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Monday, September 27, 2021

Dan Lepard’s gluten-free recipes for focaccia and Japanese fried chicken buns

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Adding subtle background flavours to gluten-free bread is the easiest way to lift the taste and get results you’re really proud of. These double-sesame burger buns, with sesame oil and sesame seeds on top, are now our house go-to and equally as fine as the best wheat ones – perfect for a fried chicken sandwich with crisp, grated vegetables, pickles and mustard mayo. Then, to dazzle your guests, make my crusty, cornmeal-flecked focaccia your centrepiece on the table, with a soft crumb that’s flavoured gently with fresh rosemary and balsamic vinegar. Time to get baking.

Veg box focaccia (pictured above)

A friend gave us a huge box of beautiful vegetables, and I thought they’d be perfect sliced over focaccia. An infusion of chopped fresh rosemary helps to give this rice-based crumb extra flavour, as do the olive oil, honey and balsamic vinegar, while the plump flecks of yellow cornmeal help keep it soft. Easy to make, stays fresh-tasting for days and freezes well, too.

Prep 40 min

Rest 30 min

Cook 50 min

Makes 1 x 20cm square focaccia

1 x 5cm sprig rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped

4 level tsp dry cornmeal or polenta

1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast

140g rice flour

20g tapioca starch

30g chickpea flour

2 level tsp xanthan gum

½ tsp salt

90g egg white
(about 3 medium eggs)

2 tsp olive oil

10g honey

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Sliced raw root vegetables (drier types like potatoes, carrots, beets)

Fresh rosemary, cornmeal, salt flakes and olive oil, to finish

Line the inside of a 20cm square shallow cake tin with nonstick paper. Put the chopped rosemary leaves and cornmeal in a small bowl, pour in 50g boiling water, stir well and leave for 10 minutes. Then pour in 150g warm water, whisk in the yeast and leave to one side.

Put the rice flour, tapioca starch, chickpea flour, xanthan gum and salt in a large bowl. Then, into a smaller bowl, measure the egg white, olive oil, honey and balsamic vinegar. Pour this mix and the yeast water into the dry ingredient bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat vigorously for two to three minutes, until very smooth, light-textured and even. Scrape this into the tin, smooth it out right to the edges, then tap the tin firmly on the counter to pop any air pockets. Wet the top and gently smooth the surface with your fingers. Cover and leave to rise for about 30 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/gas 4. Lay the vegetable slices on top of the dough, then sprinkle over the rosemary leaves, dust lightly with cornmeal and salt flakes, and drizzle with oil. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven, immediately and carefully transfer from the tin on to a wire rack, drizzle with more olive oil and leave until cold before slicing.

Sesame burger buns with senzanki (gluten-free fried chicken, Japanese-style)

Dan Lepard’s sesame bun with senzanki chicken.
Dan Lepard’s sesame bun with senzanki chicken.


These buns souffle as they bake, then settle down on cooling, resulting in the ultimate soft burger bun. Checkerboard cuts on top make them look a bit like Japanese melonpan if you’re neat or Godzilla skin if you’re slapdash. They’re quick and easy to whip up, but you will need a four-pocket yorkshire pudding tray with 10cm-wide indents, to give the buns the best shape. Throughout Japan, you find great karaage fried chicken, and in Ehime Prefecture – where we hold the annual Yawatahama Marmalade Awards – the city of Imabari has its own version called senzanki. Marinated in ginger, garlic, sweet wine, sake and soy sauce, then tossed in potato starch and double-fried, it’s addictive and especially great in a burger. Buy gluten-free soy sauce and, as always, check the labels, but do it once, and you’ll be addicted.

Prep 35 min

Rest 4 hr+

Cook 40 min

Makes 4 x 70g rolls

For the burger buns

1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast

100g white rice flour

30g tapioca starch

20g chickpea flour

10g dark brown sugar

2 level tsp xanthan gum

2 level tsp
gluten-free mustard powder

¼ tsp salt

60g egg white

2 tsp sesame oil,
or other

1 tsp cider vinegar

Toasted sesame seeds, to finish

For the fried chicken

500g boned chicken thighs (about 4)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Large pinch dried seaweed (optional)

30g mirin (or white wine)

30g sake (if you have it; I use gin instead)

30g gluten-free soy sauce

70g potato starch

30g rice flour (or extra potato starch)

Oil, for frying (I have a litre bottle on hand)

To serve

Grated carrot and cabbage

Sliced radishes

Mustardy mayonnaise

Have a four-pocket yorkshire pudding tray with 10cm-wide indents ready, butter the inside of each pocket well and put a disc of nonstick paper in the base of each.

Pour 170g water into a large bowl, add the yeast and whisk until dissolved. Measure into another bowl the rice flour, tapioca starch, chickpea flour, brown sugar, xanthan gum, mustard powder and salt. Then measure the egg white, oil and vinegar into a cup.

Tip the dry ingredients and egg white mixture in with the yeast water, and beat using an electric hand whisk for two to three minutes until very smooth and a pale caramel colour. (The xanthan gum will also change the texture so it appears like a gelatinous cake mix, weird but just what you want.)

Spoon 100g of the mix into each pocket and use a teaspoon to push it evenly out to the edges. Bang the tray firmly a few times on the counter to knock out any air bubbles, then smooth the top using wet fingers. Leave uncovered but away from drafts for 30-50 minutes until just risen above the edge of each pocket. Using a very wet table knife, cut shallow criss-cross lines across the top, wiping and rewetting the knife after each cut. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/gas 4. Bake for 30 minutes so they dry out more and drop less on cooling. Cool out of the tray on a wire rack.Halve or quarter the chicken thighs and toss in a bowl with the garlic, ginger, seaweed, if using, mirin, sake, and soy sauce. Mix well, cover, leave in the fridge for at least three hours, or overnight, then drain.

Pour oil into a medium 15cm-deep saucepan to come about 7cm up the sides, and heat to about 180C. Mix the potato starch and rice flour. Toss each piece of chicken in the starch mixture, leave for 10-20 minutes to dry, then deep fry in batches of three for about 60 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out on to a plate or tray to rest, while you repeat with the remaining chicken.

Fry the first batch again at the same temperature for another 60 seconds, remove from the oil and check the internal temperature is 80C (or cut one open to make sure it’s cooked through). Repeat with the remaining chicken, then serve in the buns with grated carrot and cabbage, sliced radishes and a dollop of mustardy mayonnaise.

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