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I could write a book on gluten free bread baking and probably should. Instead, to simplify things, in this lesson you will learn the basics of how to make wonderful gluten free bread. In addition, you’ll learn how to adjust the recipe to use different flours.
The Parts of Gluten Free Bread
The two most important characteristics of gluten free bread are its flavor and texture. You can break down the texture into two separate categories, the crust and the dough. By now, you’ve created a picture in your mind of a bread that you probably miss or currently enjoy. Is it perfect in real life? If not, learn how to perfect the recipe. If it’s a commercial gluten free bread, learn how to make it yourself. Or perhaps it’s a traditional bread that you miss. You can learn how convert that same bread into gluten free bread. It’s all very simple to learn and make.
Usually, you will be required to use a stand mixer to make good gluten free bread. Thick gluten free bread dough has been known to ruin the beaters on handheld and inexpensive mixers. However, there are recipes that can withstand a hand mixer or even be beaten by hand. The following are the ideal tools needed.
- Stand mixer (or strong arms and hands for hand mixing)
- Loaf pan (8x4x4 or 9x5x3-inch)
- Oven or bread machine
- Metal cooling rack
- Serrated knife, electric knife, or electric slicer
Flour(s), starch(es), gums (or gum substitute like psyllium husk powder), salt, yeast, liquid, fat (butter or oil), and sometimes a little sweetener (like honey) is all you need to make delicious gluten free bread. You can add in seeds, currants, and more if desired.
Types of Flours: You can easily use rice flour (white or brown), sorghum (which requires a little additional fat), or oat flour, which acts a little like gluten flour and but still needs a little help from lighter ingredients like starch and eggs.
Types of Starches: Using a combination of gluten free starch along with gluten free flour creates a less dense bread. The following starches will help balance out the dough: tapioca flour, cornstarch, and potato starch. Potato starch should be used in a higher ratio than cornstarch or tapioca flour as they makes things chewy. You want a little chewiness but not tons. However, there are exceptions to that rule such as this Gluten-Free Egg-Free No-Rise Bread or Rolls Recipe which uses tons of cornstarch. However, it makes a heavier bread due to the lack of eggs and an ample amount of Greek yogurt. In this latter recipe, the use of Greek yogurt, baking powder, and baking soda replace a lot of the leavening action that eggs would have done. Another exception is this recipe using no starch at all which contains mostly whole and ancient grain flours from two mixes by Jovial.
Types of Gum: Xanthan gum and guar gum may be used to replace the lack of gluten, which makes doughs stretchy and structurally sound. Without something to hold all of those flours together, your dough will rise and fall. You’ll find that the use of psyllium husk powder as a replacement for gums can work but require some experimentation and always add some additional liquid.
Eggs: Eggs along with gum help doughs stretch, add moisture, structure, and flavor. The flavor comes from the yolks. You can always replace yolks with added fat, but yolks contain lecithin, which is an emulsifier (keeps ingredients mixed together). You can replace egg yolks with liquid lecithin if you are allergic to egg yolks. Just like other fats, egg yolks add moisture too.
Types of Salt: Try to use fine grain salt. If you only have large grain salt, add it to the liquid ingredients. The water in the liquid will help break down the salt grains just as it does with sugar. Salt is extremely important in yeast dough because it controls how much the bread will rise as it controls the action of the yeast. So, the more salt you add to the dough, the less it will rise.
Types of Yeast: Of course, yeast helps any baked good rise, but instant yeast makes doughs rise faster than active yeast. Active yeast is best for a bread that requires at least two rises. Active yeast takes much longer, maybe 90 minutes, for the dough to rise.
Types of Liquid: Using water is sufficient, but adding some nonfat dry milk or substituting liquid milk for the water adds a bit of creaminess and gluten-like texture to the dough. The fat in whole or low-fat milk will add to the tenderness of the dough. A dairy-free alternative to milk is half coconut milk and half dairy-free margarine, oil, or shortening.
Types of Fat: Fats add moisture and make the texture more pliable/bendable. A small additional amount of butter or oil will keep whole grain flours supple and easier to work with. Margarine can replace butter in equal amounts.
Types of Sweeteners: Sweeteners create a moist and pliable texture. Honey works best but you can substitute honey with agave syrup or even Lyle’s golden syrup or a little corn syrup.
Do I Need to Knead the Dough?
Most gluten free bread recipes are of the no-knead variety. Your stand mixer does all of the kneading for you. Also, keep in mind that long mixing, up to 6 minutes, is done for a reason. Long mixing times develop a gluten-like texture. Over mixing will result in breaking the structure of those gums/binders.
How Do I Check for Doneness?
You can’t test gluten free bread using a skewer, hoping it is done if the skewer comes out clean. Instead, ideally, the bread should have an internal temperature between 190 to 210°F (depending on the type of bread you are making). This temperature proves that there is still liquid in the bread. The bread becomes hotter with the reduction of liquid/water.
Cooling the Loaf
Wait for the bread to cool completely. Gluten free bread usually has a sticky, chewy, almost gummy texture until it completely cools. There are a few exceptions though such as the Gluten Free Pull-Apart Almond Rolls.
Did Not Rise: Too much gum, not enough liquid.
Crumbling or Dry: Not enough fat
Gummy: Too much gum, not enough fat;
Dense: Too much whole grains and not enough starch; not enough eggs; not enough liquid
Falls Upon Cooling or Baking: During the cooling process, if you ever notice that the bread is beginning to collapse inward on the sides, bottom, or top, immediately place it back in the pan and pop it back into the oven to continue to bake. The recipe either had too much leavener (yeast, baking powder, or baking soda), too much liquid, or was not baked long enough to evaporate enough liquid.
Gluten free bread baking is most definitely an art not all science. There are as many possibilities that you can imagine. Every possible combination has been tried just yet. Maybe you’ll be the one who discovers an amazing new bread recipe. By making a mistake, you just may discover something new. But until then, try one of my tried and true recipes.
- Make one of the following bread recipes and watch this bread making video whether you are using a bread machine or your oven. There are a few tips you’ll need to know. It also gives you an idea of the ideal texture of raw gluten free bread dough.
Gluten Free Bacon Cheese Bread (my favorite snacking bread)
Gluten Free Oat (or Sorghum) Bread in the Oven or Machine (a healthier choice than the one with rice flour) + the above Video
Gluten Free White Bread in a Machine (Someone who fondly remembers their grandma’s homemade gluten bread like this.)
Gluten Free White Bread Using Expandex (Udi’s Copycat) (in the oven)
Gluten Free Cinnamon-Raisin Bread (machine or oven)
If you have gluten free sandwich bread techniques down, try making a Pizza Crust Recipe like my favorite, Thick New York-Style Pizza Crust. This recipe is even better if you make the Stuffed Crust Pizza version. The original dough was a gluten free bread dough. You can make the crust softer by adding an additional egg and basting the crust with butter.
Remember, you can always find more lessons linked on the Syllabus page.