Tips for Baking Better Gluten-Free Bread
Correctly measure your flour.
When measuring flour, don’t scoop from the bag with your measuring cup. This can compress the flour — up to 25%! Use a spoon to scoop flour into the measuring cup and level off with a knife instead. One step better is to weigh your flour. My Jules Gluten Free™ Flour weighs 135 grams per cup. Measuring by weight will ensure that you have the correct amount of flour in any recipe.
Sometimes the problem is with the GF flour used, not the recipe.
Even 1/2 cup of flour can make a huge difference in the results you get with any recipe. It’s not enough to just use any gluten-free flour you choose. Follow the flours recommended for each given recipe to get the results promised.
3 Loaves – all the same recipe, using 1/2 cup of different GF flours
Bring your ingredients to room temperature before mixing.
It is particularly important for yeast recipes that you bring all of your ingredients, such as eggs, to room temperature before adding them together to make bread. Yeast needs warmth to grow and if your ingredients are too cold, it may prevent full yeast growth.
Never knead or punch-down your gluten-free bread dough. Never.
It is essential when converting wheat-based bread recipes to gluten-free, that you not follow the directions. That’s right! Break all the wheat/gluten dough rules when baking gluten-free bread! Any kneading beyond simply mixing the dough well, and any punching down of the gluten-free dough will punch the risen life out of it. Those steps are designed to “exercise the gluten” and make it more elastic. We have no gluten in our recipes, so nothing to exercise, and more than that, these steps will actually cause your gluten-free recipe to fail! It is for this reason that I counsel people when first attempting to make gluten-free breads, to follow a gluten-free bread recipe or two, just to get the hang of it. If you are an accomplished bread baker, it may feel weird for you to abandon these techniques, but trust me, you must!
Shape or braid bread doughs before rising.
Because we have no rise and punch down and second rise and punch down … when baking gluten-free breads, you’ll want to shape any breads before the rise (they’ll only rise once!). Dinner rolls should rise in the shape or tin you would like them to bake in; bread sticks should be formed before rising; cinnamon rolls should rise in their pans; challah must be braided and then allowed to rise. Don’t mess with gluten-free dough once it has risen, just bake it!
Make sure your loaf of bread is actually fully cooked.
It is very important not to take your bread out of the oven before it is fully cooked. If the bread has a rubbery layer at the bottom, this usually means it was not fully cooked. The best way to tell if the bread is done is to insert an instant read thermometer all the way to the bottom of the loaf (but not touching the pan). The temperature should be approximately 205-210º F when it is done. Your bread should keep its shape when it is completely baked.
If baking by oven method, use metal pans.
I have found that glass bread pans do not work as well as metal pans in fully cooking a loaf of bread. Metal pans do not have to be fancy or expensive, and you can often even find them in your local grocery store.
A great method for letting your yeast breads rise before baking is to turn on your oven to 200º F, then turn it off when it has reached temperature.
Put your un-raised bread into the warmed oven with an oiled piece of parchment on top and a bowl of water in the oven with it, then let it rise according to directions. Once raised, remove the parchment and bake according to directions.
The longer you can let your bread rise, the better it will taste and the less likely it will be to collapse. A good rule of thumb is to let the bread rise to the top of your pan before baking; a slower rise to that level will produce a better loaf, so make sure it isn’t rising in too warm of a spot.
“Proofed” yeast should look like this. If not, throw it out and start with fresh yeast.
If you’re still having issues with getting your yeast breads to rise, try “proofing” your yeast first.
Place the yeast in a bowl with the liquid called for in the recipe (water, milk, etc.), but make sure it’s warm. If you can add a teaspoon of sugar, that’s helpful. Whisk it gently and let it sit for 5 minutes. If it’s starting to have that familiar yeasty smell, foam up and swell, it’s good and you can add it to your recipe; if it’s stagnating and not getting foamy or rising, throw it out.
Yeast can go bad, as can baking soda and baking powder. Sometimes the problem is your ingredients, not you. What a relief, right?
How to prevent your bread from sinking.
When your bread is done cooking, turn off the oven and open the door so that the bread can cool slowly. Taking the bread out of a hot oven and quickly transferring it to a cool counter can sometimes cause the loaf to sink in. If it still sinks, it may have too much moisture to support itself fully. It should still taste great, but if you have your heart set on a nice crowned loaf, next time try cutting back on the liquid a bit in that recipe or adding 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal to help support the bread’s structure and enhance its nutritional value, all in one! Altitude and even the day’s weather can affect sometimes-picky yeast recipes.
What if my bread has a rubbery layer on the bottom?
If you still wind up with a rubbery bottom on your loaf, there are a couple things that could have gone wrong. First, you might have over-beat the dough. Unlike gluten doughs, gluten-free bread doughs should not be overworked, and doing so can sometimes make them a bit rubbery. Second, if you are baking from scratch and adding your own xanthan or guar gum, you might have added too much. Third, there might be too much liquid in your recipe, all settling at the bottom and not baking off, while also weighing down the dough. Fourth, the loaf might not have baked all the way. If the top is baked and getting a nice crust, but the bottom isn’t all the way done, cover the loaf with foil and keep baking! (Ok, I guess there were more than a couple things …!)