Making Gluten-Free Bread
Bread is known as “the staff of life.” We “break bread” when we dine with friends. According to the poet Juvenal, all the ancient Romans desired was “food and circuses.” And don’t forget about Omar Khayyam’s perfect date night: “a loaf of recipe for gluten free bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” Although chapter four of the Book of Matthew states that “man shall not live on bread alone,” only two chapters later we are told to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Why You Should Avoid Wheat Breads
Modern bread, unlike the loaves available to Juvenal, Omar Khayyam, and Matthew, is not necessarily healthy. Commercial gluten free recipe for bread is often manufactured using refined (and, unless organic, glyphosate-contaminated) white flour, which has a lengthy shelf life due to the removal of all nutrients, including vitamins and fibre. Despite the low quality of the core component, corporate food scientists and marketers add massive amounts of sugar, salt, and harmful vegetable oils, as well as chemicals and dough conditioners, to make the product more palatable.
Consider Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Honey Wheat Bread. While honey wheat bread appears to be healthy, it contains a slew of unpronounceables such as calcium propionate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and datem, which is an abbreviation for diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides, also known internationally (by Interpol, I suspect) as additive E472. Brown sugar, sugar, invert sugar, molasses, honey, and a lot of salt are among the flavourings. One serving of that bread actually has more sodium than a serving of Lay’s Classic Potato Chips! The staff of infirmity, rather than the staff of life.
Gluten Intolerance and Wheat Consumption
Even if the bread is made entirely of whole wheat with bran, endosperm, and germ, many people have difficulty digesting wheat and its major protein, gluten. Celiac disease, an immunological reaction to gluten that destroys the lining of the small intestine and impairs absorption of several nutrients, affects about 2% of the population. These people should avoid wheat and its gluten-containing cousins, rye and barley.
Even if you do not have celiac disease, you may benefit from avoiding or limiting your exposure to wheat and gluten. This includes patients with gluten sensitivity, who may also have autoimmune illnesses.
The truth is that the gluten-free frenzy may be exaggerated, with many individuals who are NOT gluten-sensitive choosing to skip what could be a healthy source of food. Whole grains, particularly whole wheat, have numerous health benefits. After all, gluten is a protein derived from plants.
Celiac illness and gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, are actual disorders that are not uncommon. Gluten sensitivity is tough to test for, so if you suspect wheat consumption is causing you problems, it’s sensible to go gluten-free for at least a few months to see how you feel. A gluten-free diet might sometimes make all the difference for certain people.
We wrote an entire piece about the benefits and drawbacks of gluten, which can be found here.
Even if you tolerate gluten and limit your wheat consumption to 100% whole grain items, you may live with gluten-free family members, which means you’ll have to adapt in order to “break bread” together.
Also, if bread, rolls, pizza, cookies, and spaghetti are five of your core food groups, it’s a good idea to diversify your calories. Wheat is a staple food for 35% of the world’s population, delivering more necessary calories and protein than any other crop. But there is such a thing as having too much of something. Many people wish to reduce their wheat consumption. And, whether you’re gluten-free or not, gluten-free bread allows you to “have your bread and eat it too.”
Many of these concerns can be avoided if you bake or buy bread produced with gluten-free whole grain alternatives. Furthermore, some gluten-free breads and recipes include additional whole foods baked right in, such as nuts and seeds, boosting the whole food, plant-based richness.
Why Is Baking Bread Without Gluten Difficult?
There’s a reason wheat has been the breadmaker’s go-to grain for thousands of years. That reason, in a nutshell, is gluten. As in, it’s derived directly from the Latin word for “glue.” When wet, gluten becomes extremely sticky, forming a sticky network that provides bread its structure when kneaded. That is why the price of some wheat products might skyrocket. Even as the yeast burps create rising pockets of air, the gluten keeps them together.
If you want to bake a gluten-free loaf that isn’t a brick, you must substitute the gluten with another binder. Several non-vegans use eggs for this purpose, however there are many plant-based alternatives, such as xanthan gum, yeast, guar gum, and flax meal.
Another issue with gluten-free bread is producing a loaf that is neither dry and crumbly nor rock-hard and brittle. The texture of your bread is determined by the flour you use. To achieve the texture of wheat, you’ll usually need to combine a few different flours.
You’ll have a lot of difficulties baking a decent gluten-free bread if you’re an intuitive baker who adds the proportions that “feel right.” Gluten-free baking is similar to chemistry class in that if you eyeball your measurements, you’ll likely wind up with a product that no one wants to consume. Too much flour will cause your bread to dry out. In fact, the density of the flour may induce you to over-mix your mixture.
Instead of scooping cupfuls directly from the bag, fluff the flour in a different container or basin first. Then, using the back of a knife, level it off in your dry measuring cup. Don’t dampen it. An extra teaspoon can sometimes ruin a recipe.
Whole Grain and Gluten-Free Flours
So you’re ready to start baking gluten-free bread, but you’re not sure what kind of flour to use. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Tapioca sRice
- Amaranth sMillet
- Oat sSorghum
- starch from potatoes
You may be unfamiliar with some of these substances. However, they are available at some luxury supermarkets, such as Whole Foods, as well as health food and natural foods stores, co-ops, and online (check out Thrive Market and Amazon for high quality, organic versions). Click here for a guidance from King Arthur Baking on gluten-free baking, including how to utilise some of these flours.How to Make Gluten-Free Bread
Are you ready to start baking?
If you’re new to gluten-free baking, you might want to start with a pre-made gluten-free flour mix. Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour and King Arthur All Purpose Flour are two well-known blends. Both include white and brown rice flour, xanthan gum, tapioca starch, and potato starch, among other things.
If you want to make your own, blogger Minimalist Baker has provided a recipe. Whatever flour you use, make sure it’s at room temperature before you start mixing the dough. If the flour is too cold, it will not “proof” quickly enough, which means the yeast will not be activated to produce all of the tiny bubbles that cause bread to rise.
I’m a big advocate of personal ingenuity in the kitchen, so please trust me when I tell you to avoid recipe modifications until you’ve gotten some practise with gluten-free breadmaking. Gluten-free flours cannot always be used 1:1 for wheat flour. Not all white powders are created equal! If you’re ready to start experimenting, this is the tutorial for you.
If you’re looking for gluten-free recipes online, keep in mind that gluten-free and vegan or plant-based are not synonymous. Before you begin, read the entire ingredient list so you don’t realise that the recipe calls for egg or butter, which you don’t want in your food. In cake recipes, substituting chia seeds or flax meal for eggs or applesauce for butter is considerably easier than in gluten-free baking. If you’re feeling lucky, here’s the Food Revolution’s guide on vegan cooking and baking replacements. And, of course, all of the dishes listed here are vegan.
Sugars and other sweeteners are commonly used in gluten-free bread recipes. However, you can make them healthy by leaving out the sweets or using one of these alternative sweeteners.