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Tom’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread

Tom’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread

Tom’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread was my first successful loaf of gluten free bread ever. It’s as easy as can be, super adaptable, and will always hold a place in my heart.

Tom's gluten free sandwich bread shown here sliced, with a clear view of the inside of the loaf of bread.

The origin story of this recipe

I published this recipe for Tom’s gluten free sandwich bread in August 2009, only a few months after I started this blog. Looking back on it, I can see that it breaks every single rule I have come to embrace over the years about baking gluten free.

As originally written, it calls for bean flour, makes a very wet batter that has something of a tendency to overproof, and it isn’t even my recipe! But all the same, it was a true beacon to me in those early years, when there was little to hope for in gluten free baking.

I’ve left all of the original comments on this post from beginning in August 2009. There were no photos of the bread (literally, not one), and the instructions were not very descriptive. But it was gluten free and dairy free, it called for ingredients we could all find one way or another, and it worked. Readers loved it as I did (and do).

I made this bread dough into every single possible form (a loaf of bread! a weepy roll! a fluffy pizza dough!) and it was truly heaven sent. But it is most decidedly not mine.

Tom’s Celiac Light Bread

This recipe was created by a man named Tom Van Deman, and he provided it, selflessly, to everyone who asked without asking for recognition or attribution. For a time, it was sold as a gluten free bread mix called Tom’s Celiac Light Bread.

I first got the recipe from Tom in either 2004 or 2005 when I was part of an early celiac message board. At the time I had been ordering expensive, spongy gluten free bread from Canada that looked good but tasted bad. I was desperate.

Back then, there was essentially no good gluten free bread for sale that was any good—or affordable. Today, thankfully, we have lots of packaged gluten free bread options. But fresh is always better.

I could not believe that Tom’s recipe worked even when my measurements seemed a tiny bit off. I used it for my kids’ school lunches and for french toast. I practically used it for a pillow at night and had sweet, sweet dreams. 😴

Tom’s Bread is actually quite easy to make, freezes beautifully, and can be sliced as thin as you like. When it’s freshly made, you don’t need to toast it.

If you don’t plan to eat it all in a day or two, slice the whole loaf, then freeze it in a freezer-safe package. To defrost, just toast a couple slices and it’ll come back to life.

Tom's gluten free sandwich bread loaf shown in the loaf pan, just baked and mostly cool.

How to make this versatile gluten free bread recipe

This recipe is a batter bread recipe much like our gluten free white sandwich bread recipe from our flagship gluten free cookbook. But it’s more old school than that recipe.

All you really need to do to make this bread is combine all the dry ingredients except for the yeast, and whisk them together. Then, add the yeast and whisk to combine (this keeps the yeast and salt from clumping together). Add the wet ingredients, and beat really well. 

The dough isn’t just a batter. It’s a very wet batter. I remember that I used to “roll” it out and shape it into a rectangle in a sheet pan to make something resembling gluten free pizza. But it’s so soft that I simply can’t picture how I did it successfully. I think I used a ton of garbanzo bean flour to “shape” it?

For many years, to ensure reliable results in baking, I’ve measured nearly every ingredient by weight—including water, for which 1 fluid ounce (a volume measurement) equals 1 weighted ounce. I do measure the ingredients in this recipe by weight, but I made it successfully for so long without weighing a single thing. So clearly it’s not essential!

You do need to include all of the ingredients as listed, or at least an acceptable substitute as outlined in the “Ingredients and Substitutions” section below. You do need to beat the batter/dough well, allow it to rise fully (but hopefully not too much), and slice it in the center so it doesn’t explode in a million different directions as it rises.

But there really aren’t any secrets you need to know to be successful. When I began making this recipe again recently, after years of developing more gluten-like gluten free bread recipes, I was tempted to make dramatic changes to make it “better.” 

I wanted to try replacing the oil with melted butter, for more flavor. I was dying to reduce the water a bit so it didn’t rise quite as high. I wanted to tinker with the balance of dry ingredients. But this isn’t the place for that. This recipe is what it is, and it rescued me and my family in more ways than one. 

