homemade gluten-free bread?
November 14, 2014 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to make homemade gluten-free bread in a bread maker. In your experience, is this possible?Is the bread tasty?

Right now we rely on store-bought gluten-free bread, which is full of sugar and expensive. I'm considering getting a bread-maker, but I don't want to shell out money if making gluten-free bread is difficult or if it just doesn't taste all that great. I'm curious about others' experiences. If you have a bread-maker and make g-f bread, is it worth it? If you tried it and abandoned it, why?
posted by Ollie to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I know King Author's Flour has a gf bread mix and gives these tips for bread machine baking: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/mixes/gluten-free-bread-mix.html

Of course, at $6.75/box you aren't exactly saving money, but the tips are probably applicable to any gf recipe you try.
posted by fontophilic at 8:42 AM on November 14, 2014

You don't need a breadmaker. Baking bread isn't difficult at all. I use the basic bread recipe in this cookbook (Gluten-Free 101 by Carol Fenster) and it's pretty darn good. No breadmaker necessary. I haven't run the numbers, but it's definitely cheaper than store-bought loaves. It's a batter bread, so there's no kneading, either.
posted by lindseyg at 8:48 AM on November 14, 2014

I confess I am not gluten free and have not made such bread, bread maker or no. I do, however, listen to the America's Test Kitchen podcast, and they've been banging on for months about the numerous difficulties they encountered when creating their new gluten-free cookbook. Relevant to your questions: they found that most of the existing gluten free flour mixes were pretty lousy, except for one brand ---king Arthur's, I think? They have their own recipe they arrived at after months on tinkering. Also, in general gluten-free baking requires considerably longer hydration times, but on the plus side, because of the lack of gluten, you can bang the hell out of it when kneading via mixer or machine without affecting the quality of the final product. TL;DR: Gluten-free baking is considerably more complicated than regular baking, you could probably use a machine but you will have to play around with it a fair bit to get it to come out right; you might want to look into the ATK gluten-free book for advice on flour blends, some of the ones on the market are downright lousy.
posted by Diablevert at 8:49 AM on November 14, 2014

My experience (well, my mum's experience - she has celiac disease) is that home-made gluten-free bread isn't at all easy to get right, and tends to be inferior (at least in palatability) to a good shop-bought loaf. Part of the problem is texture and taste, but part of it is nutrition. Rice- and corn-based flour mixes are heavily processed and not much better than just eating sugar with a spoon, really.

You haven't said where you are. There are a few fairly decent gluten-free breads on the market in the UK.
posted by pipeski at 8:53 AM on November 14, 2014

If you're willing to stick with the bread-making thing for a few months, the savings of making your own loaves will pretty quickly make up the initial cost of the machine.

Of course, you're only going to get out of it (the process) what you put into it (ingredients and time). If you buy plain GF flour, you'll have to work out what sorts of things you want to add to it to get the texture and taste you want.

Which can mean some trial and error. The thing that makes bread kind of bready is the way wheat proteins make the dough kind of elastic. Without that protein, the stuff you make is more like batter than dough, and the finished produce is more like cake than bread. To approximate that bread texture, some store bought gluten-free bread mixes include things like xanthan gum (like this UK example).

If you're making your own bread, adding some sort of gum may increase the price, but it also makes the finished product more bread-like and less spongy-cake-like. But you're the one that gets to choose what goes into the bread and why it's there.

All that aside, there's a Panasonic bread machine in our kitchen that's being used exclusively for GF breads. There's a variety of flours and flour-blends used (Chickpea flour, teff flour, and tigernut flour most recently). The machine has a GF bread setting which has been pretty reliable so far. Even the worst loaf hasn't been bad.

TL;DNR - Bread machine can make good gf loaves, and cost can be offset in a few months, but your input totally determines your output.
posted by Tara-dactyl at 9:05 AM on November 14, 2014

I've never used a bread maker so I can't help with that part. If I were to make bread, I would use the gluten-free recipes from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes Per Day. You may find that convenient enough that a bread maker is not necessary. Note, those recipes make boules, not loaves. However, I have stopped making bread since discovering Costco sells Udi's bread for way less than anywhere else.
posted by carolr at 9:06 AM on November 14, 2014

I occasionally make various kinds of gluten free bread in a non-fancy Panasonic breadmaker.

