When I went gluten-free one of the first things I started to miss was a decent loaf of bread. I tried any number of commercial brands and eventually found one type from one manufacturer that was pretty good. It was expensive and a bit sticky but worth it. Then they stopped making it.
That was my inspiration for figuring out how to make a decent loaf of gluten-free bread at home.
If you've tried baking gluten-free, by now you know that what works for gluten containing baked goods doesn't work so well for gluten-free.
Rather than following the usual course of trial and error, I decided to be more scientific about this and figure out the how and why of baking, then apply the lessons learned to making great gluten-free bread. Would you expect anything less from Wisdom Website?
What I learned is that, while it isn't possible to make gluten-free bread that is exactly the same as gluten-based breads, what you can make is tasty, soft, delicious, and a thousand times better than the cardboard that passes for store bought gluten-free bread.
Best of all, it's quicker and easier to make than regular bread and not much harder than baking a cake.
First the recipe, then a photo gallery, and finally, the wisdom behind it all.
UPDATE: I'm getting reports that this works well in bread machines, too!
Kenneth Benjamin's Perfect Gluten Free White Bread Recipe
|Gluten-free Flour Blend as follows:*|
|2 cups / 480ml / 320gm||Rice flour (white, brown, or mixed; superfine if possible)|
|1/3 cup / 80ml / 45gm||Tapioca starch or flour (they are the same thing)|
|1/3 cup / 80ml / 70gm||Potato starch (not potato flour - see notes)|
|1/3 cup / 80ml / 50gm||Corn starch (also known as corn flour)|
|3 1/2 tsp / 18ml||Guar gum|
|1 1/2 tsp / 8ml||Salt|
|1/4 cup / 60ml||Sugar|
|1/4 oz / 8gm / 1 packet||Dry yeast (or fresh yeast - see notes)|
|1 3/4 cup / 415ml||Milk|
|1/4 cup / 60ml||Vegetable oil or melted butter|
|1 tsp / 5ml||Cider vinegar (white is okay)|
|3||Eggs (room temperature)|
*If you have pre-mixed the gluten-free flour, you'll need 3 cups / 740ml / 485gm for the loaf.
- Scald the milk by heating in a saucepan to at least 180°F (82°C) but not boiling. Set aside to cool.
- Grease a standard loaf pan.
- In a large mixing bowl (preferably your stand mixer bowl) combine the flour blend, salt, and sugar. Use a whisk to mix thoroughly.
- Make a small depression in the center of the flour mix and pour the yeast packet into it.
- When the milk has cooled to between 100°F and 110°F (38°C to 42°C) pour it gently over the flour and yeast. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the oil, vinegar, and eggs and mix well until smooth and free of lumps, preferably using a stand mixer. The mixture will be sticky and the consistency of thick cake batter, not firm like wheat bread dough.
- Scoop the mixture into your greased loaf pan. Spread and smooth the mixture with wet fingers or utensils.
- Allow to rise 20 minutes. The mixture will rise slightly but not double in size.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
- Leaving the pan in place, turn the loaf over on a smooth clean surface. Cool for 5 minutes.
- Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool right-side up.
- Store in plastic bag after it has completely cooled.
- The bread will keep well for several days stored in a plastic bag at room temperature.
- If it starts to get a little dry, microwaving a slice for a few seconds will make it fresh and yummy. Don't over heat it or it'll get mushy.
- If you spill the guar gum try to clean it up dry as it is very sticky and messy to clean with water.
- Use wet, not damp, hands to shape and deal with the dough mix. The gum makes it sticky but is essential to gluten-free baking.
Perfect Gluten-Free Bread Photo Gallery
Essential Knowledge About Making Gluten Free Bread and More...
It took me a fair amount of research to figure all this out and I'd like to share a bit of the wisdom behind all the ingredients and the process.
First, let me thank the dozens of chefs and scientists upon whose research and experience I based my recipe. They sorted out the pros and cons of different gluten-free flours, explained the science of breadmaking, and established the foundations on which this recipe was built.
About Gluten and Flours
If you don't already know, gluten is the glue-like protein that gives bread its structure and chewiness. Since many of us don't tolerate the gluten proteins (contained in wheat, barley, and rye) when we try to make bread without gluten, without the glue, we need to find a substitute.
Unfortunately, gluten is wonderful for making bread and our alternatives are necessarily less successful. Still, with the right combinations we can make it work well.
Gluten-free breads require a mixture of different flours to give us the right kind of consistency. That's why we have four kinds of flour. Each adds its own special character to the mix. Substitution is possible but unless you have an allergy to one of the ingredients I suggest you start with the recipe as is.
Weight a Minute...