Thank you, Tom Van Deman. You always said that this recipe came to you fully formed, from divine 🙏🏻  inspiration. It’s hard to believe it happened any other way.

Tom's gluten free sandwich bread showing slices from the side.

Ingredients and substitutions

This recipe is naturally gluten free and dairy free, as it was originally written. I have made a few changes to the recipe method but they’re slight and unimportant.

Flours: This revolutionary recipe is unique among gluten free baking recipes since it’s not made with any rice flour. Typically, when a reader asks about baking gluten free without rice flour I steer them toward my Paleo recipes, which are entirely grain free. But this recipe is also rice-free, and also quite adaptable. 

The original recipe is made with garbanzo bean flour, which was a staple of my earliest gluten free baking—even though I really didn’t like the taste or the smell. But garbanzo bean flour worked in gluten free baking, and I was grateful to be able to bake literally anything that worked.

These days, more than a decade later, I just won’t bake with garbanzo bean flour. Raw and baking, it just smells awful to me. It’s less aromatic once baked, but still, I refuse. 

Luckily, this recipe has proven to be quite versatile. In place of garbanzo bean flour, I use an equal amount (by weight) of sweet white sorghum flour. I think navy bean flour, which happily lacks the taste and smell of a typical bean flour, would work well, too.

I have not replaced the cornstarch or the tapioca starch/flour. I like baking with both of those starches, and never saw a reason to eliminate them.

If you need to try replacing them, I recommend trying arrowroot in place of the tapioca starch/flour and potato starch in place of the cornstarch. If you’re only replacing the cornstarch, try replacing that with arrowroot.

Eggs: This recipe relies heavily upon eggs, calling for 3 whole eggs. They provide rise and structure. I’m afraid I don’t recommend making this bread egg-free. If you need to be egg-free, my newer bread recipes made with gluten free bread flour are what I’d recommend trying. 

Oils: The recipe calls for a “neutral oil,” which just refers to something neutral in taste and aroma. Grapeseed, peanut, canola, and vegetable oils all work just fine.

I don’t like to specify which type of oil since they really are interchangeable. Plus, so many readers seem to think that canola and vegetable oils will be responsible for the demise of civilization. 

Tom's gluten free sandwich bread shown as it's being sliced.

 

Tom's gluten free sandwich bread shown raw, baked, and sliced so you can view the center of the loaf.

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 1 loaf of bread

Ingredients

1 1/8 cup (105 g) garbanzo bean flour or 3/4 cup (105 g) sweet white sorghum flour

1 cup (144 g) cornstarch

1 cup + 1 tablespoon (128 g) tapioca starch/flour

3 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons (41 g) packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or 1 3/4 teaspoons (5 g) instant yeast

3 eggs (150 g, weighed out of shell), at room temperature

Cooking oil spray

1 1/8 cups (9 fluid ounces) hot (not boiling) water

3 tablespoons (42 g) neutral oil

Directions

  • Grease and line a standard 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan, and set it aside. 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, place the garbanzo bean or sweet white sorghum flour, cornstarch, tapioca starch/flour, xanthan gum, salt, brown sugar, and cream of tartar, and whisk to combine well. Add the yeast, and whisk again to combine. Add the eggs, water, and oil, and beat on medium speed until well-combined and smooth. Turn the mixer speed up to high and continue to beat for 1 minute more. The mixture will be very soft and much thinner than even a typical gluten free batter bread dough.

  • Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and, using a moistened spatula, spread it into an even layer in the pan. Spray the top of the dough with cooking oil spray, then cover the pan with plastic wrap. Set the pan in a warm, draft-free location and allow it to rise until the dough has nearly doubled in size. Once the dough begins to rise unevenly (you’ll begin to see shallow craters on top), it’s risen fully. Do not overproof. Near the end of the rise, preheat your oven to 375°F.

  • Remove the plastic wrap and, using a moistened sharp knife, slice the top about 1/4-inch deep from one short end to the other horizontally. Place the pan in the preheated oven with plenty of head room to rise. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped with a spoon. The internal temperature will be about 200°F. Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack and cool completely before slicing.

