In Episode 07 learn why psyllium husk powder is the magic gluten-free ingredient every baker needs in their kitchen! This complete audio guide teaches you the benefits of psyllium, how it transforms GF breads into soft, fluffy masterpieces, tips for incorporating it in recipes, and the best brand to purchase. Join Melissa Erdelac as she shares how to transform gluten-free baked goods into flawless successes!
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Recipes and Resources Mentioned
- Gluten Free Baking Guide to Psyllium Husk Powder (includes recipes)
- Psyllium Husk Powder (One I use and recommend!)
- Gluten-Free Bread Recipes
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Hello everyone. I’m Melissa Erdelac, host of the Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge podcast and creator behind the gluten-free website, Mamagourmand. Here we take beloved recipes you thought you’d never enjoy again and transform them into easy copycat versions, just as good as the originals. This is your gluten-free recipe rehab.
Today we’re gonna talk about why you and psyllium husk powder need to be BFFs. If you’ve listened to any of my other podcast or made any of my bread recipes on the website, you know that I always recommend psyllium husk powder, and I want you to know exactly why I do that.
Before we get into that, you may not know this about me, but I’m usually not a fan of procuring ingredients I can’t just grab at my local grocery store. I mean, grocery shopping, making the lists, doing all the things is hard enough as it is, let alone throwing in other specialty stores. But that is the magic of Amazon, which is why I’m game for buying this random, somewhat obscure ingredient.
So what happened? What got me here? Why am I making your life and my life more difficult by buying an extra ingredient? It must be worth it for some reason.
I came across psyllium husk powder when I was developing my own gluten-free bread recipes. The thing is, is when you work with gluten-free bread dough, it doesn’t look like your normal wheat flour dough. The dough can be a lot thinner. It’s harder to work with. Where regular wheat flour dough, you would knead the dough or you would need a dough hook to mix it.
Usually gluten-free bread dough, at least all my recipes, you just mix with a hand mixer and they’re pretty thin and pourable.
But bread dough doesn’t work for everything. Like say you wanted to make something like bagels or breadsticks or rolls, these are something that has to be shaped. You can’t pour into a bread pan. Generally what recipes will do to counteract this is they will add a lot more gluten-free flour, which yes, it’ll make the dough stiffer and you’ll be able to shape it with your hands and make into whatever you need it to be made into.
But then once you eat it, it tastes like shit because there’s so much extra flour added that that’s why you get those dry crumbly results.
I needed another solution. I was researching gluten-free bread recipes and I came across some other recipes that use psyllium husk powder, so I thought I would give it a try.
Sold. Once I used it, I realized I could use a lot less flour.
The end result crumb and texture was still great, but I was also able to shape the dough into whatever I needed it to be.
What exactly is this weird ingredient I speak of? What is psyllium husk powder and how does it work?
Okay, let’s break it down. Magic school bus style. Psyllium husk comes from the plantago ovata plant. It’s the outer coating of the plant seeds, which we call the husk. And what it’s primarily used for is a source of fiber. Health food stores will sell it because it has a lot of digestive health benefits , and it’s primarily just straight fiber.
If you don’t wanna make an extra trip to a health food store, I get that. This is where you can make another donation to Jeff Bezos and just buy it from Amazon. That’s what I do.
So what does psyllium do, in gluten-free breads in particular ? When you use it it really improves the elasticity of the bread and it makes that soft, squishy texture, which we’re used to in wheat flour breads, and we sorely miss in most gluten-free baked product.
It doesn’t have any effect on the taste. You can’t taste it at all. Some people get scared because it’s fiber and they don’t want things tasting. I don’t know, Metamucil-y, but you actually cannot tell a difference. The only thing that you can tell is sometimes it turns the breads a darker color, and this is just the type of husk that you get.
Some are darker and some are lighter, and it’ll just turn it to a more, it looks kind of more of like a whole wheat color, but this is really dependent on the brand of psyllium that you get. I’ll go into this later because I’ve gone through a lot of the psyllium husk brands.
Psyllium really improves the binding agent in gluten-free breads, which is something that gluten-free misses, it doesn’t have that binding agent. So that’s how it improves the texture of gluten-free bread.
But you really wouldn’t use this in all gluten-free baked products. You wouldn’t use this in a pie crust because you want it to be flaky. Desserts, like cakes and cookies and brownies and things like this that don’t need a strong elasticity, don’t need psyllium husk powder. So I use this ingredient just strictly for gluten-free bread. Oh, I should say, I use it for a couple other things too, but I’ll go into that a little bit later.
In traditional wheat flour recipes, the gluten acts as the binder, for the ingredients it’s what’s gives it that doughy stretchy consistency. But when we’re baking gluten free, we need something else to mimic that and bind the starches together.
Most gluten-free flour blends add xantham gum. This is what they do to mimic that gluten effect. And this does help, like I said, this helps for cookies and cakes and pie crust, and any other thing that you would need gluten-free flour for, but for gluten-free breads, I just don’t feel like the xantham gum alone goes far enough.
