How-To Make GF French Bread, Step x Step

How-To Make GF French Bread, Step x Step

Gluten Free French Bread

Gather up your wares. We’re havin’ gluten-free French Bread. And it’s not going to cost a bundle. ‘Cause we’re gonna make it ourselves. We’ll go nice & slow. And nobody falls off the wagon. Everybody in!

C’mon! Have a little faith.

You gotta have faith. Here’s the secret: you have to trust yourself.

That’s it! That’s the secret! Double pinky swear. You gotta trust yourself. You gotta believe that you can do it. You gotta know that the amount of water you use is going to vary from kitchen to kitchen, and from baking session to baking session. It depends upon so many factors — what the temperature is in your kitchen, the humidity level in your kitchen, the type of all-purpose GF flour you’re using, the alignment of the stars, the color of your panties.

But none of that matters.

All that matters is that you add water s  l  o  w  l  y. Remember – although you can always add more water, you can’t take any away. And you don’t want to get into a whole game of chicken with more-flour-more-water-more-flour-more-water. Your other-ingredient proportions [mostly yeast & sugar] will be all outta wack. Trust me. Trust the process.

Mostly, trust me. Just until you’re all growns up & ready to kick me to the curb. I’ve done this. Many, many times. And I’ve done it wrong so many times that they named a bench after me in Wrongville. And then they bronzed it.

Look, if you’re not ready for this, it’s okay. Make some yeast-free Quick {Sandwich} Bread and chillax. Worry not, my friend. We’ll still be here when you’re ready.

For the still willing, please review your ingredients: all-purpose gluten-free flour (plus xanthan gum, but I use Better Batter, and that’s already mixed in there), cream of tartar, sugar, kosher salt, yeast (quick rise/instant/breadmachine yeast if you have it – no big deal if you don’t), 2 egg whites, and warm water.

Not too many ingredients.
Gluten Free French Bread

Now, we dump the flour, xanthan gum, cream of tartar, sugar, salt and yeast into the bowl of your stand mixer, and mix well with a whisk. Then add the egg whites and mix slowly for a little bit. Smooth sailing so far.

Then …
Gluten Free French Bread
Got it? A little nip. A little tuck. A little sneaky peek. No biggie, right?

Nah. You don’t have it yet. But you will, boyo. You will.

Just like you see above, with the mixer [fitted with the paddle attachment] turning slowly, you’ll begin to pour the warm water into the well-mixed dry ingredients, nice & s l o w. The dough should be shaggy, which just means that it should be kinda irregular. Think clumpy and pointy all over. Compare my shaggy dough picture to your dough.

**I’ll wait for you**

If you think maybe it needs a bit more water, but you’re not sure, STOP. In this particular example, ended up with 1/2 cup warm water still in the measuring cup (I started with 1 2/3 cup – don’t make me do the math). Does it hold together, more or less, at least in clumps? Scrape it together with a spatula (see the picture), dump it out onto a silpat or some parchment paper (no flour!), and knead it a bit with your hands. It will be a bit tacky. See how little bits of it sticks to my hand?

Then divide the dough into 2 equal parts, and roll into a cylinder with the palm and heel of your hands. Just do it! The dough will be irregular, still, and have hairline cracks in it. We’re going to remedy that. Just take that leftover warm water, and dip your hands into it. Get ’em nice and wet. Now rub the entire surface of the dough you just rolled into a cylinder (top, sides, ends, bottom – the full monty) until it’s all shiny & smooth. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Now just place the two loaves on a parchment lined baking sheet, a few inches apart, cover with plastic wrap and place in a moist, draft-free area to rise until nearly doubled in volume[for tips on getting your GF bread to rise, check out “arise fair gluten-free bread”]. Then, dip your hands again in water, rub the risen dough very gently to smooth out the surface again [if you’re not gentle, you could deflate the dough], slash the dough with a sharp knife on the diagonal every 2 inches along the length of each loaf, bake for 15 minutes, rub with butter, then bake until crispy and golden brown.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Remember. Water is the secret. G  o    s  l  o  w  l  y.

