Bread in its’ endless variations, remains one of the core elements of many meals with gluten free bread as the natural substitute. Unfortunately it also remains one of the most challenging areas for the gluten intolerant and Coeliacs.
The shop ready range of gluten free breads and bakeries producing a myriad of delicious gluten free pastries, has grown considerably over the past ten years but many Coeliacs still prefer to make their own. Whether by hand or using a bread machine, being able to enjoy a good sandwich or plain slice of toast remains the goal of many.
The Internet contains a wide range of historical accounts for bread stretching back 30,000 years but gluten free bread is considerably younger. The focus of our gluten free bread section is on the specifics of making good bread at home and for those occasions when you don’t want to bake, where to nip out and buy some.
Baking Bread Vs Breadmakers
Your first decision when baking bread at home is manual or machine.
Manual bread making is a lot of fun and gives you a great range of options in types of bread, style and flavours. It is also the most time consuming and potentially messy.
Machine made bread uses a “breadmaker”, combining your ingredients in a miniature oven with a built in kneading ‘paddle’. Basic machines will combine, knead and bake your bread while more advanced versions will adjust for the outside air temperature, allow you to add extra ingredients such as nuts or fruits and offer a range of loaf sizes.
Choosing a Flour
The next decision is your choice of flour. There are a number of gluten free flours available on the market but there is also the option for blended flours.
Traditional flour comes in varieties based on which wheat varieties are used and how they are milled. The different varieties can depend on when they are grown, Autumn/Winter or Spring and can have different characteristics, classified by the amount of protein they contain, i.e. strong (hard) or weak (soft) wheat. The other difference is endosperm texture, between soft and hard, endosperm being the nutrient providing layer within the seed.
These classifications are translated further on the flour packets:
hard / hard = Strong White (Bread Flour)
hard / soft = Plain Flour (often a blend of hard & soft flours)
soft / hard = Pastry Flour
soft / soft = Cake Flour
Beware of buying international flours as each country classifies their flour differently. French bread flour for example use a weaker (softer) wheat than Britain and Ireland bread flour, so the finished texture, or crumb, will vary considerably.
The secret to choosing the right flour is deciding what you would like to bake, then picking the appropriate flour. Many flour packets will also give you suggestions for what to bake, which is a good guide to the types of bread suitable for that flour.
Some breadmakers’ instructions will also say that gluten free flour is not suitable for their timed functions. Instead there is a gluten free setting, designed to work with the ‘lighter’ texture of gluten free flour. This means the water and flour is added right away and the baking process begins instantly. With traditional flour, the dry ingredients can be mixed first with some warming before adding the water, but with the advancement in the range and textures of gluten free flours, particularly the blended flours, gluten free flour producers often recommend using the standard settings, giving you more options in your machine baking and a better bread.