Whether you’re eating a gluten-free diet due to having celiac disease, or whether you suffer from gluten intolerance, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo bread! I don’t know about you but I absolutely enjoy a good sandwich, some buttered toast, or even some French toast. Store-bought gluten-free bread can be pretty pricey though (some come out to $1 per slice or more!) And who doesn’t love fresh baked bread? So don’t feel deprived, you can make delicious gluten-free bread right at home. Here are the basics of gluten-free bread.
The most obvious difference between conventional bread and gluten-free bread is the flour. Conventional bread almost always contains wheat flour, a big NO in a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free bread can’t contain any wheat, barley, or rye, among other common flour sources. So what can be used instead?
Almond flour: with a hearty, nutty flavor, this flour is a favorite for those also trying to cut down on their carb intake or those on the paleo diet, and is a great source of protein.
Buckwheat flour: despite the name, this grain is not related to wheat and does not contain gluten. It imparts an earthy flavor to baked goods.
Brown rice flour: this flour has a nutty flavor profile. While it’s not as cohesive as wheat flour, it is a good flour, and can even be used in place of wheat flour in a roux.
Coconut flour: light and airy, with a distinct coconut flavor, this flour is another great choice for those on a low carb or paleo diet in addition to being gluten free. Coconut flour should always be paired with another type of flour, though, as it doesn’t hold up well on its own.
There are many other choices, including white rice flour, oat flour, teff flour, and tigernut flour. Experiment with different types to discover your favorite flavor and texture. Most recipes will call for at least two types of flour, since many of these flours have their strengths and weaknesses, and by combining two or more types you can get the benefits of each while minimizing the drawbacks. For example, some coconut flour mixed in with almond flour helps cut down on the heaviness of almond flour, while the almond flour gives better overall structure to the bread.
The other major difference between conventional bread and gluten-free bread is the need for an extra ingredient to hold it all together. See, the word gluten actually comes from glue…and it does in fact act as a sort of glue holding the bread together. Without natural gluten in your flour of choice, you will need a binder of some sort. Common choices include guar gum, xanthan gum, arrowroot starch, or extra eggs.
Besides flour and binder, gluten-free bread will also need some or all of the following: yeast, vinegar, milk, sugar or some form of sweetener, and oil or butter.
Tips for gluten-free bread
Whether you bake it at home or buy a bag from the store, there are a few tips to make the most of your gluten-free bread. Most gluten-free bread tends to be a bit more crumbly than conventional bread, so handle with care. Make sure to toast your bread…toasting gives it some hardiness and will greatly improve the texture.
Whatever ingredients you choose, follow a recipe your first few times making gluten-free bread to get a feel for how to work the dough and other steps as well as what flavors and textures you like. Then you can play around with flour, binder, and ingredient types and ratios in order to make your ideal gluten-free bread.