Lesson 17: Gluten Free Rich & Sweet Yeast Bread

When richness and sweetness are predominant in bread dough, you make amazing recipes like buttery brioche, fluffy cinnamon rolls, soft Italian sweet bread (Panettone), and tender and sweet challah bread. Learn the keys to making these decadent doughs gluten free, and even dairy-free.


Uses for Rich Bread

Rich doughs contain significantly higher amounts of sugar and more often than not, eggs and dairy. At least one of these ingredients are always found in higher amounts in sweet and rich doughs compared to lean doughs (like typical sandwich bread). The result of these rich ingredients is soft, tender, and rich bread that you can serve for breakfast as toast or even French toast, make decadent grilled sandwiches like grilled cheese, or toast and smother with garlic butter to serve with dinner.






If your recipe calls for a double rise, you can use active dry yeast without a problem. However, long rises develop flavorful doughs, a slight sourdough flavor than usually goes undetected. Using instant yeast is much faster. SAF makes an instant yeast specifically for rich doughs. It’s called LeSaffre SAF Instant Gold Yeast.



As we covered in an earlier lesson, salt controls the action of yeast. Therefore, be sure not to add too much salt to rich doughs. They are already heavy and need all of the yeast action they can get. However, don’t skimp on salt either. Salt balances the sweetness and brings out other flavors.


Honey vs. Sugar

While sugar adds moisture and sweetness, honey also creates a softer dough. If a recipe calls for sugar and you wish to replace it with honey, you’ll most likely need to add additional flour to your recipe.



Whether your recipe calls for additional butter, eggs, dairy, or oil, remember that this additional fat will slow down the rising process due to its weight. If you’re adding lots of sugar, this too will slow down the rising.

Fats come in handy to soften crust. It is almost inevitable that the sides and bottom of a baking pan will create a crunchy crust on any gluten free bread. To soften any crispy crust, simple brush the crust with melted butter or margarine when you remove it from the pan. If you cannot afford the additional calories, you can wrap the bread in foil as soon as it comes out of the oven. Steam will develop and fall upon the bread, which softens the crust some, but not as much as butter and margarine. This isn’t necessary when recipes are heavy in dairy. However, you’ll need it in recipes such as challah, which is dairy-free.



You don’t want to use the standard 1 teaspoon of gum per 1 cup of gluten free flour/starches that are often found in gluten free bread recipes. Use less. You’ll see that the challah recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum. Xanthan gum creates a strong, structured dough. Using a little less creates softer doughs.






Usually braided into a loaf or round, this rich yeast bread is slightly sweet and rich with eggs and oil. Traditionally, challah is served during Jewish holidays, but can be enjoyed any time of year by everyone. It is similar to brioche, but is not quite as rich because it does not contain dairy. While many challah recipes contain multiple eggs, this recipe does not.


Brioche is similar to challah but contains many eggs and butter. It is just as tender. While the gluten counterpart is light and sounds hollow upon baking, the gluten free version is heavier. You can only really achieve a hollow-sounding bread when it either too dry or contains modified starches/chemicals.


Cinnamon Rolls

Whether you are making traditional cinnamon rolls or something fancier like monkey bread or sticky buns, the dough is soft. Therefore, you know the recipe calls for lots of dairy and eggs, minimally. In cinnamon roll recipes, there is usually less sugar in the dough but a large amount of it in the filling.

Monkey Bread: To make monkey bread, oil a bundt or tube pan with oil; set aside. Double the recipe for cinnamon-raisin rolls, but just make the dough. Pat out the dough to 1/2-inch thick on a heavily potato-starch-dusted surface. Slice the dough into 1-inch squares. Roll the dough into balls and dip each into melted butter or margarine and then roll in cinnamon-sugar. Stagger layers of these balls in the prepared pan. I have yet to make one, but will someday soon.



Panettone is a tender and soft, and slightly sweet, Italian bread that contains dried or candied fruit like citron. This bread is similar to brioche.


Pull-Apart Rolls

To make tender pull-apart rolls, you need butter (or margarine) and enough eggs to make them fluffy, tender, and rich.


Braided Breads

Braided sweet breads make a beautiful presentation, but to make them gluten free you need to make the dough sturdier by using plenty of gum. This causes the dough to be tough and turn out between pound cake and bread. The only way you’re going to make a tender gluten free braided bread is by using some modified/chemical ingredients, like Expandex. (See How to use Expandex.)


Dairy-Free Substitutions

Dairy-free margarine will work as a fine substitute for butter in most of these recipes. If you wish to bring about some richness, replace a little of the dairy-free margarine with full-fat coconut milk. Don’t use too much or it will soften the dough.

The use of Greek yogurt, or some type of plain yogurt, in the cinnamon rolls recipe is a must. Therefore, if you wish to make this recipe dairy-free, please find a dairy-free cultured yogurt. I have not experimented with this myself. However, I do know that the cultured yogurt is necessary to leaven the rolls and its dairy helps soften them.



Make one of the following recipes. Then, compare your rich bread to a leaner bread.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Challah Bread sweet and tender (using the Almond Flour Blend) + Video of texture

Gluten Free Brioche + Video of Texture

Fluffy Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls (between cinnamon rolls and cake)

Gluten Free Cinnamon-Raisin Rolls + Video of Texture

Gluten Free Panettone (Tender and Sweet Italian Bread)

Pull-Apart Gluten Free Almond Rolls + Video of Texture

Tender Pull-Apart Potato Rolls (They’re in between a biscuit and a roll, but so much better!)

Braided Gluten Free Italian Easter Bread + 3 Videos (between brioche, bread, and pound cake)