Monday, March 2, 2009

Lessons and Tips for Gluten Free Bread Baking

Does this look familiar? For reader Jennifer it was a familiar sight. She had made this bread several times and each time the bread would rise and bake beautifully, yet once it cooled, it would collapse in on all four sides. Jennifer described it as collapsing like a "mushroom."

Jennifer emailed me to ask for help in making her loaf of bread. I decided to make the exact same loaf she was making and see what I could do to help her.

Jennifer used a Bette Hagman recipe in which she changed a few of the ingredients to make the bread casein free as well as gluten free. Jennifer also realized later that she had used a portion of brown rice flour in her flour mix to try to add additional fiber to the recipe. To be honest, at first I thought the reason her bread was collapsing was due to Jennifer's change of ingredients. I studied the ingredients carefully and decided to use the original Bette Hagman flour mix. I decided to also make the bread casein free (exactly as Jennifer had done) so that I could mimic the method in which Jennifer made the recipe.

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Bette Hagman's recipe in The Gluten Free Gourmet: Living Well Without Wheat, 1st edition.

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups Bette Hagman Flour Mix (See below)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt

Leavening Ingredients:
1 cup soymilk (or other non-dairy milk), warmed for 1 min in microwave
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Wet Ingredients:
2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

** Bette Hagman's Flour Mix:
2 parts white rice flour
2/3 part potato starch flour (NOT potato flour)
1/3 part tapioca flour
--Mix flours together and store in an airtight container in your pantry, until ready for use.

**Ingredient Notes: I did make a few slight changes to the recipe reflected above. The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum, which I thought was too much for this small loaf of bread. I also decreased the sugar from 3 tablespoons to 2 tablespoons and I believe you could decrease this even further.

Jennifer's original instructions stated basically: to proof the yeast with the heated soy milk, mix dry ingredients together, add wet ingredients and yeast mixture. Let rise for 30-45 minutes and then bake at 450(F) for 10 minutes, then reduce to 350(F) and bake for 30 minutes longer.

I decided to follow my own method of mixing gluten free bread dough, which you find in a detailed post, here. Please follow this method for making this excellent loaf of gluten free bread.

During my experiment making Jennifer's bread I realized several things that could possibly have been the cause for Jennifer's bread to collapse. The following list is a series of tips which I hope will help you in your gluten free bread baking.

*Tips for Mixing Ingredients:

- Make sure to mix all dry ingredients (excluding yeast) in a large bowl using a whisk to thoroughly combine them. If sugar is an ingredient in your recipe, you do not have to add it to the yeast mixture. It can be whisked into the dry ingredients and will not compromise the outcome of the loaf.

- If you use a "flour mixture" such as Bette Hagman's (listed above) make sure that it is fresh. Tapioca starch, brown rice flour, and any flour that is considered a whole grain or is milled from a whole "seed" or "pearl" can go rancid easily. This will definitely affect the flavor and possibly texture of your loaf. Simply taste a very small amount of the dry ingredients on your tongue to make sure they do not taste rancid. You will be able to detect a very bitter flavor if they are.

- Whisk all these wet ingredients together first: eggs, vinegar if called for, and oil or melted fat. Whisk them together thoroughly and then pour in your wet proofed yeast mixture. Combine this with your egg mixture thoroughly.

- If you decide to CHANGE the ingredients in your recipe, you need to be VERY careful about the ratio of starches to whole grains. If your have a large volume of whole grains compared to your starches, this CAN cause your bread to collapse upon cooling because whole grains are generally heavier than starches. For example: in the recipe above, if you want to start adding whole grains, start SLOW... I would start by exchanging 1/4 part of the white rice flour called for with brown rice flour. If that works out for you, then add another 1/4 part of whole grains to your next batch. Also note that some whole grains are heavier than others: for example, millet and sorghum flours are heavier than brown rice flour, so you would need to experiment with a smaller amount at first.

- Some recipes call for apple cider vinegar as a dough enhancer. Some gluten free bakers prefer to use this ingredient while others do not. I personally think that vinegar has great ability to help your loaf of bread rise correctly, but it's really up to your own preferences. It will not greatly affect your loaf one way or the other if you leave it out.

