Baking bread

Many people who are gluten intolerant say the same thing – bread is what they miss the most.  Whilst there have been many improvements in the gluten free breads available for sale in supermarkets, many of the bread sold are still very poor imitations of the real thing.

Now I won’t lie to you, and say I can now bake bread that tastes exactly like the one I used to love when I could still eat gluten.  It’s undeniable that making gluten free bread is tricky.  However, over the years, I have found and developed some really good recipes, that all taste, in my humble opinion, way better than any of the breads for sale in supermarkets.

Now here are a few practical tips that will ensure your bread making is a success:

  • Always start by activating the yeast.  Even if you are trying a recipe that tells you to mix all the ingredients straight away with the dried yeast, just ignore that bit of the instructions.  Mix the water and/or milk with the yeast, sprinkle a little sugar on top, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  You will see the yeast “come alive” – little bubbles start to form, I promise!  Then you can add the other ingredients and the dough will rise more easily.
  • If, inspite of this, the dough doesn’t rise, you can slide your dish containing the dough into a big plastic bag.  Hold the plastic bag closed and blow into it, taking care not to let the air come out again.  Once the bag is filled with air like a balloon, hold it closed and secure it with something that will keep it closed (a clothes peg or a heavy pot or saucepan).  This usually does the trick.
  • Don’t be surprised if the exact same dough rises beautifully once and hardly at all another day.  I’ve found that gluten free is highly sensitive to changes in temperature and levels of humidity.  Sometimes I have no idea why the dough is so slow to rise; and vice versa, some days the dough seems like it’s on steroids!
  • Be patient – the dough usually rises slowly, that’s normal.
  • Don’t expect to be able to knead and shape the bread dough like you would with wheat flour dough.  Your gluten free dough will be sticky and almost a little runny.  That’s normal too!
  • Because of the above point, I bake my breads in cake tins.  It makes things much easier.
  • If you have to shape the bread (as in the gluten free baguettes  for example), then I find the best way is to wet my hands before I handle the dough.  I prepare a bowl of warm water, wet my hands and take a bit of dough, shape it, put it onto the baking paper, and then wet my hands again before taking the next bit of dough.  Of course you can also just use gluten free flour to flour your hands; in my experience though, this makes the dough more compact and it’s a real pain to wash all the flour off your hands afterwards, because it’s all so sticky.
  • Psyllium husk powder is a really great ingredient when making bread.  It helps make it more elastic.  So don’t leave that out.

What you need to know as well…:

  • Gluten free bread doesn’t, usually, keep very well 🙁  It can be delicious when it’s just come out of the oven, and be really “not-so-delicious” the next morning.  That’s normal too… it’s nothing you’ve done wrong!  I always try to time my baking so that I’ll be able to enjoy a nice sandwich when my bread is nice and fresh… and then I usually slice the rest of the bread and freeze it.  Then I take one or two slices at a time and toast them.  Occasionally I also freeze a whole loaf of bread.  When I need it, I leave it to thaw at room temperature and then put it back into the oven for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of the bread) at 200°C.  This works well and makes it nice and crusty again:-)
  • If you have a combined steam air oven, then you will probably find that your bread tastes nicest if you cook it using the “hot air/steam” cooking option.