If you bake with a kitchen scale, it's important to know that some gluten-free flour ingredients weigh differently than regular wheat flour. Potato starch, for example, weighs 6 1/2 ounces per cup compared to 4 ounces per cup for wheat. That's a big difference.
This recipe takes this into account but if you substitute other flours it's useful to know how much to remove and how much to add. King Arthur flour has this handy reference which includes all kinds of ingredients you might put into bread and there is a handy, cross-unit converter for lots of foods at Convert-to.com. Keep in mind the goal is the same volume, not the same weight.
Rice flour, both brown, which still has the bran, and white, from which the bran has been removed, is the perfect foundation flour for our bread. It's light in taste and inexpensive. Using brown rice will make a very slightly nuttier flavor but is still much milder in taste than whole wheat. Brown rice is about 10% heavier than white rice but you can use them interchangeably here.
A cup of rice flour is 20-25% heavier than a cup of wheat flour.
Tapioca Starch and Tapioca Flour
Tapioca starch and flour, also known as manioc or cassava, is derived from the root of the tapioca plant. There is no distinction between the flour and the starch. The difference is in the name on the label so use whichever you find.
Tapioca flour is great at absorbing water and as a result it binds well with other flours giving some consistency to our mix. Tapioca is neutral in taste.
A cup of tapioca flour is almost the same weight (4% lighter) as a cup of wheat flour.
Potato Starch and Potato Starch Flour
Okay, here's where it gets confusing. There are two products and three (or four) labels you need to know about. First are the two you want:
Potato Starch or Potato Starch Flour.
Note the word 'starch' is in the name. What you don't want is potato flour.
What's the difference? Potato starch and potato starch flour (the same thing) are made from the starch extracted from fresh crushed potatoes. Potato starch is neutral in taste.
Potato flour (what you don't want) is made from whole cooked potatoes and has a distinct potato taste. Mashed potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes) are made from potato flour. Not what we want in our bread.
The stuff you're looking for is what is used for starching shirts.
Remember: Potato STARCH. Look for starch in the label.
(As a side note, in Poland potato starch is called potato flour - mąka ziemniaczana. Confusing, isn't it?)
A cup of potato starch is 60% heavier than a cup of wheat flour.
Corn Starch and Cornflour
Not to be confused with corn meal, corn starch (or cornflour) is fine and white in color.
Corn starch is extracted from inside the corn kernel and has great thickening powers, about twice that of wheat flour. Corn starch is commonly used in Chinese cuisine as a thickener and gives sauces a shiny look.
In our bread it combines with the other flours to add strength and texture.
A cup of corn starch is the same weight as a cup of wheat flour.
Using Other Flours
I recommend experimenting with other flours to see what changes in taste you get with them. I've recently been replacing some of the rice flour with a little amaranth flour. It gives a nutty taste that is very nice and has a coarser texture you feel. Others have used sorghum flour and report a similar nutty taste.
Try them in small doses to start, say up to 1/4 cup (60ml), in lieu of rice flour.
A cup of amaranth flour is about 10% lighter than a cup of wheat flour.
Gluing it Together - Guar Gum
Guar gum is extracted from the bean of the guar tree, native to India and Pakistan. Guar gum gives our bread some gluiness. It helps stick things together.
A little bit of guar gum goes a long way so, even though it's expensive, it's not costly on a per-loaf basis.
Because it loves to mix with water and become sticky, I recommend you work with it in a dry area and with dry utensils. That way if you spill some you'll be able to brush it up rather than getting it wet and making a sticky mess.
If you can't find guar gum you can substitute xanthan gum for it on a 1:1 basis. Be aware, however, that depending on how the xanthan gum was prepared, it may not be gluten-free. If you have celiac disease, you should look for gluten-free xanthan gum if you can't find guar gum.
Milk contains enzymes that are harmful to yeast. By scalding it, raising the temperature to above 180°F (82°C), you are causing the chemical bonds within the enzymes to break down and your yeast will be happy. Most milk you buy is pasteurized by heating to only 161°F (71.7°C) and, while that kills any harmful bacteria, it not hot enough to destroy the enzymes.
If you are using UHT (box milk) or ultra-pasteurized milk you can simply warm the milk. Both methods heat the milk briefly to 275°F (135°C), thereby destroying the yeast damaging enzyme. Another option is to use powdered milk and warm water.
Salt and Sugar
Here I have to admit a shortcoming. I don't really have a good excuse for the salt. In traditional gluten-based breads the salt serves an important role in developing the gluten binding. In our gluten-free bread, no such role is possible.
I leave the salt in for its flavor enhancing features. You can safely leave it out if you're on a low-sodium diet.
The sugar, on the other hand, is essential. Sugar is what our next ingredient, yeast, will use for food. Aside from that it adds sweetness to our bread and is typically included in regular bread.
