In today’s lesson, we’re going to delve more deeply into the issue of whether it’s best to bake bread from scratch or to use a mix. Baking bread scares a lot of people, especially baking bread from scratch. For that reason, a lot of people on a gluten free diet use bread mixes. However, I think there is real value from a cost perspective, as well as from a culinary perspective, in baking your own gluten free bread from scratch.
The Pros of Using A Gluten Free Bread Mix
If you have a bread machine and a gluten free bread mix, you can pretty much take yourself out of the bread making equation. You dump the mix into the machine, add a few ingredients, turn the machine on, and then in a an a couple of hours you (hopefully) have a delicious loaf of gluten free bread.
Baking bread with a mix is definitely the easiest of the home baking options. There is very little measuring involved. You only have to buy one mix, not three or four different flours. The yeast comes in the mix and you, generally, do not have to proof it. Mixes also make it very easy to try a lot of different types of gluten free bread and get a feel for what you like.
The Cons of Using A Gluten Free Bread Mix
While baking with a mix is easy, it also means that you’re stuck with the recipe that the bread mix makes. Why is that a bad thing? It’s a bad thing because sometimes mixes don’t always turn out exactly right.
If you’re baking from a recipe, you can always just tweak the recipe to make it work better. But when you’re using a mix, you don’t know how much of each ingredient is used, which makes it more difficult to figure out what is going wrong. And, if the manufacturer included too much of an ingredient, you can’t take it out.
If you have multiple food intolerances it can also be difficult to find a mix that will work for you. Mixes often use corn starch, potato starch, rice flour and xanthan gum – all of which are problematic for quite a few people. I find that it’s easier to handle multiple intolerances when I bake from scratch. I can find a good recipe that works for most of my intolerances, and then make substitutions as needed.
The cost of gluten free bread mixes is another con, at least for me. The dry ingredients for my Finally Really Good Sandwich Bread recipe cost about $2.35 per loaf. Most gluten free bread mixes cost at least twice that much.
What do I use? Both!
I used to be completely anti-mix. However, traveling constantly and having very limited storage space has changed my tune. I now appreciate the convenience of a mix, and when I bake gluten free bread I generally use whatever mix I can find. However, I still love baking bread from scratch and when we settle down in a city for a while, then I buy individual flours and bake my own bread from my own recipe.
It really does come down to figuring out which option works best for you given your current circumstances and your goals for baking gluten free bread. If you want really great quality and flexibility in ingredients, then you’ll be better off baking from scratch. If you want convenience, a dump and bake option, or just have limited access to individual gluten free flours, then mixes may be your best option.
Below are a few popular gluten free bread mixes and their ingredients (copied from Amazon sales page or the companies website). If you’re still trying to find a bread mix that will work for your diet, perhaps one of these will.
If not, get on the internet and look around for other options. Amazon, Vitacost, and Gluten Free Mall are all good starting places. You can also Google “gluten free bread mix” to find other options.
If you’re at the stage where you’re wanting to learn more about gluten free bread recipes (and how to make your own or customize the recipes you find online), here’s your assignment:
Go through the following ingredient lists and classify the ingredients in each mix into the following categories: flour, sweetener, leavening, flavor enhancer (e.g. salt), and binding agent (e.g., xanthan gum). You’ll probably have to do some research on some of the ingredients. When you’re done, you’ll be well on your way to possessing a great cheat sheet for gluten free baking substitutions.
White Rice Flour, Brown Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Skim Milk, Whey, Corn Starch, Brown Sugar, Guar Gum, Salt and A Packet of Yeast.
Sorghum Flour, Tapioca Flour, Sweet Rice Flour, Brown Rice Flour, Organic Natural Evaporated Cane Sugar, Chicory Root, White Rice Flour, Millet Flour, Honey and Molasses; Rice Bran, Sea Salt, Xanthan Gum, Yeast Packet.
Garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, corn starch, white sorghum flour, tapioca flour, turbinado sugar, fava bean flour, xanthan gum, active dry yeast, potato flour, sea salt, guar gum, soy lecithin. Manufactured in a facility that also uses tree nuts and soy.
Corn Starch, Rice Flour, Dextrose, Vegetable Protein (Lupine), Psyllium Seed Husk Powder (Vegetable Fiber), Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Salt may Contain Soy
Chebe All Purpose Bread Mix – Manioc (tapioca) flour, modified manioc starch (100% manioc), iodine-free sea salt, cream of tartar, sodium bicarbonate.
Specialty flour blend (rice flour, tapioca starch), tapioca starch, potato starch, sugar, emulsifier (rice starch, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, mono and diglycerides of fatty acids), salt, xanthan gum. Produced in a dedicated gluten-free, allergen free* manufacturing facility.
* Free of the 8 most common food allergens.
– Mary Frances