I mean, you’ll still get an edible substitute for gluten-free bread, but you’ll still be a little pissed off that this is what your life has come to. So I want something that makes things as great as what you’re used to eating or what you had ate in your prior gluten full life.
How is psyllium gonna help you do that?
First of all, it makes the dough easier to work with. Like I said before, it helps absorb the moisture, which gluten-free starches do not absorb moisture as well. Instead of adding more flour to compensate for that stickiness, the psyllium, and you only need like a tablespoon or two at most, helps absorb that moisture in the dough so you don’t have to keep adding more flour to it.
It also gives an extra boost of binding agent. It’ll make the bread dough soft and pliable, and you won’t have to decrease or increase the liquid in the recipe, which would make something either be very gummy if you have too much liquid in the recipe or make it dry and crumbly.
I say that psyllium adds moisture to the recipe. Although technically that isn’t correct. Psyllium doesn’t add moisture, but it prevents from having to add more flour, which would decrease moisture in the recipe.
If you add psyllium husk powder to liquids, if you just do a straight tablespoon of psyllium with water, you’ll see that it has a really high viscosity. That’s like, kind of like a semi-liquid gel state.
So that’s where else it plays into helping with binding ingredients and helping elasticity . All these things together is what makes the crumb similar to what you used to find in wheat flour breads. It helps bind, it builds structure in the bread and the moisture makes everything have a soft and chewy bread structure.
What do I use it in and how do I use it? I’ve seen gluten-free bakers use it in one of two ways. One is like how I do it, where I just put it in with the dry ingredients. The other way is they make it a gel.
First, they’ll combine it with that water and it’ll be kind of like a, semi-liquid gel state, and they’ll add that to the recipe. Now, I’ve experimented with this and I didn’t see that huge of difference of making it a gel first and then adding it versus just adding it to the dry ingredients.
I’m all about making life easier. So I just added straight with the flour and baking powder and yeast.
Obviously you use it in gluten-free breads. With gluten-free breads that you pour into a pan like sandwich bread or focaccia or cornbread, it’s not as essential to add the psyllium. In fact, you could probably omit it from the recipe and the dough would still be fine. But I will say I’ve tested, especially my sandwich bread, without the psyllium and then with the psyllium, and while the bread without the psyllium will still taste good and you’ll still enjoy the bread.
I feel like adding the psyllium just makes for a better crumb. If you have it on hand, I would still add it to these other recipes.
The things that you will really need it for are things, like I said earlier, like bagels, rolls, breadsticks, garlic knots, cinnamon rolls.
And then there’s a few other things that I have in my site I found that psyllium really works well in. One of them is an oat flour bread, which is just straight oat s ground up in a blender and then you add the ingredients. I found that this bread, although it tastes really well, breaks apart a lot when you are slicing it and eating it. And it’s just because there’s absolutely no gluten in the recipe. Adding a tablespoon of psyllium really helps hold this bread together.
The other thing I use it for is in some almond flour recipes. Uh, almond flour pizza crust and almond flour tortillas. And since almond flour isn’t actually a flour, it’s just ground nuts, it really helps hold the dough together and helps shape it into what you need it to be. Plus, almond flour itself contains a ton of moisture, so the psyllium just helps counteract that and absorbs some of that.
Now that you’re sold, where are you gonna get your psyllium husks? Like I said, it’s at health food stores.
I haven’t checked to see if they’re at stores like Walmart or Target yet. It might be by like the digestive health things, but I’m not sure. But being the lazy ass that I am, I just get it from Amazon.
Now, the psyllium that I used to recommend, changed its formula somehow. And the last time I got it, it was very dark, so it really turned the baked goods dark.
I’ll be honest with you, I am currently on a search right now to find a substitute for that. You want your psyllium as light as possible . Some psylliums are so dark that it’ll almost turn your baked goods purpleish. Like when I was testing my bagels recipe, I had a darker psyllium in it and it turned the bagels purple, which doesn’t affect the taste.
It’s just really off putting, eating a purple bagel. So I am searching for the perfect replacement for the psyllium, and I have a couple on order right now, and hopefully by the time that this show airs, I will be able to link to the new improved psyllium that would work great in recipes.
The other great thing about psyllium is it’s really inexpensive. It’s 10 to 15 bucks for a pound of it, but it, it’ll last you a year or so. So it’s not like gluten-free flour. You can eat into your life savings. The psyllium is actually pretty affordable and it lasts a long time.
If you really wanna geek out about this and ride the Magic School bus a little bit more, I do have an informational post on this, on my website where I go over all of this in a lot more details, and plus it has all my favorite recipes to use it in, and I will link to that in the show notes.
Okay, so that’s it for this episode of The Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge. Remember, you could go to my website, mamagourmand.com and find any of the recipes I’ve mentioned plus see the transcript for this episode. On the show notes page, you will also find any products I mentioned. So hopefully I can link to the magic psyllium that I’ve newly discovered along with any other ingredients that I’ve mentioned.
Thanks for listening so much. And remember, if you’re loving this podcast, please leave a rating and leave me a comment. It helps a lot and I’d really appreciate it.
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