Tips for Celiacs – Bread Baking Tips
Bread baking was a skill passed along from one generation to the next in my family. Beginning when we were little girls, my mother taught my sisters and me how to mix and knead yeast breads, how to shape the dough into loaves, rolls, and fancy twists, and how to know when bread had baked long enough. Very little of what I had learned as a child about making regular yeast breads applied to the gluten-free bread I needed later in life, however.
When I tried using traditional bread making techniques with gluten-free flours, my bread fell in the middle, had a grainy texture, and crumbled when it was sliced. There was one principle that still applied, though, and it was that if I did not succeed on first attempt, I should keep experimenting! Over time, I experimented with various changes in recipes and methods, and I had results ranging from bread that failed to rise to bread that rose up and dripped over the edge of the pan, and from loaves whose centers had the consistency of bread pudding to loaves with the texture of sand.
After eleven years of gluten-free baking, I am still experimenting with new flours, new recipes and new techniques. While I still have not achieved the status of expert baker, I have learned a few principles for making and storing gluten-free bread:
- It is not essential to have a heavy-duty mixer to make gluten-free bread. The dough can be mixed by hand or in a food processor.
- Because gluten-free dough is more moist than regular bread dough, it is not absolutely necessary to dissolve yeast in warm water before mixing it into the dough.
- It is important to warm the liquid that is used in the dough. This warms the dough and helps the yeast to grow. The liquid should not be too hot, though, or it will kill the yeast. It should feel warm, but not hot, to the inside of the wrist.
- Adding dough enhancer improves the texture of the finished bread. (A recipe for homemade dough enhancer is below.)
- Gluten-free bread dough should have the consistency of a drop cookie dough made with regular flour. If the bread dough is too wet, the bread will fall in the middle when it is baked. If the dough is not moist enough, it will not rise well.
- Use wet hands to shape gluten-free bread dough or smooth it in the pan. This keeps the dough from sticking to the hands.
- While regular bread dough benefits from rising twice, it seems to work better to let gluten-free bread dough rise only once before baking it.
- Pour dough into greased and floured baking pans. The dough can be either baked immediately or allowed to rise before baking.
- Allow bread dough to rise in the pan for about a half hour. Rising too long will cause the bread to fall in the oven.
- Do not over bake gluten-free bread dough. Loaf bread will pull away from the sides of the pan when it is done.
- Cool loaf bread on its side for about ten minutes before removing it from the pan. It will release more easily when slightly cooled, and cooling it on its side will help to keep it from falling in the middle.
- Gluten-free bread rolls travel better than sliced bread. Cut surfaces are more apt to crumble.
- To keep sliced gluten-free bread from drying out in the refrigerator, store a cut baked potato in the same container.
- To keep gluten-free bread in the freezer, slice the loaf and stack the slices in a zippered plastic bag. Slices can be removed as needed and thawed in the toaster or microwave oven.
- Do not throw away bread that turns out badly. Rather, crumble the bread and freeze the crumbs for use in recipes calling for bread crumbs.
- When experimenting with bread recipes and techniques, write down what worked and what did not work.
Homemade Dough Enhancer
One-third cup granular lecithin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ascorbic acid (Vitamin C powder)
Mix ingredients together. Use the same amount of dough enhancer as the amount of yeast required by the recipe, adding it to the dry ingredients. Store remaining dough enhancer in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container.
Allergy warning: lecithin is usually made from soy or egg yolk.