When Marly and Allyson approached me and asked if I wanted to be part of their “Panera Bread Gluten Free Dream Day,” I was of course more than happy to be involved. Apparently there aren’t any gluten free items on Panera Bread’s bakery menu, so the idea is that a bunch of bloggers will re-create Panera menu items in a gluten free way.
I chose their Spinach and Artichoke Soufflé mainly because I am obsessed with anything spinach and artichoke based, and also because I thought the idea of a vegan, gluten free soufflé sounded just difficult enough to really get me pulling my hair out. What can I say, I love a challenge!
Fortunately for my hair, what Panera calls a “soufflé” isn’t really a soufflé in the traditional sense. It’s more of a croissant type dough wrapped around an eggy filling. Here’s a photo of the Panera version:
And here’s a cross section of what I came up with:
Not too bad – if nothing else, it certainly tastes great! I’ll admit the dough isn’t quite as croissant-like as theirs, it’s a touch firmer and more crumby, but it’s still buttery and flaky and compliments the lovely spinach and artichoke filling quite nicely. And it’s a heck of a lot easier to make than croissants, gluten free, vegan, or otherwise.
The dough is a simple mixture of white rice and amaranth flours and some other dry ingredients (listed below) that you mix with some oil, vinegar, and yeast that you’ve proofed in warm water. Blend everything together until you get a nice ball of dough, like so:
I didn’t use a mixer or anything, just a wooden spoon and my hands. I love that with most gluten free recipes you don’t have to knead the dough or worry about over-working it. Set that aside in a warm place for 30-60 minutes and let it rise a bit. Then you can take about 2/3 of a cup of coconut oil at room temperature (yeah, that’s a lot of coconut oil, but do you have any idea how much butter is in croissants?) and scoop it out or break it up so that it’s in tiny pieces. Roll out your dough into a long oval or rectangle and spread your coconut oil around the middle third:
Then fold the other two sides over the middle, like you’re folding a letter:
For those of you who have made croissants before, you’ll recognize this technique – the standard way to make croissants involves folding the butter in like this, chilling it, rolling it, folding it, chilling it, rolling it, folding it, chilling it….do you see why I said mine is easier? This is where I diverge from the standard technique, because the next step in my recipe is to basically squish this nice folded dough into a ball and roll the heck out of it.
Since coconut oil doesn’t really soften the same way butter does, I decided to just spread it throughout the dough by rolling and kneading it, making sure to soften up any chunks of coconut oil that might be hiding in there. You should end up with a nice greasy ball of dough like so:
Pop that into the fridge for about an hour to let it chill. Once it’s nice and chilled, take it out and divide it into four evenly sized pieces. You’ll work with one at a time so you can stick the other three back in the fridge for now. Roll your dough out into a circle – you’ll be appreciating all that oil right now because this dough is really easy to work with and doesn’t stick much.
With a very thin spatula or one of those cool bread scraper things, gently lift your dough into a soufflé dish (I used 6 oz ones. You could use smaller 4 oz ramekins as well, you’d probably get 6 servings out of that). Don’t worry if your dough breaks, you can fix it in the dish.
Gorgeous, isn’t it? Don’t worry, it gets prettier. For now just repeat the process with the other three balls of dough and pop them all in the fridge while you make the filling.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and throw in some chopped up artichoke hearts, onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. Let those cook for a few minutes until the onions start to soften, then add about four cups of spinach and stir it all together until the spinach is nice and wilted. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until things are pretty chopped up but not puréed. Should look something like this:
Remove that from the food processor and put it in a medium sized bowl. Add a block of firm tofu (you don’t need to press it, just squish some of the liquid out with your hands), a bit of nutritional yeast, and a few other ingredients (again, listed below) and blend until nice and smooth. Add to the bowl with the veggies and stir until combined, and you’ll have this lovely mixture:
You’re more than welcome to eat this right out of the bowl, it’s pretty delish – plus then you can add some more salt or other seasonings to taste if you’d like.
Almost done! Take your soufflé dishes out of the fridge and fill them about 3/4 of the way full with this filling:
Yep, it’s still ugly. Fold all that extra dough in over the top and shape it however you like – you could fully cover it or leave some of the filling showing through the middle, like I did.
Hey, it’s starting to look respectable. I still need to clean my counters, though. Brush the top of the dough with a bit of olive oil, stick your soufflés in the oven at 350 for about 35 minutes, and go have a nice cup of tea. Once it’s all cooked it should have hardened a bit and have a nice golden brown color, and you’re good to go!
I recommend eating it right out of the dish (being careful since it’s hot), but you could also flip it over and pop it out if you like.
Now I’m sad that I already ate mine, I want another one!
Join us on our Gluten-Free Dream Day by visiting these friends who have created gluten-free versions of Panera Bread Bar goodies. Maybe one day, bakeries around the planet will offer more gluten-free goodies for this growing demographic!
Allyson Kramer – Jalapeno Cheddar Bagel
Family Fresh Cooking – Wild Blueberry Muffins
Oh She Glows – Apple Crunch Muffins
Veggie Num Num – Pumpkin Muffin
Multiply Delicious – Chocolate Chunk Muffins
Heather Strang – Orange Scones
Namely Marly — Caramel Pecan Rolls
Diet, Dessert and Dogs – Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake
Right now the only way to try all these gluten-free goodies is to make them yourself. But who knows, maybe someday you’ll be able to pop into a place like Panera and enjoy one right from their menu.