When I reached Arnel's booth and saw that she had a bread mix in her product line, I had to stop. She had samples, and it was the best looking gluten-free bread I've ever seen, and it tasted as good as it looked. Now, I've never been one to use a mix of any kind. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I just happen to enjoy the process as much as the result. The mix (no "ordinary" mix) has nine wholesome ingredients, 47 percent of which are organic. So I decided to give it a try.
I followed the directions on the package exactly. There is no need for a heavy-duty stand mixer; the dough is not too heavy for a regular mixer. The rise time was considerably longer than that indicated on the package; took 55 minutes in my average-room-temperature kitchen. My oven temperature is quite accurate, so I followed package directions to bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. When I removed the bread from the pan and tested for that hollow sound and stuck a wooden skewer in the side, it tested done. But it soon showed signs of caving at the sides just a bit, not enough to be a problem; but next time I will definitely either bake it 5 or 10 minutes longer or use just one cup of water instead of 1 1/8 cups. I set the loaf on its side on the cooling rack, as recommended by Arnel, then switched it to its other side after about 5 minutes.
Any bread should be cooled at least an hour before slicing, so I forced myself to wait a full hour. The loaf sliced beautifully. Where some gluten-free breads are hard, dense, crumbly and dry, this loaf made perfect slices of soft bread you could make a sandwich with in the morning that would be perfectly delicious several hours later. "The fact that this bread behaves like a piece of wheat bread," says Arnel, "is what makes it extraordinary." I deliberately ate less of it than I would have liked so I could see how long it would stay fresh. After four days, it was still fine!
If the color of the bread in the photo looks a little strange, don't blame it on my photography--well, not entirely! That's the buckwheat. The loaf looks very golden brown on the outside, but the inside of the loaf has a slight, sort of bluish cast. Buckwheat also has a very distinctive flavor that might take a bit of getting used to for those who don't already love it. If you haven't tried it, I hope you will. It's a unique flavor that tastes a bit flowery to me (don't ask me what that means--it's just one of my vague feelings).
Arnel's Originals, which will celebrate its first anniversary next month, also makes a gluten-free pie crust mix (71 percent organic ingredients) and gluten-free pancake mix (80 percent organic ingredients). I look forward to trying them. The three mixes can be purchased at 16 retail locations or ordered online at arnelsoriginals.com.