And trust. Trust is the secret.

But don’t tell secrets. It hurts people’s feelings.

Here’s the printable version. I love you. Go forth & bake bread.

Then make some GF Bruschetta. Or a Philly Cheese Steak. Maybe a meatball hero? You ARE a meatball HERO!

Or maybe just enjoy some slices of french bread layered with big juicy late summer tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. And a nice glass of wine. You’ve earned it.

How-To Make GF French Bread, Step x Step
Recipe Type: Bread
Author: Nicole @ Gluten-Free on a Shoestring.com
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 6 to 8
Gluten-free French Bread
  • 3 cups (420g) all-purpose gluten-free flour (I use Better Batter)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if using Better Batter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rapid rise/instant/bread machine yeast (or active dry, if that’s all you’ve got)
  • 2 extra-large egg whites
  • 1 2/3 cup warm water, about 100 degrees
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour, cream of tartar, xanthan gum, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix well with a whisk. Fit the paddle attachment to your stand mixer, then add the egg whites, and mix slowly to combine. With the mixer on its lowest speed, add the water in a very slow but steady stream. Once the dough begins to come together, STOP adding water. You will have used up at least 1 cup of water, and up to 2/3 cup more (rarely the full 1 2/3 cup).
  3. Scrape the dough together with a spatula, and dump it out onto a slick (but unfloured) surface, like a silpat, pastry board, or piece of parchment paper. Knead the dough briefly to gather it together. It will be tacky, and will leave a bit of residue on your hand. Divide the dough into two equal parts. With the palms and heels of both hands, roll one piece of dough into a cylinder, back and forth, back and forth. It will have cracks in it. Now, dip your hands in the leftover warm water, and rub the dough vigorously all over to smooth out the cracks. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
  4. Place the two pieces of dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm, moist, draft-free area for about 45 minutes, or until nearly doubled in volume.
  5. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Once the dough has risen, dip your hands back into the remaining water, and rub smooth the surfaces of each loaf, this time gently to avoid deflating the loaves.
  7. Place the loaves in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Rub the unsalted butter evenly over every available surface of both loaves of bread, and return to the oven to finish baking – until golden brown (about another 10 to 15 minutes).
  8. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing, or the bread could deflate. We’d be hugging and you’d get my shirt all boogery. Ew. But I would do it for you. I would.

Don’t even try to use a bean flour blend to do this. Don’t even.
Pamela’s baking mix and Pamela’s bread mix are NOT meant to be all-purpose gluten-free flours. They are baking mixes, and will not work in any of my recipes that call for an all-purpose gluten-free flour.
If you run into trouble in this recipe, post an S.O.S. comment. I’ll get back to you speedy quick. Promise.
You can DO this! Let’s hug.



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  • […] the book. Pick up a copy. Turn to page 104. It’s still my favorite bread-recipe-child.French Bread, Step x Step.Japanese Milk Bread, made with a water roux. The softest bread. truly.White Sandwich Bread, again. […]

  • […] **UPDATE** Please see the super-detailed version of this recipe, with plenty of Step x Step photos and instructions: How-To Make GF French Bread, Step x Step […]

  • Sarah
    October 6, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    Doh! I totally should have looked at the pictures before trying this. The pictures are exactly what I needed to see. Sort of discuraged as my batter was way too wet but will try it again. Would you recommend any sub for the egg? I have the hardest time finding a gluten-free bread without egg and this is the closest I”ve been able to find so am determined somehow to make this recipe work.

    • Nicole
      October 6, 2011 at 10:34 PM

      Hi, Sarah,
      If you review the comments, I think another reader may have subbed in something for the egg. It is mostly there as a stabilizer and to add protein, so I have long suspected that something like whey powder or dry milk powder (just not nonfat) would make a good substitute for the egg. If you give it a shot, please let me know how it turns out. Definitely pay close attention to the photos. Dough consistency is everything in gluen-free baking, especially bread baking.
      xoxo Nicole

  • September 17, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    love the picture method

  • September 14, 2011 at 4:05 AM

    Thanks for the recipe, the step by step, the site… I have so many recipes printed from here, waiting in line, but first I tried this bread. It was quite good, except I didn’t get to make mine as smooth as yours. If you don’t mind, I’ll be translating it and posting it on my blog (full credits to you, of course). And I’ll be buying the book on my next visit to Amazon. Really, thanks!

