I’ve been experimenting more with gluten-free baking, and today I wanted to share a foolproof recipe for a wheat-free sandwich bread. Vegan, of course.
I bake a lot and I love baking breads most of all. But I had rarely baked a bread free of gluten, unless you count some Indian flatbreads like bhakris and missi rotis which are often made with flours like millet and sorghum and corn. So when I rolled up my sleeves and set out to bake a gluten-free bread, I did a lot of reading and incorporated a lot of the advice in my recipe. Here’s what I learned:
–Start with an open mind, especially if you’re a seasoned baker, because all of your long-held notions about baking bread will be challenged. Gluten-free breads present a fundamental conundrum: gluten is the substance that gives breads structure and helps them rise (it’s why you knead bread dough so much– to develop those gluten strands that will stretch and make your bread grow big and light and airy in the oven). So then how do you get a bread that lacks any gluten at all to rise? Relax, because there is an answer: xanthan gum. This thickener adds viscosity and elasticity to a gluten-free dough, allowing it to rise in a hot oven, much as a wheat bread would. Xanthan gum can easily be found at stores like Whole Foods or online.
– Take time to mix your ingredients thoroughly, even if there is no gluten to develop. You will find lots of websites that say you don’t need to knead your dough, but trust me, mixing it for a decent period of time ensures that you get your dough to just the right consistency.That’s because gluten-free flours tend to be rather thirsty and you want to give them time to absorb all the liquid they can.
– Your gluten-free dough will look different: more like muffin batter than the average wheat bread dough. Don’t be tempted to add more flour. The wet dough will help create an airier bread. Also– big bonus!– your gluten-free bread needs just one, not two, rises, saving you time.
–Your baked gluten-free bread will also look different. Because of the wet batter, the finished bread will have a rather shaggy look to it, not unlike a banana bread, cracks and all. But who cares when it looks great sliced and tastes even better.
–Your gluten-free bread will taste different, because gluten-free flours tend to have a more robust, earthier flavor than wheat does. One of the ways to combat this is to use lighter flours like rice flour and oat flour in combination with some of the stronger-tasting ones, like millet or sorghum.
So now that you are privy to some secrets of successful gluten-free baking, let’s fire up that oven and get started. This bread uses millet flour, rice flour, and oat flour (be sure to buy one that says gluten-free, because some oat flours apparently can be contaminated with gluten while processing) and tastes, I think, as close to a wheat bread as can be. It also toasts really well.
Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread
1 1/2 cups millet flour
1 1/2 cups oat flour (make sure you buy one that’s labeled gluten-free)
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup flax meal
2 tbsp egg replacer (can substitute corn starch)
2 tbsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 cup almond milk mixed with 1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup (can substitute sugar)
1 1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Add the yeast and maple syrup to the water and let stand until the yeast starts to bloom, about 5-10 minutes.
Mix the various flours together with the baking soda, flax meal, egg replacer, and xanthan gum. Whisk everything thoroughly to ensure it’s all mixed together.
Add the almond milk to the yeast-water mixture along with the flours and salt.
Mix using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer or by hand. Drizzle in the oil as you mix. Continue to mix for about 8 minutes or until everything’s well-incorporated and you have a fairly smooth-looking, batter-like dough.
Oil a standard 9 by 5 inch loaf pan. Pour the dough into the pan and, using a spatula, even out the top as best as you can.
Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until the dough has domed around the top of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the bread for 55 minutes. Insert a thermometer in the middle at the end of baking– it should register at least 200 degrees.
Remove the loaf from the oven and let it stand on a rack until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Remove from the loaf pan and continue cooling the bread on the rack.