A while back I posted that I had finally come up with a gluten free (and dairy and nut free) bread that I was happy with. I was going to share the recipe, but well… I’m still playing around with it trying to make it better. So, since I have no idea how long it’ll take me to get to the perfect recipe, I’ll just share with you guys some tips that I’ve learned along the way when it comes to baking bread… minus the gluten. Some of these tips I’ve heard from other bloggers, but the only page I can think of that I remember I learned tips from would be from Cook It Allergy Free. I know there’s one other blogger who I really benefited from their advice, but I really have no idea who it was. Sorry! I try to link to people when I’m citing something they said or did (like any good student), but I really have no idea who or where it was! I know other tips have come from some friends on twitter, including Gluten Free Gigi.
So, here are some of the things I’ve learned when baking gluten (and dairy) free bread:
1. The dough will never look the same as any glutenous dough you’ve ever baked. If it does, the result will be a hard-as-a-brick, dry, and really hard to bake through thing that you won’t want to call “a loaf of bread” and will try really hard to somehow eat just so you can finish it (or you might really want to throw it away).
2. Your dough needs to be moist and stir-able before you put it in the pan. You do not need to knead it. Kneading is done to develop the gluten, and when there’s no gluten to develop, it’s pointless to knead it.
3. You don’t need to make the dough rise, “punch down” then put it in the pan to rise yet again. As soon as I’ve mixed the dry and wet ingredients together thoroughly, I pour it straight into pans and let it rise in the pans(anywhere around 20-60 minutes of rising, however long it takes it to rise to the edge of the loaf-pan), then put it straight into the oven.
4. I’ve found that putting some sort of thicker moisture like applesauce or yogurt (soy yogurt works quite well) helps to keep the bread moist and have a good texture.
5. Raisins, sesame seeds, flax (ground), whatever you think of is really good. Raisins add moisture to the bread and taste too. 🙂
6. The flour combo: go with your gut. Use a base that you’re comfortable working with, and add some more whole-grains, but don’t add too much of them. I like teff (but in small quantities), and millet (in small quantities) and especially love sorghum (in larger quantities). Sorghum doesn’t make it taste really weird as it doesn’t have a really strong taste like teff and buckwheat do. But beware that each flour has a different level of how much liquid it absorbs. My favorite base flour is Grandma Whimsy’s Rice Flour Blend. This stuff is really seriously awesome and I can make most things without needing to add any gums. 😀 😀
7. Gums: believe it or not, gums are NOT always necessary for baking gluten free breads! If you do use them, do not use too much. A small amount goes a long way. But, if you do decide to try baking without, you’ll need to play around with the flour ratio more. Sweet white rice flour seems to do a good job at helping to keep my baked goods from crumbling, but I still need to play around with it more. Also know that if you use rice milk and apple sauce as the main liquid ingredients as opposed to soy milk and soy yogurt, the bread will be more brittle. So, have fun and play around with what you have and can eat… I’m still working on perfecting my bread soy-free at the moment.
8. The pan: I tried glass pans, and I kept on having problems. Somewhere I read that metal loaf pans work better and I have to agree. So, I stick with metal loaf pans. They just work better for some reason.
9. The oven: make sure your oven is calibrated correctly. We used to have an oven that was off by like 25 degrees F at some points on the dial and more or less at other points. Know your oven and check it.
10. Baking: Baking your bread at a lower temp for longer helps to bake all the way through. I used to try baking my bread at 400 F, but that resulted in the outside getting burnt while leaving the inside uncooked. I’ve found baking it at 350 for longer does the trick.
11. Do not cut the bread while it’s warm. I know it tastes great, but don’t slice up the whole loaf while it’s warm. It’ll be a lot harder to slice nice slices. Wait till it’s cooled off, and then slice.
12. The freezer: I like to slice the bread and freeze most of it this way. Then I just have to pull out as many slices as I need when I need them, and either nuke them or microwave them and they taste great and are nice and moist.
13. If your bread has a base of rice flour in it, and it’s kinda dry and not so fresh tasting after several days, pop a slice of it in the microwave for 10 seconds.
14. Never give up. Try someone’s recipe and then if it gives you ideas, get to experimenting. I started using Jules Gluten Free‘s bread recipe, and then made changes bit by bit to it and ended up with my own recipe. But only through trial and error and never giving up.
15. I turn the oven on for a minute, then turn it off before it really gets hot and put the loaves in the warm oven to rise. Having a warm environment helps the bread rise better.
16. I heat all the liquid ingredients. Starting with the milk/water, and then in the warm liquid I put the yeast in it to proof it. HOWEVER, I only put the yeast in about 5 minutes before my dry ingredients are entirely ready and all together. Otherwise the yeast um, well… gets a little out of hand. (no, I’m not using too much yeast) Oh, and that brings me to…
17. Don’t use too much yeast. Using more yeast just because the last time you made bread that much yeast didn’t make it rise enough, does NOT mean that you need more yeast. If you have too much yeast, your bread will taste distinctly too yeasty and you won’t want to eat it.
18. Yes, I actually use baking soda and baking powder (or as my family sometimes calls it “baking power”) in my bread in addition to yeast. It just seems to work. But I’m not sure I’d use them in every single kind of bread I ever bake.
19. If you mix the yeast in warm liquid before mixing it into your dough/batter make sure the liquid isn’t too warm or it will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise at all.
So those are my main tips for gluten free bread baking I’ve learned over the last 1 1/2 years. As I think of others, I’ll add to the list. Now go have some fun in the kitchen. 😀 I think I’m going to need to bake some more bread soon…