    • Nicole
      September 14, 2011 at 12:15 PM

      Hi, Lucente,
      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog. To smooth out the bread, all you need to do is rub it with very wet fingers, both before and after rising. Practice makes perfect!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Kate
    September 10, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Thanks for the step x step pictures. I always loved to bake BC (before Celiac) and I’m trying more and more GF baked goods. Bread was something I thought I couldn’t master after a failed attempt in a bread machine. After a successful GF pie crust a while ago, I was ready to tackle bread! Thanks for the recipes, the instructions and the laughs. (The french bread is rising now. MMM. French dip for dinner.)

    • Nicole
      September 11, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      Hi, Kate,
      You’re welcome for the step x steps! Glad they’re helpful. Why I was so reluctant to post step x step pictures, I now have no idea. Step x steps for everyone!
      For the record, I can’t stand bread machines. They created and now perpetuate this myth that you need a huge single-use machine to be able to bake bread – gluten-free or otherwise. How ridiculous. Bread baking is as old as … well I don’t know, but it’s old. And it doesn’t take a genius to do it. If you knew me better, believe me you’d know how true that really is. ;)
      French dip, huh? Oh, yum. I’d love to hear how it turned out. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • […] Step By Step French Bread? I was all, “the secret’s in not adding too much water.” Blah blah blah. This […]

  • Funky Momma ( A.K.A. Tina
    September 8, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    I tried the recipe but I think the flour combo I used (brown rice, potatoe starch and tapioca starch) was too heavy. I ended up with very dense paper weights. Or maybe I didn’t make the loaves large enough. How long and wide should they be? I’d love to make it properly and will certainly try it again.

    • Nicole
      September 8, 2011 at 3:55 PM

      Hi, Tina,
      I honestly don’t know how to blend an all-purpose flour, but if you sort of winged it, and put together a few flours and starches, you’re pretty likely to come up with something too heavy. and it sounds like that is what happened to you. Can you try again with either someone’s recipe for an all=purpose flour blend (Living Without has some good versions), or a preblended all purpose gluten free flour blend, like Better Batter?
      Sorry it didn’t work out, Tina!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Jan Carter
    September 7, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    Do you have to put the butter all over the bread? My daughter cannot tolerate butter, can I just brush with water instead?

    • Nicole
      September 7, 2011 at 8:28 PM

      Hi, Jan,
      The butter really helps the bread brown. Instead of butter, I would suggest you use olive oil. You could also try a soy butter. Water won’t help the bread brown.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Peggy
    September 7, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the pictures! I am a visual person so this is very helpful!!1

    • Nicole
      September 7, 2011 at 4:10 PM

      Hi, Peggy,
      You’re very welcome. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Sarah D
    September 7, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    I’ll have to try this version of the recipe next. :)

    • Nicole
      September 7, 2011 at 11:15 AM

      Honestly, Sarah, it sounds like you could teach us all how to make an amazing dinner. I don’t think you should change a thing!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Sarah D
    September 7, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    Thank you for all the pictures! I made this using your other recipe in the book and squinting at the picture on facebook for the process. When making gf bread, pictures are SO helpful! The bread turned out amazing and was the perfect companion for the homemade ravioli in (from scratch) alfredo sauce. I made my own butter and added some garlic which I spread over the loaf split in half then generously sprinkled on freshly grated parmesan and broiled until bubbly. De-Vine! My hubby (non-gf) said you never would have known it was gf and he loved it. Thank you!