If you use a regular bread machine with standard settings the gluten free bread will be dense and chewy, but my family find it tasty (especially thin sliced and toasted- yum!). It is only very slightly harder than making regular bread (you generally have to add multiple flours plus xantham gum). If you want something that tastes exactly like"real" bread you will probably be disappointed, though.

There are tons of recipes out there- you just need to experiment with different ones to find what you like. I personally like bread made mainly with tapioca flour and gelatin (sort of a crumpet-like consistency). If you live near an asian or other ethnic grocery store you can often buy bags of rice, tapioca, garbanzo bean flour, etc. for less than the ridiculous little mixes sold in conventional stores.

That being said, my wife is the one who does the gluten free thing and nowadays she generally just buys Udis bread in bulk at Costco- it's just easier and Udis tastes and looks more like normal bread, which is a plus when making sandwiches for our kids. But there's nothing like waking up to the smell of fresh bread!
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 9:09 AM on November 14, 2014

Response by poster: I'm in Brooklyn, NY. I'm probably not going to make bread without a bread-maker--what appeals to me about a bread maker is (I think) you just dump in ingredients and out comes a loaf. Less labor. Cutting down on sugar is a higher priority than saving money. Maybe I'll try to get a bread-maker second hand and give the King Arthur mix a whirl, if it isn't loaded with sugar.
posted by Ollie at 9:13 AM on November 14, 2014

Response by poster: I do usually get Udi's at Trader Joe's, but I think it's pretty sugary. There's a denser, whole-grainer one sold called "Free Bread" at Union Market, but it's $1/slice. Which is nuts.
posted by Ollie at 9:15 AM on November 14, 2014

At the risk of being super-obvious, if you do get a second-hand breadmaker, check it VERY CAREFULLY for nooks and crannies where gluten could be hiding. The ones I have seen have various screws and flanges and things where flour can collect.
posted by mskyle at 9:34 AM on November 14, 2014

I make this in a bread machine using the quick bread setting.
posted by JohnR at 10:10 AM on November 14, 2014

The nutrition label on Udi's whole grain bread says it has 3 grams of sugar per serving (two slices), which is less than the King Arthur gluten-free sandwich bread recipe (3 grams/one slice). If cutting down on sugar is your main concern, the shortest route to that would be to cut out or down on breads altogether.
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

The thing the bread maker will do for you is just save time (I don't know of any that would actually do something fundamentally different in the PROCESS of mixing/proofing/baking). So, you can always try a mix and/or recipe out by hand one time, see if it tastes good, and if you like it go ahead and invest in the bread maker. At least for me, it would be super frustrating to spend the money (and kitchen space) on an appliance and then discover that I hated everything I could make with it. Testing by hand first would also least let you know if the flavor/texture of what you can make at home is up to your standards, and then you could turn over the "work" to the bread machine. :)

For what it's worth, I will pimp Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. They have the main recipe free on their website, and you can purchase the book if you like it and want to branch out. Although I have not tried the gluten free version, I make their regular version all the time, and it is SO MUCH EASIER and less work than regular bread-making. I think it would work in a bread maker if you reduced the quantity, but you might try it by hand and see what you think. The idea is that you mix up a batch once, and you then stash it in the fridge and get multiple loaves out of it. I've gotten into making homemade pizza, homemade naan, fresh rolls, etc. and although I will sometimes do regular/more complex recipes, I've found that this method really works for me when I'm in a rush and don't want to deal with anything fancy.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

My mom has been gluten free for about 10 years and bakes a LOT. Proper sandwich bread is the one thing (with machine and without) that just can't be made well, in her opinion. She's also tried a lot of the commercial brands, and says that Udi's is the best, but still needs to be toasted to be considered "good."

Quick breads like zucchini or banana bread can be made with gluten free flour mixes without issue, but also rely on sugar and egg for structure.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:56 AM on November 14, 2014

Baking gluten-free bread that is both tasty and has a nice texture, and doesn't rely on sugar, is really difficult to do. So breadmakers are more or less out for the purpose--you're going to make a not-insignificant expenditure for a sort-of-edible-but-not-great product. Commercial GF breads rely on a whole bunch of emulsifiers and gelling agents to do their thing, and usually taste like cardboard and sugar anyway.

If what you're aiming for is bready-type-things and not specifically standard-sandwich-bread-minus-gluten, you're going to do better by looking at non-Euro cuisines that use other starches, as opposed to trying to recreate wheat bread without one of its most important ingredients. Corn tortillas are delicious of course, but you may also want to look at recipes for hemp bread (if you can get hemp where you are).

