Gluten-Free Bread Baking 101

Discover the importance of gluten in traditional bread baking and how to replace it in three delicious gluten-free bread recipes.

| June 2014

  • Making gluten-free bread is easier and tastier than you might think.
    Photo by Fotolia/milanmarkovic78
  • Get more than 100 recipes for mouth-watering homemade breads in “Gluten-Free Bread” by Ellen Brown.
    Photo courtesy Running Press

There’s nothing better than the comforting taste of homemade bread straight from the oven. But with a gluten-free diet, suddenly this tasty treat seems out of reach. Learn how you can make delicious brioche, sandwich bread, flatbread and much more with the recipes and tips in Ellen Brown’s Gluten-Free Bread (Running Press, 2013). In this excerpt from chapter one, learn the role gluten plays in traditional bread baking.

You may purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Gluten-Free Bread.

The first step in gluten-free bread baking is to understand the role that gluten plays in traditional breads. Most bread depends on gluten to succeed; gluten is that versatile protein that, when developed, forms a strong air-trapping network that creates breads’ characteristic honeycomb structure and crumb.

Gluten-Free Bread Recipes

Gluten-Free English Muffins Recipe
Gluten-Free French Baguette Recipe
Gluten-Free Naan Recipe

In gluten-free breads, the goal is no different. But it is more complicated to re-create wheat breads’ thick crusts and inside soft airy pockets without what many would consider a very essential component to what makes bread, well, bread.

While eliminating rye and barley from the gluten-free diet presents some challenges, eliminating all forms of wheat and wheat flour is a Herculean task—especially when baking bread. Wheat flour contains as many as thirty proteins, and two of those—glutenin and gliadin—form gluten when moistened with any liquid ingredient. These two proteins grab water and connect to form elastic strands of gluten. If flour has a lot of these proteins, it grabs up water faster, making the strong and springy gluten that is needed to bake bread; that’s why high-protein bread flour is frequently specified in recipes for wheat breads. The formation of this elastic gluten network serves many functions in a bread dough. Like a net, gluten traps and holds air bubbles created by the natural leavening of yeast or the chemical leavening of baking soda or baking powder. When a dough is baked, the stretched flour proteins become rigid as moisture evaporates from the heat of the oven, and sets the breads' structure.

2/8/2018 8:04:30 AM

Vegans do not use eggs, so gluten-free baking is even more challenging. I have discovered however the use of psyllium husk powder instead of the controversial xanthan gum. Added to any gluten-free flour (~1 tsp per cup of four) it gives the dough a stretchy, and kneadable product. It also makes the final bread more cohesive and less crumbly. Add baking powder to help it rise and you have a very presentable and delicious bread.

8/29/2014 9:05:50 AM

One thing with gluten free, be sure that the flour mixes or baking mix has some flour added that is high in fiber and protein. I add Garbanzo flour to breads and coconut flour to things like cookies. Many of the gluten free products are now found to have too many starches that are high in the glycemic index and can be hard on your blood sugar.

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