    • Nicole
      September 7, 2011 at 11:14 AM

      Wow, Sarah! That sounds amazing. You made your own butter! Your husband is one lucky man. :) That parmesan-garlic bread sounds like heaven. I feel like I can smell it now! Thank you for the renewed inspiration!
      I will make sure to always post step by step photos for bread recipes. I agree – it is so helpful. I’m sorry you had to muddle through on your own, but it sounds like you did it with swimming success!
      xoxo Nicole

      • Sarah D
        September 7, 2011 at 4:10 PM

        Butter is super easy in the Kitchenaid. Cream was on sale so you just beat the living daylights out of it until you have a lump in your whisk attachment and watery stuff in the bottom. Drain off the buttermilk (watery stuff in the bowl) and save for pancakes, add salt and yum! Cheaper than buying butter this week! :)

        It was hubby’s “Welcome Home” dinner so I went all out. :) If it hadn’t been for your pics, I totally would have messed it up, but you saved the dinner! Thanks!

      • Nicole
        September 7, 2011 at 4:49 PM

        Hi, Sarah,
        You really are frugal! Good for you. Once, years ago, my son said to me, “Mom, wouldn’t it be cool if you made your own water?” So I have to be careful with making everything from scratch, lest my son start asking me to make him water again. ;)
        I figured your husband was home. Enjoy your time together. I’m grateful for his service, and honored to be even a tiny part of welcoming him home. :)
        xoxo Nicole

      • Pamela G
        September 8, 2011 at 11:43 AM

        your son is priceless!! i love it when kids say the derndest things…..

  • Jennica
    September 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    I would so LOVE to attempt this, but I think I need Santa to bring me a stand mixer first. :( I am pretty good with my hand mixer, or well, my hands, but this looks far more involved than my mixer will allow me to task it with. It’s on its last leg, I am afraid. Everyone in my house knows that a Kitchenaid-at least 5qt-stand mixer is top on my Christmas list this year. LOL. I don’t think a week goes by that they don’t get a reminder. Once Halloween passes, I think I will start with email wish lists to the hubby. ;) So Sad! I really really really miss french bread! It would have gone great with the hubby’s homemade clam chowder last weekend too!

    • Nicole
      September 7, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      Hi, Jennica,
      It’s so nice to hear from you! I have made this without a stand mixer many times. It is pretty much foolproof with the stand mixer, but you could also make it with a food processor. Do you have one of those? The automatic element really helps to avoid adding too much water to the dough, so you can pour and mix at the same time, but a food processor works well for that also. You can also do it the old fashioned way, with a bowl and a wooden spoon. If you’d like to attempt that and have questions, I’m here to answer! If it’s french bread you crave, it’s french bread you should have!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Darlene
    September 7, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    It looks great! And thank you for the step-by-steps. I’ll have to wait until the temp here drops below 100 degrees before I turn on my oven. I’m not such a pioneer woman that I’d try this on my Weber.

    • Nicole
      September 7, 2011 at 10:32 AM

      Hi, Darlene,
      I’m so smug, with my temps in the high 60s and low 70s this week in NY. Please may I not be revisited by the ghost of 100 degree days past. I wish you lower temps! I’m not a pioneer woman in any sense, so I can relate. ;)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Diane
    September 7, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Did you read my mind????? My task today, now that my house is kid free–all at school :( is to attempt French Bread! The purpose to find a yummy gf french bread that we can the use for mmmmmmmm garlic bread and monster subs! wish me luck!
    And BTW, I love the pics of each step, especially when embarking in new territory, sometimes words just can’t described what a simple picture can!

    • Nicole
      September 7, 2011 at 10:08 AM

      Hi, Diane,
      Yes. Yes, I read your mind. I can do that. And you think some naughty things sometimes. I like that in a friend. ;)
      This honestly doesn’t have very much active time, so you should be able to make bread, and make some sub fillings, too. And even run an errand. Or (perish the thought) read a magazine!
      So glad you’re enjoying my step by step. Thanks for the positive reinforcement. I’m like a puppy with step x step, I’m afraid.
      xoxo Nicole

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