- Dough softeners: Some recipes also call for using plain, non-flavored gelatin and/or fruit pectin (Sure Jell) added to the dry ingredients. These substances help the texture of your gluten free loaf to be soft and pliable like "wheat" yeast bread. I personally think these ingredients are wonderful, while other bakers choose to leave them out. If you want to add them to your bread, simply add 1/2 teaspoon of one or both to your recipe and see how it works for you! You can add more or less depending on how soft/pliable you enjoy your bread!

- Texture and stability ingredients (xanthan gum and guar gum): Both of these ingredients improve the texture of your gluten free bread. I personally use as little xanthan gum as I can in recipes because I am very sensitive to the taste and gummy texture it provides... BUT for gluten free yeast bread it is ESSENTIAL to use one or a mixture of both of these products. Start with 1 1/2 teaspoons if you are sensitive to xanthan gum and add more to your next batch until you get the texture you desire. I typically only use 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum in the majority of my yeast bread recipes.

*Tips for Proofing Yeast:

- Many gluten free bread recipes call for nearly 1 tablespoon or more of yeast. I believe that large amount is completely unnecessary for most yeast bread recipes. I typically use 1 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast in my bread recipes and this works very well. The breads I have tried using this amount have risen just as sufficiently as breads with higher amounts. By using less yeast in your recipes you can possibly prevent your family members from developing a food intolerance to yeast and you'll also save money since you won't have to buy large amounts of yeast as often as you did before!!

- If you do not have a food thermometer to measure the temperature of your heated milk, simply microwave it for 40 seconds to 1 minute and mix it with the yeast. It the mixture does not become bubbly and slightly risen within the next 5-10 minutes you'll need to start over again with new yeast. This is very important! If you overheat the milk then it will cook the yeast and kill it. Yet, if the milk is too cool it will not activate the yeast to start growing. If you use a food thermometer, the heated milk should be around 100-110 degrees for the yeast to begin proofing.

*Tips for choosing the correct pan for baking your gluten free bread:

- Make SURE to read your recipe carefully and use the correct pan size! I generally use an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 size loaf pan. It's a smaller loaf (usually considered a 1 lb. loaf), but it will allow the bread to rise slightly higher without collapsing upon cooling.

- When you first pour your bread dough in the pan, if it is filling the loaf pan MORE than 1/2 full you'll need to use a slightly larger pan.

- If you use a pan that is TOO large, your bread will rise higher than it is supposed too and can definitely collapse upon cooling.

* Tips for letting the bread rise:

- The best way to allow gluten free yeast bread to rise is in an enclosed, slightly warm environment. The best way to do this is to turn your oven on to 200 degrees to preheat for 5 minutes while you are mixing your bread dough. TURN THE OVEN OFF at the end of 5 minutes so you will not COOK the rising dough. This warm moist environment of your oven will allow the bread to rise quickly and evenly throughout the pan.

- Make sure you have greased the pan you are letting the bread rise in, otherwise, it will definitely stick to the your pan!!

- Make sure to spritz the plastic wrap you are using to cover your rising loaf with non-stick cooking spray! Otherwise the plastic wrap will definitely stick to your loaf and cause it to collapse as you try to pull away the sticking wrap.

- ONLY allow your bread to rise about 1" above the lip of the pan. If it rises higher than that, it will most likely collapse upon cooling because the bread does not contain strands of gluten to hold it up!!

* Tips for Baking:

- The BEST method I have found for baking MOST gluten free yeast breads is to simply preheat your oven (after rising your dough) to 350 degrees and bake your bread for 35-55 minutes until the internal temperature of the bread reaches between 200-210 degrees F. I definitely recommend buying a food thermometer if you do not have one, to measure the temperature of your bread accurately. Your bread can easily be under-done and doughy if you do not bake it long enough. Your bread can also over-bake and dry out if baked too long.

- Jennifer's original recipe called for the bread to bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 350 degrees for another 30 minutes. I personally do not find this high temperature necessary to start baking gluten free bread. I believe beginning the baking cycle at such a high temperature could create an air pocket directly beneath the surface of your crust, which could cause the loaf to greatly collapse upon cooling. A constant baking temperature of 350 degrees has worked well on every gluten free loaf of bread I have made.

- IF you are using a GLASS or CERAMIC baking pan, make sure to lower the temperature of your oven by 25 degrees so you do not overbake your bread. Reader Claire pointed out that these types of bakeware retain heat longer and can continue to "bake" your bread when it is pulled out of the oven. Glass and ceramic bakewear can also conduct heat more quickly and evenly than aluminum or tin and can cause your bread to overbake.

