*ETA: Check out the 10 Lessons I Learned About Gluten-Free Bread while writing my new book, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread. Now … for those 10 Secrets: Here are … more
Here are my Top 10 Secrets to Baking Great Gluten-Free Bread with yeast. Looking for a gluten-free bread recipe? Choose from over 60 entries in my Gluten Free Bread Recipe Index. Now for those secrets:
1. Try to avoid making any substitutions the first time you make a gluten free bread recipe, especially one which is unfamiliar to you. If you have chosen a recipe that you can only make with substitutions, select another recipe. Early failure will sap your motivation.
2. Bake by weight, not volume. Proper proportions make the difference between success and failure. A serviceable scale is totally cheap. I use this one. Finish measuring one ingredient, and hit “tare.” It zeroes out the scale. Ready for the next ingredient, in the same bowl. Precision, easily. And in all of my recipes, 1 cup of high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour = 140 grams.
3. Don’t double a recipe for gluten free yeast bread to make twice as much. Make two batches of it in tandem. But don’t double. It often doesn’t work. I have no idea why, but it just doesn’t. If I learn why, I’m afraid I’ll forget something else important, so I just follow the rule.
4. Gluten-free bread dough needs to be mixed vigorously. The best way to do it is with a stand mixer. Don’t have one? Do it by hand, and put some elbow grease into it. Do not use a handheld mixer. And don’t worry about over-mixing. There’s no gluten to ‘overwork.’ If your end result has a really tight crumb and seems crumbly, it’s not that you overworked the dough. Your hydration level was likely too low.
5. Don’t try to bake bread without any gluten substitutes, like xanthan gum. When yeast gives off carbon dioxide during the baking process, gluten acts like a cloak and suspends the bubbles, allowing the bread to bake around the air pockets. No gluten, and no gluten-substitute? No cloak.
6. Use an oven thermometer. For the love of Mike, just get one! Most ovens are calibrated improperly, and off by around 50 degrees F. Yup. That much. One of mine is typically off by about 75 degrees F! Don’t bother calibrating it. It will just get out of whack again. Use an oven thermometer. Easy, cheap – essential. Bake bread in a too-hot oven, the outside will bake before the inside has a chance to develop enough structure to support it, and it will cave as it cools.
7. Don’t give up if your first loaf of bread isn’t perfect. It’s a skill. It builds with experience. And even if the loaf isn’t gorgeous, it probably still tastes great. I bet you don’t take pictures of your food like I do. So just carry on!
8. Create the right environment for bread proofing. If you can swing it, consider a Brod & Taylor bread proofer. It’s amazing the even rise you can get in this little box of heaven. I got mine gratis (I was a ‘tester’), but I would have bought it. No question. If you can’t swing it, use my tried and true microwave-as-bread-proofer method. I used it for years and years, with good results.
9. Do not “throw a bunch of flours” into a bread recipe and expect it to turn out. And use instant yeast. No need to proof it as long as it’s comfortably within its freshness date. If the bread didn’t rise, it’s very unlikely that the problem is the yeast. Trust me.
10. If you use a prepared mix and follow the directions, but the bread doesn’t turn out—it’s not. your. fault!
Recipe Guide, from the top (click the pictures, or click on these links):
White Sandwich Bread from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, the book. Pick up a copy. Turn to page 104. It’s still my favorite bread-recipe-child.
Japanese Milk Bread, made with a water roux. The softest bread. truly.
White Sandwich Bread, again. Page 104.
Gluten Free Brown Bread, a whole grain gluten-free bread experience.
P.S. I wrote a cookbook about gluten free bread! It’s called Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread, and it will be out November 2013. You can even preorder it right now (cover coming soon!)