Is your gluten-free concern related to celiac? If not, low-gluten flours may work for you. Spelt is commonly used. It's not zero-gluten, so if you're baking for someone with celiac it's a no-go.

Some starting points:

Arepa - a type of cornbread. Try also this search for chickpea bread made in breadmakers. Bammy, from Jamaica, is based on cassava (yucca), no gluten. Dosa is made with rice flour (and is deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelicious). Here is a bunch of recipes using rice flour; I've never made any of them so not sure which will come out better. And here is Wikipedia's list of breads, some of which are GF, which can give you a good starting point for things that already taste great, often don't use added sugar, and are pleasing to eat.

I get that a lot of these are standard-baking-type-things, and not quite so easy as 'dump in a bowl and walk away,' but I really think investing in a breadmaker is basically going to be a wasted cost for not very good product. That said, only you know how much time/energy you have to invest, so there's a couple links there to breadmaker recipes that are designed to be GF.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:36 AM on November 14, 2014

I have celiac. I've tried gf bread in a breadmaker (various recipes, some from King Arthur Flour's website, one from Cook's Illustrated, etc.). It wasn't very good. Most of the recipes I've found online or in cookbooks are...gummy or cakey, and generally they don't taste like bread.

The best I have found is the solution rainbowbrite had - Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It's quick and easy (make up a big batch of flour and store it, then just take out what you need, add water, yeast, and salt, mix, wait, refrigerate or bake) and it makes great bread. I've baked it as a sandwich loaf, as baguettes with various toppings, as pizza, and as flatbread. The pizza was delicious, whereas the other recipes I've tried have been revolting. The bread is good enough I made it for a family meal where I was the only gluten-free person and everyone liked it. Try out the recipe on their site and see if you like it. It gets better after a rest of a few days before baking. The book has eggless and other versions if you enjoy it. You can mix by hand or with a mixer. The eggless dough will last in your refrigerator for a week or so, so it's convenient. Their recipe has only a small amount (I think 1-2 teaspoons) of sugar, and it's optional.

Another good resource might be Elizabeth Barbone. She has some recipes on seriouseats, though I'm not sure if there are any breads.

I would think a mixer would be a better investment than a breadmaker if you don't have one, for the space and cost. Baking a smaller loaf is often helpful with GF to give more loft to the finished product. Plus, it won't last long unless you freeze it, so baking a small loaf or a couple rolls as you want them might be the best way to go. A thermometer will also help to make sure you don't get undone insides when you bake. If you want to splurge, I've found that a baking steel yields far better results than a stone.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 1:25 PM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

I can't speak to recipes per se, but I've tried just about every gluten free flour mix, and have hated the majority of the things I baked.

I taught myself to bake authentic (Peter Reinhardt) french bread before I knew I was gluten-intolerant, so I have those techniques in my wheelhouse, and definitely feel your pain on the lack of good gluten free bread.

Then I found Cup for Cup flour. It's what Thomas Keller uses in his restaurants, so you know it has to be super high quality. I get it from Amazon in 25 lb bags for just under $90, which I know seems like a lot. But it's worth it.

I've made pizza dough with it and found that you didn't actually need to knead it - it rests a bit and then you roll it out. That's it.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:14 PM on November 14, 2014

The life-changing loaf of bread

Gluten-free, no kneading, mixed right in the baking pan so you don't even need to wash a mixing bowl. Also low glycemic index, high fiber, high protein, etc.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:53 PM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Holy hell, d. z. wang, I wish I could eat that. It looks beyond delicious.

(I'd quibble with the 'healthier' claim; nuts are fulllllllllllllllllllll of fats. Most of them good for sure but still.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:10 PM on November 14, 2014

Reviewed by the author of "Make the bread, buy the butter." (tl;dr it unfortunately un-grows on you. Or her, rather.)
posted by d. z. wang at 9:42 PM on November 14, 2014

The "Bob's" bread mixes (this one) have worked quite well in our bread machine. My wife is gluten-free and likes the bread better than Udi's or anything we can find commercially.
posted by mmoncur at 2:50 AM on November 15, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm going to try a recipe or two without the bread maker. But I do have a line on a handmedown (which I will scrub) so I might give that a whirl too. Thanks! I'm looking forward to trying some recipes.
posted by Ollie at 5:03 AM on November 15, 2014

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