- Make sure your oven temperature is CORRECT for baking!! My personal oven UNDER-HEATS by 30 degrees, so I actually have to set the temperature of my oven to 380 degrees to actually reach the 350 degree temperature. I use this type of oven thermometer. This is a very easy way for you to make sure your bread is baking at the correct temperature.

* Tips for cooling, serving, and storing your gluten free bread:

- If it is at all possible, I HIGHLY recommend for you to allow your bread to cool for at LEAST one hour after being removed from the oven. I personally try to allow my bread to cool for 1-3 hours on a cooling rack before slicing. Often your bread is still "baking" when you take it from the oven. If you slice your bread immediately from the oven it can "shock" the freshly baked loaf, qhich can cause the bread to lose heat quickly from the point where you sliced it and collapse.

- Let your bread cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes and then remove it from the pan and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack, which allows air to circulate around the bread.

- When you are ready to slice your bread, use a bread knife. These knifes are made finely serrated and they cut quickly and evenly through your bread. It makes a clean cut and a very pretty and even slice.

- Once your bread has cooled COMPLETELY, I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap or a tea towel to keep the bread moist and then placing it in a large ziplock bag. Remove the air from the bag as you are closing it. It will stay fresh on your counter for 2-3 days. If you and your family will not eat the bread in that period of time, I recommend slicing it and freezing it until you are ready to use it.

- If you used a dough softener, your bread should retain moisture and pliability so that you do not necessarily need to toast each slice for it to be enjoyable. Some gluten free breads do need to be toasted to be fully enjoyed. The particular sandwich bread recipe in this post though is very soft, pliable, and tastes great without being toasted!

- When in doubt, freeze your slices of leftover bread until you are ready to use them. If I freeze my bread, I let it defrost on the counter wrapped in a tea towel before using it. If you let your bread slices defrost slowly on the counter (instead of instantly toasting them) the slices should retain enough moisture to be tasty without being toasted.


The following pictures are of Jennifer's bread after she followed my advice on baking her bread. Her new loaf of bread turned out beautifully and did not collapse! Jennifer said she felt confident that she could bake more gluten free bread in the future!

I appreciate all your hard work and communication during this project Jennifer! I learned a lot and I truly appreciate all your help!!

Here is Jennifer's gluten free bread dough rising. This is really a beautiful loaf of bread!

Notice how Jennifer only allowed her bread to rise just barely over the lip of the pan. This is a really great rise!! Good job Jennifer!

Jennifer's finished loaf of bread cooling first in the pan. Look at how golden and lovely this loaf is! Notice the air pockets around the bread sides of the loaf! Her yeast was working well in this loaf!

Jennifer transferred her loaf of bread to finish cooling on a cooking rack. The loaf did not collapse! It does just slightly shrink at the top where there were small air pockets underneath the surface, but that is completely normal! This is a gorgeous loaf!!

Jennifer's beautifully finished loaf ready for slicing! Notice all the air pockets in her loaf, which means her bread is soft and pliable and rose perfectly! The bread also has a fantastic golden crust!! Great pictures and great job Jennifer! Thank you so much for your excellent question and this great baking experience!


Want to make your own gluten free yeast/sandwich bread?

Here are some of my favorite gluten free bread recipes:

Carrie's Favorite Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
- This is simply my favorite sandwich bread. While it has a lengthy ingredient list, it is a bread primarily made with whole grains, tastes fabulous, stays fresh, soft, and pliable, and is easy to make.

Carrie's Maple Oat Bread
- A beautiful round loaf of yeast bread, perfect for holiday dinners or to make rolls. This bread reminds me of my favorite pre-gluten Hawaiian sweet bread!

Elizabeth Barbone's Easy Sandwich Bread
- This is a fantastic beginner gluten free bread recipe to build your courage and show you that YOU CAN make gluten free yeast bread!

Natalie's Millet Oatmeal Bread
- An excellent loaf of bread that looks and tastes like whole wheat bread. It's got a beautiful texture and very yummy taste!

Gluten Free Cooking School's Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
- This is another really good GF sandwich bread recipe from Gluten Free Cooking School. Mary Frances has a very budget conscious gluten free flour mix to use for this loaf:

Gluten Free Gobsmacked's Sorghum-Flax Bread
- This is a wonderful, hearty, whole grain sandwich bread! I highly recommend making it!

Pin It!