I have considered using honey but as you'll see, there is a good reason not to when it comes to our friends the yeasts.
If you're insistent on using honey, consider mixing a 1 tablespoon in with your warm milk before adding it to the yeast and flour, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons when you add the oil, eggs, and vinegar. If you're bread isn't as good as mine, don't say I didn't warn you.
Yeast is the bacteria that causes bread to rise. In our recipe I have you add dry yeast onto the the dry flour mix. Is there some magical reason for this? Yes, there is.
One of the challenges with gluten-free bread is to keep the loaf from collapsing after it's baked, a bit like if you were making a soufflé. If that happens, the loaf is dense and unappetizing. This collapse can happen when our yeasts are too successful. Our bread rises but, without the strong structure of gluten in place, it can collapse again if it rises too high.
Baking gluten-free bread is more like baking a cake than like making bread. Well, half and half let's say.
Remember what I said about using sugar instead of honey? Well the reason is that sugar mixes easily with the flour. When we put the dry yeast on the bed of flour and sugar it has some food to eat. Some food, but not too much.
If we were to place the yeast in a bowl with the sugar (or honey) then add the milk, the yeast would grow too fast with too much to eat. When we add that to our flour we end up with a loaf that looks great in the oven, rising far above the edges of our loaf pan but collapsing as it cools into a gluten-free brick.
You can, however, substitute fresh cake yeast. First, be sure it's fresh as it doesn't keep long. Next, lower the temperature of the milk to below body temperature. Warm room temperature is about right. Crumble a cube over the flour mixture and follow the rest of the directions as above.
One more bit about honey, honey. Bees don't just make honey for the fun of it, it's their food source. Along the way, evolution has helped the bees find better ways of protecting their food from other things that might eat it, bacteria, for example. While I don't know of studies investigating the effects of honey's anti-microbials on yeast bacterium, the defenses seem pretty broad spectrum. For what it's worth, this would hold true for regular bread, too. Save your honey for after baking.
No Need to Knead but Stick To It
One of the nice things about gluten-free baking is that there is no need to knead. Kneading is a process in which you get the gluten molecules to bind to one another, a bit like Velcro. No gluten, no binding.
Our guar gum performs the binding role but it works differently. It's just sticky. Kneading will just wear you out, cover you in sticky dough, and do nothing good for your bread.
Getting a Rise From Your Loaf
Letting the loaf sit in the pan for 20 minutes gives our yeast some time to eat, grow, and put out gases that expand our loaf. Remember, we don't want the loaf too big and 20 minutes seems about right.
Unlike a gluten-based bread, we don't want or need to beat it down and get a second rise from it.
Gluten-free = Sticky Mess
As soon as you try this recipe you'll notice that the dough is very sticky. It sticks to everything and doesn't want to let go. My best advice is to touch the dough with as few tools as possible, use plastic vs. wood if you have a choice, and, most importantly, use your clean wet hands.
This is particularly helpful when you scoop the dough into the loaf pan. I recommend keeping a large bowl of water handy. Rinse your hands in it and use them wet to spread the dough in the pan. If you insist on using utensils, get them wet before you use them to spread the dough. The little extra liquid that gets on the loaf will not hurt it and there isn't really any better way that I've found to deal with the stickiness that guar gum causes.
Finding the optimal baking time is a matter of some trial and error since ovens aren't all the same. It is possible to use a thermometer to determine doneness (around 200°F, 95°C) but try 35 minutes to start and see how it goes. Your bread should be medium to dark brown on top.
How to Cool Your Gluten-free Bread
You wouldn't think you'd need directions about how to cool a loaf of bread but you might be surprised.
I have you flip the bread over while it's still in the pan. This helps the steam inside distribute evenly throughout the loaf and to soften the bottom and sides of the loaf. Just be sure to put it on a smooth surface unless you want cooling rack stripes on your loaf.
One tip, learned the hard way, is once it's out of the pan, don't cool it on the same cutting board you use for garlic and onions. Garlic + marmalade = yuck.
Storage, Keep Time, and Refreshing Your Bread
Another nice thing about this gluten-free bread is that it keeps well. Better than regular bread.
I've eaten it happily nearly a week after baking, though by then it is best if it is refreshed by popping it into the microwave for a few seconds. By a few, I do mean a few. Try putting a slice in for 5 to 15 seconds, depending on how powerful your microwave oven is. Do it too long and it loses its texture and will fall apart easily.
What Gluten-free Bread Can't Do
While this recipe gives you a decent loaf of bread, it's not a direct replacement for gluten-based breads. You should experiment to see what works for you but in general, moisture, and warm moisture especially, will make it fall apart quite easily. Toasting is okay, though.
I'd love to hear about what you do with this basic recipe, how it worked for you, and any improvements you make, so leave a comment below.