The Gluten Free Bread Flour Test

Preamble

Since finding that she was gluten-intolerant, my wife had been buying a commercial, gluten-free bread. (I tried it and found it sweet and quite revolting.) Having to undergo a further trial without dairy products, we discovered that all the gluten-free breads available through local shops did, in fact, contain dairy products, showing a need for a more reliable source of gluten-free bread.

The easy answer – and best, in my opinion – would be for that bread to come out of our own kitchen. I began, therefore, to make experimental batches, the results of which I will set down here.

A Little Sunbeam

Due to our rather extremes of summer heat, running an oven on a regular basis to make bread is simply out of the question. I already make my own bread (by the French definition: yeast, flour, salt, water), using a geriatric but reliable Panasonic bread maker.

To avoid any cross-contamination, we acquired a Sunbeam Bakehouse Compact. This is a very basic machine, and an example of value engineering: whilst our Panasonic has an LCD status display, this has only a set of red LEDs to indicate the selected cycle. How long it has to run at any point, is anybody’s guess, unless the start time was noted.

Small and basic though it is, it can certainly turn out an adequate loaf, when fed the right ingredients. In this larger version of the picture at the top of this page, the two machines are shown together, the Sunbeam on the left.

Flour: The Contenders

Three flour blends were put to the test:

  • Healtheries wheat and gluten free Simple Bread Mix
  • A bread mix from Kylie’s Bakery in Adelaide
  • A hand blended mix from a recipe from Lola Workman’s Wheat Free World

Healtheries Simple Bread Mix

This mix comes with recipes – so many, in fact, that some are printed on the inside of the box. With the flour mix are provided two packets of yeast (two used for hand-made, one for machine).

Following the directions on the packet, everything went well until the start of the bake cycle – the dough collapsed completely in the middle. What came out of the machine was somewhat like an anaemic brick (only slightly heavier).

Not being one to let such things lie, I contacted the manufacturers in New Zealand, explaining what I had done and what had happened. (Unfortunately I managed to erase the photo I took, by mistake, otherwise I would have sent that and also posted it here.) After a few days, I received a reply from someone who would appear to be one of the company’s product development cooks. She was very helpful, made suggestions and requested further information. After a second exchange of e-mails, I was advised that other customers had also had problems with Sunbeam machines. Oh, well. Had I been inclined to persue this, I am sure that I could have got a successful bake, by tweaking the recipe.

Conclusion: although I did not get a successful loaf (the dogs liked it, though), I was pleased with the level of customer service received, and will be doing a pastry experiment with another of Healtheries’ products.

Kylie’s Flour

This mix, which is used by Kylie for the bread that she bakes and sells, comes with a hand-bake only recipe stuck to the bag.

After comparing a few recipes and having a think about it, and in the absence of a bread maker recipe being provided, I made this up the way that I thought it should be done, and ran the machine on the French cycle (longer bake), as I found the actual bread from Kylie distressingly pale.

Overflow! As many of the recipes I had seen incorporated egg, I put one in my mixture. The pan overflowed, giving me a fun cleaning job inside the machine. As the dough (actually batter) was still risen, I popped it straight into a bread tin and into the oven – luckily it was not a hot day.

The result of this bread with expansionist ideas would be most accurately described as cake. The egg had pushed it beyond a bread and closer to a brioche. Still, not a bad result apart from the time it took me to clean out the machine.

A second attempt from the same bag of flour – without eggs – came out fine. Not a wonderful taste, but something that actually looked like a loaf of bread (not cake, not a brick).

But here is the snag – the mixture contains soy, which my wife is only supposed to have in small quantities.

Conclusion: makes an acceptable loaf, but contains an unacceptable ingredient.

Lola’s Flour Recipe

I can tell you exactly what went into this, as I blended it all myself, based on Lola’s fine/bread flour recipe:

  • 135g chickpea (besan, gram) flour
  • 135g potato flour
  • 70g fine rice flour
  • 70g arrowroot (tapioca flour)
  • Salt
  • 330g water
  • 25g vegetable oil (I used peanut)
  • half a packet of yeast

This was baked on the French cycle and came out reasonably, but a little crumbly.

I repeated the above, but this time added 8g of guar gum; this may have been a little excessive, as I had to use a half litre of water to get the batter consistency correct.

The result of the second try seemed to be about right – a little bit more height and not crumbly.

Taste Test

My wife, being the consumer of all this, concluded that she liked Lola’s/my recipe the best, but that it could do with being sweeter. 50g of caster sugar will be added to the next batch.

I still was not taken with result of the Lola/Smiffy bread, due to the fact that my rather sensitive pallet could taste nothing but chickpeas, which I like, but not as bread. My wife could not pick up this taste, so there is no issue.

The most important lesson that I gained from these trials came from Lola’s book: gluten free bread is not made from a dough, it is made from a batter. It was this information that enabled me to guess the recipes to within a smidgin of being right.

To any aspiring gluten-free bakers out there, visit Lola’s site, buy her books, especially if you do not feel confident with working without recipes.

Here endeth the quest for a gluten and dairy-free loaf. It has been an interesting cooking experience for me, but as I am lucky enough to be able to do so, I will stick to wheat.