Making a good gluten-free bread can be challenging as gluten plays an important role in bread making. Gluten is what allows bread dough to stretch without breaking, and works with the yeast to create a good rise and sturdy structure. There are, however, certain tips you can follow to help you bake better gluten-free bread, from knowing which ingredients to use to finding the best gluten-free bread recipes.
Use Room Temperature Ingredients
Although gluten-free flours are often stored in the refrigerator or freezer, your gluten-free bread will have better results if the ingredients are at room temperature. Using chilled ingredients will significantly slow the yeast's ability to leaven bread, as yeast loves a warm environment and bread will rise more quickly and completely when ingredients are warm rather than cold.
A convenient way to bring chilled flours to room temperature is to measure flour(s) for your recipe and place in a bowl on the counter the night before baking. For perishable ingredients, like eggs and milk, set on the counter about 1 hour before preparing your recipe.
Choose High Protein Flours
As gluten is protein, gluten-free breads need to incorporate proteins in other ways. High-protein content in gluten-free flour will add structure and flavor to the baked bread. Sorghum, millet, amaranth, teff, gluten-free oatmeal, and buckwheat all contain more protein than rice flour. Make your own gluten-free, high-protein flour blend using any of these, or incorporate ancient grains into the bread recipe.
Measure the Right Way
Whether using regular or gluten free, there is actually a right way and a wrong way to measure flours. How you measure your gluten-free flours and starches can affect your gluten-free cooking results, for better or for worse. Make sure to measure the gluten-free flour the right way by either using a food scale or spooning the flour loosely into a dry measuring cup and leveling off. Scooping into the flour with the measuring cup and packing it down will result in too much flour being incorporated into the dough.
Choose Bread Recipes With Eggs
Eggs are natural leaveners that help boost the rise and volume of bread. Eggs also add moisture, flavor, and protein to gluten-free bread recipes. If you select a gluten-free bread recipe that includes eggs, you have a better chance that the resulting bread will have good color, more volume, and softer texture. Eggs also help to extend the shelf-life of gluten-free bread, which can become stale more quickly than wheat bread.
Substitute the Water
To promote the volume in bread loaves, you can use carbonated water or gluten-free beer in place of the water called for in the recipe. Carbonated liquids contain carbon dioxide bubbles that lighten the batter and gluten-free beer has the added benefit of adding flavor.
Add Certain Ingredients
There are a few different ingredients you can add to your gluten-free bread recipes to encourage a better outcome, from mayonnaise to pectin. Yeast thrives in an acidic environment, which promotes better volume in your loaves. Ascorbic acid also acts as a natural preservative, increasing the shelf-life of your bread. Consider adding 1/8 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) to the dry ingredients in your gluten-free bread recipe. You should be able to find powdered ascorbic acid at most health food stores.
To add extra moisture to your gluten-free bread, incorporate 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise into the recipe. The oil and eggs will help to make the baked bread nice and tender.
Olive oil is a healthy cooking oil that adds wonderful flavor to bread. It also adds moisture, creates a tender texture, and extends shelf-life.
Pectin is frequently derived from citrus fruit and apples and is a familiar ingredient in jelly and jam recipes. Adding 1 teaspoon of fruit pectin to your gluten-free bread recipe will promote moisture retention in bread, and can be used as a vegan substitute in gluten-free bread recipes. Look for citrus or apple pectin at health food stores or at grocery stores where jam and jelly making ingredients are kept.
Made from modified tapioca starch, Expandex adds wheat-like texture to gluten-free bread and also improves the crumb, elasticity, texture, taste, and shelf-life. It can be added directly to your dry ingredients or you can use a mix like in gluten-free honey buckwheat English muffins.
Fill With the Right Amount of Batter
When loaf pans are over-filled, breads may collapse as they rise and bake, and you can end up with not-so-normal looking loaves of bread that may bake unevenly. Make sure to fill loaf pans no more than 2/3 full with gluten-free bread dough batter for evenly baked, beautiful loaves.
Use a Digital Thermometer
If you are going to be baking bread often, you probably want to buy one of these priceless, yet inexpensive gadgets. A digital or "instant-read" thermometer will save you lots of frustration because it lets you easily measure the internal temperature of your bread. When the internal temperature is approximately 206 F it's done. No more gooey or dried out loaves.
Confidently Convert Recipes
For best results, at least when you are learning to bake gluten-free bread, use recipes specifically developed for gluten-free bread. After you get a feel for the different properties of gluten-free flours, the amounts of liquids and gum required, and the different techniques used to make gluten-free bread, you'll be able to experiment with converting traditional bread recipes to gluten-free recipes with better success.
Gluten-free flours require more liquids than wheat flours to produce good baking results. If you choose to convert a traditional bread recipe to a gluten-free bread recipe you will need to add more liquid than the recipe calls for. Your gluten-free bread batter should be too soft and sticky to knead but not as thin as cake batter. If you've ever made banana bread, your bread batter should have a similar consistency—thick, shaggy, and sticky.
Create an Ideal Rising and Baking Environment
An easy way to create a good environment for gluten-free bread to rise is to turn your oven to 200 F; when it reaches this temperature, turn off the oven and place a shallow baking pan partially filled with hot water on one of the shelves. Lightly cover the loaf pan with a damp towel and place in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the dough rises to the top of the loaf pan. This method really does speed up the time it takes for gluten-free bread to rise. Just be sure to carefully watch the process so that your bread does not rise over the top of the pan before baking.
You can also try baking gluten-free bread in a lidded Pullman, also called a pan de mie loaf pan. These pans have a lid that slides on the top of the pan. The closed baking environment encourages loaves to bake evenly, with excellent shape, texture, and moisture retention.