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Monday, March 12, 2012

GF Bread - 15 Months Later

Gluten free bread baking is a funny thing.  Literally.
At least its funny if you don't have high expectations.  I've shared some successes in the past, but now its time to come clean about the failures.  Maybe someone else can learn from my (many, many) mistakes.

1.  DO NOT use a dough hook - My very first experience with making GF bread involved a dough hook, as I'd always done with regular bread.  The recipe didn't call for a dough hook.  I assumed I needed it.  What a disaster.  The bread had a tunnel of gooey raw dough in the center.  Looked in my standard cook books for problem solving advice.  Diagnosis:  Insufficient gluten development!  Ya think? LOL Take note, use the same mixer attachment you would use for mixing a cake. 

2.  The Incredible Shrinking Loaf - The tendency of GF bread to deflate after baking is by far the most frustrating thing.  And look at the crust on that slice of bread - way too thick and dark - but I had to (oven) bake it that way to make sure it was fully cooked to a proper internal temperature (GF bread contains eggs).

I did a lot of bread baking with about a 50% success rate in the early days.  The winter of 10/11 was harsh, so I didn't mind taking time to experiment.  But come spring and summer I went to buying bread because I wanted to spend more time outside.  Come fall, I kept buying it because I didn't want to deal with the double rising and unreliable results.  But there is a trade-off.  I evenutally grew tired of paying $7.30 for a 1 lb. loaf.

In December 2011, Santa brought me my Cuisinart bread machine with a GF setting.  Things have improved greatly since then.  No need to babysit the dough through double risings.  I put the ingredients in the machine and just walk away.  A few hours later I have fresh, hot bread.  Loaves are uniform in size and shape with no shrinking.  Still, I've learned a few things... 

3.  Take the temperature of the warm water or milk.  Don't exceed 105 degrees.  If you do, the yeast will go crazy and your dough will rise right up and over the pan and start burning on the heating element.  Your smoke detector will go off.  Your dog won't like it.  Neither will you.

4.  READ the entire set of instructions before baking a loaf.  One brand (Pamela's) explicitly instructs you NOT to use the GF setting.  I, of course, learned this hard way and ended up with a short, gummy loaf. 

5.  Using buttermilk sounds nice, and gives a better texture, but it changes the flavor.  I recently made my favorite mix using buttermilk (in place of sweet milk or water) and wound up dissappointed.  I learned I like buttermilk in pancakes, not in bread.  If you are looking for a tangy, sourdough-type flavor - buttermilk will do the trick.

6.  Sometimes mistakes are a good thing.  The above mistake made me realize what was wrong about my favorite scratch recipe.  I'd been using buttermilk.  Tried it again - with regular milk, and it tasted great.

7.  Thou shalt not forget the mixing paddle!  This was one of the rare times I left the house while the bread maker was running.  The unmixed ingredients had started to bake by the time I returned.  I dumped the whole mess into the trash, and then thought I must have dumped the mixing paddle too - because it wasn't in the pan.  After thoroughly digging through all the trash and NOT finding it, I discovered it was clean and dry, sitting next to the dish strainer.  Doh!

SO, if you manage to avoid all of the above mistakes, here is what you can expect from my two favorite mixes:

A BIG improvement from the first two pictures, huh? 
And with less time involved.
But if you DO make one of my many mistakes, take heart.  Cosmetic defects often taste just fine, and if you can't use an odd shaped slice for a sandwich or toast, use it for bread cubes.  Just freeze them until you have enough for bread pudding or croutons.  And when you're done slicing save the bread crumbs too.  You wouldn't believe what they charge for these two GF items at the grocery store!

For a comparison of cost, flavor and quality of various mixes and frozen breads, see:

For my favorite bread mix (oven baked) and technique see:

For my favorite GF scratch baking cook book see:

Happy GF baking! :)

1 comment:

Doreen said...

Wow~that is so interesting! I am not one of those GF ppl but am always wanting to learn more of the "chemistry" of baking/cooking. Thanks for "coming clean"-hehe-even regular bread has its moments! We really love bread pudding around here....especially made with homemade bread! Hugs.....