Bake Your Own
Gluten Free Bread

Bread is definitely a staple of our lives in the western world, and what can be more enticing than the sight and smell of a piping hot loaf fresh from the oven.  Restaurant fare across the continent and Europe invariably features an array of appetizing sandwiches served on tasty rolls, wraps and focaccias.  It’s bread that makes our lunches portable and allows us to eat standing or sitting without the use of utensils.  Perhaps, in our busy lives that is one reason why bread seems so essential.

Great News!  You can still have soft fresh bread.

Nutrition

The Basics

Equipment

7 Simple Steps

Recipes

Buying Gluten Free Bread

The first thing I hear any time someone finds out that I’m gluten free is “that must be so hard, I could never give up bread.” And the second thing I hear is “gluten free, that’s so expensive.”  Well, neither of those things has to be true.  Although the gluten free bread that's available commercially has improved immensely in recent years, it is expensive.  But there is a solution!

You can make your own!

Making gluten free bread is far less expensive than buying it, and it’s really not that hard at all.  In fact it’s much easier than making regular wheat bread because there are fewer steps.  No kneading and only one raising cycle.  Can you smell it already?  That sweet intoxicating aroma of fresh baked bread and it’s coming from your kitchen!

Nutrition

Baking your own bread is healthier than buying it because you control the ingredients and there are no chemical preservatives.  Still, if you’re trying to watch your weight or to eat healthy, remember that gluten free white flours and starches, just like white wheat flour are processed refined carbohydrates.  So just like before you went gluten free you were advised to limit the amount of bread you ate and to focus on the darker whole grain varieties, the same applies here.  I’ve included a white sandwich loaf because it’s nice to have on hand as a treat, but try some of the hardier varieties too.  They’re very tasty and nutritious.

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The Basics

 Gluten free flour is different from gluteny flour.  Gluten is what gives the product structure so that it holds its shape when it rises.  The gluten forms little pockets that fill up with air like balloons, and then hold their shape when baked.  That’s why you have those high fluffy white loaves.  You may have noticed that rye bread forms a shorter denser loaf.  That’s because rye contains less gluten than wheat. Gluten free bread has none of that structure building gluten so it needs another ingredient to replace this function.  Most recipes use gums.  This is where you need to be careful.  Many recipes have too much gums like guar gun and xanthan gum.  These work pretty well although some people don't like the taste or find the gums don't agree with them.  Just don't over do it or your finished product will lack that nice soft crumb and that lovely spongy feeling in your mouth.  If there is too little, your product will raise and then go flat.  There are some substitutions too so don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works for you.

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Equipment

To make bread you need:

  • Kitchen scale (and a lightweight bowl or container if your scale is not the type that has one built in)
  • Mixer (stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer and mixing bowl)
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Digital thermometer
  • Spatula
  • Scoop (optional)

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Seven Simple Steps

1. Assembling your ingredients

As always, use fresh, high quality ingredients.  Flours and yeast will keep for a long time in the refrigerator.  Mise en place <link> is important.  The bread baking process is quite simple if you weigh and assemble all of your ingredients in advance.  Everything should be at room temperature for the product to rise properly, so take it all out of the fridge in advance; about 30 – 60 min for eggs and butter.  The flour will come to room temperature more quickly.  If you forget to take your eggs out of the fridge in advance, you can warm them up by placing them in warm water for 5 – 10 min.  By the time you’ve assembled your dry ingredients they should be fine.  Yeast needs warmth to rise and is often mixed with warm water and allowed to sit for a few min.  The water should be at 40 degrees Celsius (104F).  Warm water from the tap is fine and use a digital thermometer to measure the temperature.

2. Mixing

Gluten free products actually benefit from a lot of mixing.  It combines the ingredients well and aerates the batter.  You can do this by with a hand mixer, but I highly recommend investing in a stand mixer if you’re going to be doing much gluten free baking.  It saves your arm and frees you up to do other things while your product mixes, often up to five minutes.  Use the paddle attachment.  You won’t need the dough hook for gluten free bread.

