brick loaves to count. Until I discovered xanthan gum- the weirdo secret ingredient that gave gluten-free batter and dough a hint of that elusive stretchy tenderness that gluten once gifted. Xanthan gum was a find. And it has been a nifty little problem solver for many years. Until it wasn't. After a decade or so of cooking, baking, and eating strictly gluten-free I began to feel- shall we say- less than wonderful after eating something with xanthan gum (or guar gum, or locust bean gum, or carrageenan). Ingredients my grandmother never heard of. Ingredients I never used to eat. Or bake with. I had a gluten-free shakabuk

Gluten-Free Lasagna In a Casserole Style Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Lasagna As it Should Be. Delicious! And perfect for old fashioned family comfort food. It's been a long time since I flirted with a new kitchen appliance. Truthfully? I barely have room for the few gems I still have, after all these moves. Though I've got more room these days, post apartment living. We're finally in a house. And the days of a kitchen without an oven are in the rearview mirror.  You remember those rental days, right?  In Rental World they don't always give you a full size, actual oven. They might just give you a four burner cooktop. And a rickety microwave.  So what's a gluten-free lasagna craving girl gonna do? Make a mug of chai.  Cruise Amazon.  Because this. A  Crock-Pot Casserole Manual Slow Cooker .   Brilliant. My first lasagna in this new Crock Pot Casserole Slow Cooker Please note: This is NOT a sponsored post.  I assembled this classic family style lasagna at noon today-

Gluten-Free Goddess Zucchini Breakfast Cake

Zucchini Cake! Yep. What's for breakfast, you ask? Cereal? Yogurt? #Boring Instead, let's eat cake.  A tasty breakfast cake inspired by those lovely  maple sweetened almond zucchini mini-muffins . Remember those? I sure do.  They've become one of our favorite grab-and-go gluten-free treats. I tuck a bag of them- fresh out of the freezer- into my (bulging) purse/backpack/tote whenever we venture far afield. Because, well. You never know. And even if we are still stuck at home, isolating ourselves week after week like champs... today I remembered those zucchini muffins and thought--- hmmmmm.  What. If. We. Make. Zucchini. Cake. For breakfast!? Because. #notboring Karina xox Gluten-Free Goddess Zucchini Breakfast Cake Recipe By Karina Allrich May 2012. Sweetened only with a half cup pure maple syrup, this cake is not overly sweet. Which makes it perfect for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack. Almond meal, sorghum flour and quinoa flakes add protein and nutritio

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets, Chick Peas and Orange

Fresh, bright quinoa salad with oranges and roasted beets. Roasted Beets + Quinoa are a super yum match. Trust me. February second. We survived January, Darling. Happy Groundhog Day to you. Happy Imbolc. The dwindling of winter is at last within reach- no matter what Punxatawny Phil predicts. Six weeks is doable. After all, there is chocolate. Irish Soda Bread . And soul warming soup . And our hope-fueled New Year betterments are still on track (right?). If not, the year is young. Tomorrow is a fresh start. To celebrate, let's throw a party. My contribution? A gluten-free vegan salad that is perfect for parties. Because throwing a party is a tad more complicated than it used to be. There are vegans to accommodate. And newly gluten-free friends and neighbors to feed. And let's face it. Everyone is a wee bit bored by those layered taco bean dips and pork sliders. Gooey meat and cheese is so predictable. Pizza dips are so frat house. Why not go fresh and bre