I rarely gush over new gluten-free products but get ready for it because this review is going to be a love-fest of epic proportions. Charles Luce, the owner of the eponymous named artisan bread company, contacted me one day out of the blue asking if I would be willing to give his two gluten-free bread mixes a go. These breads are also gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free and vegan with no added oils. The sourdough is also free from any added sugar.
Now, those of you that follow me know that I am pretty much [read completely] useless when it comes to baking. I love to cook but baking – well, there is just not enough of a grey area for me. So I was a bit apprehensive about giving bread mixes a go that could not just be tossed in a bread machine. I was actually more than a bit apprehensive because after looking at the Luce’s Gluten-Free Artisan Bread Web site where the loaves they featured look simply amazing not to mention that Charles exudes pride when he talks about his mixes. I really did not want to be the one to pretty much ruin his products because of my baking ineptitude. Well, not only did I bake the mixes, I made two at the same time and they not only were true things of gluten-free beauty – they were hands down the best gluten-free mixes that I have ever come across. Sweeping statement? Absolutely but as soon as my teeth broke through the most glorious of crusts that gave way to a light and airy (yet still moist) doughy nirvana my gluti-senses were immediately thrust into overload and I actually could not believe that I was eating REAL gluten-free artisan sourdough and Italian bread.
There is actually an entire process behind these mixes that ensures that even the most reluctant baker can produce simply stunning pieces of doughy art. I first looked at the packages when they arrived and saw that some of the steps required parchment and a baking bag both of which were completely foreign to my kitchen. This resulted in an e-mail to Charles with a bunch of questions probably of which the most horrifying for him was when I asked if I could just use a bread machine. What I did not realize was that all of the necessary items are actually INCLUDED in the mix packages – the parchment paper; the baking bag; heck, even the additional flour to dust the loaf with. Charles was completely reassuring in his e-mail, walked me through the process, and…wait for it…actually includes his contact number in the instructions you receive with the mixes to call him if you have any questions. I, thankfully, did not have to use the number because these mixes are 100% foolproof (and I was a bit mortified that I had actually suggested tossing this mix into a bread machine).
So just how easy were these mixes. Well, let’s see. If you can measure one cup of warm water and count to fifty (the required number of mixing strokes) you are pretty much golden. You really just add water and mix. You then lay out the parchment and roll the dough using a wet spoon onto it. Shape it into a loaf shape, cut three small incisions into the dough, then slide the loaf on the parchment into the provided bag (I used a large spatula to lift it into the bag), seal the bag, and into the oven they went (on a baking sheet of course). The bags apparently help to mimic the steam ovens of professional bakeries. I set my iPhone timer for the 85 minutes of baking time and then tried to forget about the loaves because I had visions of charcoal coming out of the oven. I was seriously that nervous.
Well, the kitchen soon filled with the aroma of fresh baking bread so I was at least a bit relieved that it appeared to be going well. I did peak in the oven once but could not see what was going on inside those bags. I just had to have confidence that I did all that I could to ensure they would turn out fine.
Fast forward 85 minutes and I pulled the loaves out of the oven and as instructed cut open the bags so that the loaves could be placed on a wire rack to cool. Miracle of all miracles, I actually own two cooling racks that has been stashed away on the bottom of the oven.
When I cut open the bags I was presented with two stunningly brown and crisp loaves. These were truly the things that gluten-free dreams are made of. Per the instructions, I waited until they properly cooled before cutting.
First up was the sourdough. This was exactly as I had remembered sourdough before my Celiac diagnosis – perfectly crisp with a slightly moist center that was light and airy. It exuded the most wonderfully tart sour olfactory notes as I lifted the slice closer to take that first bite. The crust is magnificent – perfectly firm adding the most wonderful crunchy texture as you chew through each bite.
The Italian was exactly what you would expect in a gluten-filled rustic loaf. How Luce’s was able to make a gluten-free version that I would defy even the biggest bread snobs to distinguish as gluten-free is beyond me. I am just glad that they did. This loaf instantly transported me back to Sunday family dinners (note, my last name does end in a vowel) where Italian bread was a regular staple. This variety was again, perfectly crusty but full of the airiness that makes sets a real Italian loaf apart from imposters. I only wish I had sprinkled a few sesame seeds on top which I will definitely do next time.
I encourage you all to give these mixes a try because these are real game changers for the gluten-free bread landscape. Forget your preconceived notions of what a gluten-free mix should taste like (read cakey) because these shatter every stereotype that I had ever had with gluten-free bread mixes. The two loaves lasted less than 24 hours in my home and I am going to order several more so that I can always have these on hand at all times.
So while I rarely say things like this…
These are the finest gluten-free artisanal bread mixes that you will ever come across. There just is no other that can even come close to how truly easy these were to make AND yields such an amazing quality of end product. You can order the mixes online and have them shipped directly to your front door and at $6.95 per mix a great value. Ladies and gentlemen, your gluten-free artisanal bread has arrived. Bon appétit!