Consistency

Gluten free bread dough is very sticky, more like a batter really.  It may have a tendency to crawl up the side of the bowl while mixing.  That’s okay, just shut the mixer off, push the dough down with a spatula and then turn it back on.  You may need to do this more than once.  Depending on the recipe, you may need to handle the dough.  A little water or oil on your hands will help to keep it from sticking to you.

3. Panning

An ice cream scoop works well for getting the dough from the bowl to the pan.  It helps to keep some air in the product and also to measure how much dough goes in the pan. One scoop for buns, three to five for a loaf depending on the size of the pan.  I like doing rolls or buns in muffin tins because it helps them keep their structure and raise up taller, though you can scoop them out onto parchment.  You’ll get a thinner, flatter bun that works well for hamburgers.  Be careful not to overcook.  For loaves, smaller pans work best.

4. Rising or proofing

Here’s the trick that will make all the difference in how happy you are with the finished product.  Yeast rises best in a warm moist environment at 35C  (95F) and 85% humidity.  Professional bakeries use a proofer.  You can create this affect in your kitchen.  If you have a second oven, put it on warm then turn it off.  Boil the kettle and put a container of boiling water (I use a pie pan or a small loaf pan) in with your bread as it’s rising.  Or you can create the same affect in your microwave. Use a microwave safe container and boil the water in the microwave.  This will heat the oven and create the moisture you need.  Use the timing on the recipe as a guide only.  One your product has doubled in size it’s done! Put it in the oven.  If you leave it too long it will continue to rise then collapse like a wad of bubble gum that gets too much air then bursts.  You may even see the little broken bubbles on the top.

5. Baking

Bread also bakes best in a moist oven.  While you’re preheating your oven, put an old pan that you don’t care about or a disposable pan in there to heat up too. As soon as you put the bread in, throw in a handful of ice cubes.  They will create steam right away.  Close the door and let the bread bake.  Again, use the timing in the recipe as a guide.  To be sure if the bread is done, insert a tester into the centre, if it comes out clean the bread is baked.  If some of the bread sticks to the tester, it may still be done.  Feel it to see if it’s just nice and moist and fluffy, or if it’s still wet and sticky.  If you want to take the guesswork out, use your thermometer.  Bread when it’s baked is between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit (88 - 93 Celsius).

6. Cooling

Your gluten free bread will hold its shape best if you let it cool in the pan for a bit.  Then move it to a cooling rack and let it cool completely (or almost – it’s very nice to eat warm) before slicing.

7. Storing

Gluten free baked goods spoil quickly and dry out quickly.  If you’re going to eat your bread within two or three days you can store it in a plastic bag or air tight container in the cupboard.  Any longer than that, I recommend putting it in the freezer.  You can take out a couple of slices and pop them right into the toaster as needed, or take them out a bit in advance if you want them untoasted.  To keep the slices from sticking together when freezing, some people will put a piece of wax paper between each one.  I just make sure the bag is not to tight, then after it’s been in the freezer about an hour or so, I take it and move the slices around a bit to unstick them, then put the loaf back in the freezer.

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Recipes

Buying Gluten Free Bread

Mixes

There are a number of mixes available in grocery and specialty stores.  I encourage you to try a few and see if there is one you like.  The one I keep on hand is Duinkerken brand.  It's available at Bulk Barn and is Canadian made in P.E.I..  Instructions are simple and the results are good

Ready Made Loaves

Most ready made bread is found in the freezer section since gluten free bread doesn't keep well.

This one is available in some southern Ontario grocery stores and online from Ste. Anne's Bakery.  THIS is definitely my favourite!  Here's a link to their website.

Udi's is a popular brand.  If you're looking for a plain white loaf to keep in the freezer to have the odd slice of toast this one is not bad.  They make a brown loaf as well as hot dog and hamburger buns. 

A second favourite is Silver Hills.  It's from B.C. in Western Canada and is available at Costco.  Organic and whole grain, it's a good healthy bread and tastes great toasted with marmalade or a bit of peanut butter.

Bread Substitutions

Of course there are alternatives.  We all like a little variety in our lives.  Why not try a gluten free wrap, or corn bread, or quick breads.

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