  • Originally published on the blog in 2019. All photos and video new; text modified; recipe unchanged other than to offer an alternative ingredient.

Love,
Nicole

Comments are closed.

  • VAl
    November 14, 2019 at 12:38 PM

    Approximately how long does this bread need to rise?

    • Nicole Hunn
      November 14, 2019 at 7:46 PM

      Rising time really depends upon the environment (temperature and humidity) in your kitchen or wherever you allow the bread to rise, VAI. In the winter, I’ve had to let it rise for 90 minutes before, and other times it’s fully risen in about 45 minutes. It really depends!

  • Lindy
    November 11, 2019 at 1:55 PM

    This bread is amazing! I used sorghum flour, and it came together so quickly with basic ingredients I already had. The bread is so soft, and has a mild almost nutty flavor. Had a turkey sandwich for lunch that knocked my socks off! Thank you Nicole and Tom!

    • Nicole Hunn
      November 11, 2019 at 4:33 PM

      Aw, that’s so great, Lindy! What can beat having a GF sandwich that knocks your socks off, right? It’s the simple pleasures.🙂

  • Sharon Schulze
    November 9, 2019 at 9:10 PM

    I just finished my first slice of this wonderful bread. So easy, and so delicious! Thank you so much, Nicole (and Tom)!

    • Nicole Hunn
      November 10, 2019 at 7:52 AM

      I’m so glad, Sharon. Go Tom! 😆

  • Nancy
    November 6, 2019 at 5:09 PM

    I’ve made two loaves of this recipe for bread. I measured the ingredients in the first and weighed the ingredients for the second. I used sorghum flour not garbanzo bean and arrowroot for the cornstarch. The flavor is superb as is the texture and the crust stays soft…BUT… when removed from the baking pan, the sides immediately cave in. Should it be removed from the baking pan immediately after coming out of the oven and is the caving in another indication of too much moisture? Thank you.

    • Nicole Hunn
      November 6, 2019 at 5:29 PM

      If the sides cave in, Nancy, it sounds like your oven is too hot, and you need to bake it longer at a lower oven temperature. Whenever baked goods rise in the oven and then fall as they cool, it’s generally because the oven was too hot so the outside baked to the point of potentially overbaking but the inside didn’t have enough structure to support the rise as the baked goods cool. This bread does fall a bit as it cools, but the sides should not be caving in. I hope that’s helps!

  • Denise
    November 6, 2019 at 11:08 AM

    Can you follow this recipe using a bread machine?

    • Nicole Hunn
      November 6, 2019 at 11:35 AM

      I don’t use or recommend use of a bread machine, Denise. They vary significantly from brand to brand and produce inconsistent results and an odd-shaped loaf. Sorry!

  • Jane Pennington
    November 5, 2019 at 6:02 PM

    After so many failures in trying to make gf bread, I am utterly delighted with the loaf I have just made using this recipe. I had just about given up trying to make my own gf bread, resigned to buying the awful dry crumbly nonsense they call gf bread. This recipe is brilliant. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Nicole Hunn
      November 6, 2019 at 8:11 AM

      So glad you were successful with Tom’s bread, Jane! Like he said, it must have been some sort of divine inspiration, especially when he first came up with it all those years ago. 😉

  • Tammy Rhodes
    November 5, 2019 at 1:22 PM

    Can you use just regular gluten free flour? I can’t find the sweet white sorghum flour.

    • Nicole Hunn
      November 5, 2019 at 1:59 PM

      Please see the ingredients and substitutions section, Tammy, for information on the component flours and other ingredients. If you’re looking for a gluten free sandwich bread to make with an all purpose gluten free flour, you’ll need another recipe like this one.

  • Teri
    November 4, 2019 at 11:57 AM

    My bread substitutions did work, with the teff. I know a starch and the whole grain flours aren’t interchangeable, but it worked. The rolls came out great. A little grey in color from the teff, but taste great.
    Thank you

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