Yeah, I know. Bread is what we all miss the most.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the hardest to make.
I’m not calling myself the expert. But here’s my humble opinion on making gluten-free bread rise.
Must Haves: Some of the things that I’ve found make a difference between dry, crumbly bread and soft, fluffy bread.
1. Xanthan gum. It’s a must have in a lot of gluten-free baked goods, but I think it does the most for breads. Xanthan gum can mean the difference between a pile of crumbles and a sandwich that actually holds itself together (for once). A teeny bit of xanthan gum can go a long way: You only need about a teaspoon for most recipes. For breads, you’ll usually have to use around two teaspoons.
What exactly xanthan gum does: It holds things together and can act as a substitute for gluten. Gluten causes bread to rise because it traps the yeast bubbles and allows them to grow. Xanthan gum can substitute for gluten by doing the same thing.
Possible substitutes for xanthan gum: Guar gum and flaxseed. I have tried neither of these methods, but from what I’ve heard/read, they do help hold things together. However, numerous people say that they don’t work quite as well as xanthan gum does.
2. Yeast. Well, obviously. If you’re going to make a yeast bread, you need yeast. Yeast acts by producing carbon dioxide (the bubbles). It is necessary to rise yeast with sugar because the sugar “feeds” the yeast (yes, yeast is alive), allowing it to produce the carbon dioxide. You rise bread in a warm atmosphere because the heat puts the yeast in a highly excited state, which allows it to produce carbon dioxide very quickly. When you turn the oven to full heat and begin to cook the bread, the bread stops rising because the high temperature stops the carbon dioxide. Towards the end of the baking process you might even see the bread fall just a bit. Butter and salt make it more difficult for the yeast to produce carbon dioxide, which is why you don’t usually put butter in a yeast bread, and you add very little salt.
The average amount of yeast that a bread recipe making one loaf asks for is between one and two tablespoons. Too much yeast will give the bread a strange, sour “beer” flavor. Too little will not produce enough carbon dioxide for the bread to rise as well as it could.
3. A balance between starches and ‘gritty’ flours like rice flour or oat flour. Rice flour, the most commonly used of gf flours, is a fairly heavy flour and, by itself, is not a good option for bread. Starches, however, when used with rice flour, make for a nice balanced mix. Too much starch would cause the bread to be very dry, with a rather “brick-like” consistency. I usually use a 1:3 ratio for starch and rice flour. For more on this subject, here’s my full article on gluten free flours and how to use them.
Common Delusions about Gluten Free Bread: Making gluten-free bread is different than making gluten bread. Face it.
1. “Bread dough should be kneaded.”
Hey, I’ve tried. I tried for years. But eventually I had to realize: Gluten bread, yes, should be kneaded. Gluten-free bread, no. I’m a complete believer in moving the dough around to activate the yeast, but I quit kneading my bread long, long ago. Why? Because I realized that the following delusion about bread (gluten free bread, anyway) was incorrect.
2. “Bread dough should be dry enough to knead.”
Gluten bread dough, yes. You see people on TV twirling pizzas around through the air all the time (I always thought it would feel so awesome to casually be tossing your pizza dough in the air, didn’t you?). But gluten-free bread just doesn’t have it. Despite xanthan gum, it doesn’t have the gluten to hold it together. As I said above, I’ve tried for years to make dry-enough-to-knead bread work. I finally realized that a moist bread dough works wonders. Gluten-free flours are heavy and dense. If you add enough gluten-free flours to make a dry bread dough, you are going to have too much heaviness and denseness. The bread won’t rise. Instead, I tried making bread dough that looks like the below picture.
That bread dough isn’t kneadable, but you can see little bubbles. That’s what I like to see. Can’t you just picture that bread rising?
Now, as I said above, I completely approve of moving the dough around to activate the yeast. Note the picture. See the electric mixer?
What I do: After I add the liquid to the dry ingredients, I blend for about a minute, allow to set a minute, blend a minute, etc. I do that process about four times. After that the yeast should be pretty well activated.
Okay, you’re probably wondering at this point: This dough is pretty moist, so how is it going to be possible to make things like cinnamon raisin breads, rolls, and beautiful little doughnuts?
Good question. My method: After the fourth mix-one-minute-rest-one-minute process, I add more flour and starch. Not too much. About ½ a cup for every five cups of dough. I blend the new flour and starch in until just combined, with a little bit still tossing around unblended. After that I roll out my cinnamon raisin bread dough or my doughnuts. I try to knead/roll/mess with the dough as little as possible during this time because I have already done the kneading, and if I work with the dough too much it will ruin all the nice rise that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. I got those air bubbles, and I am keeping them.
Some Tips ‘To Go’:
1. Bread-makers. They are so cool. Why are they cool? Because they do the whole stinking “knead” process for you! They act like an electric mixer, except they keep at it for an hour and a half to get you the maximum rise. My advice is that you try one. I’d still be using one if mine hadn’t broken.
2. My favorite yeast bread recipes:
3. Storing bread: Unfortunately, gluten-free bread just doesn’t stay soft and moist very long. But I’ve found that the best way to keep it is by storing it in an airtight plastic container. It’ll keep pretty well for several days. To freeze, slide the uncut loaf into a food and bread bag, wrap tightly, and put it away until you are ready to thaw it out.
So, I think all that information about covers it. If you’ve got any questions and such, post ‘em below. I’ll do my very best to answer them, but as I said, I’m not the expert. These are just a few things that have helped me out, and, hopefully, will help you out too.
Here’s a full length image for pinterest!