Bread seems like such a simple food. But, when you contemplate removing it from your diet, you realize what a huge part of our life it is–culturally, emotionally, socially, and most of all practically. Bread, and particularly sandwich bread, is a staple food because it makes a meal so easy. Just throw on some peanut butter and jelly, or ham and cheese and you’ve got what most of us would call a meal. Losing the bread that we love is the hardest part of going gluten free and staying gluten free. Because of that, the next several emails in the course will cover topics relating to gluten free bread.
Thankfully, we now have many options for procuring good gluten free bread. You can buy gluten free bread at the grocery store, or bake it at home using a mix or your favorite recipe. The best option for you will depend on how much time you have, how much money you’re willing to spend, and how picky you are about your bread.
If you’ve looked at the price of gluten free bread and flours, you’ve already had the experience of a near heart attack. Yes, it is expensive! And, it’s expensive because it takes a lot of extra work on the farmers and manufacturers part to make sure that the flour, dough, and bread stay gluten free until they get to your home. So, just accept that you’re never going to buy a $1 loaf of bread again.
That being said, there are ways to make gluten free bread less dear. Store-bought bread is generally the most expensive, but you can sometimes find coupons for it in the store or online that make the price more manageable.
Gluten free bread mixes are pricey as well, but they are often more widely available in stores than pre-baked breads and individual gluten free flours.
Most of the time, homemade gluten free bread will win the cost competition. I just calculated the per loaf cost of my Finally, Really Good Gluten Free Sandwich Bread recipe and it came out to $3.01 per loaf, and that’s for a pretty large loaf of sandwich bread. (I don’t have a loaf handy, but I think it weighs around 24 oz. after it’s baked). In comparison, a 12 oz. loaf of Udi’s gluten free bread (which is one of the best pre-baked loaves) costs about $5.85.
If you’ve tried gluten free bread and thought it was horrible, let me start by saying that it’s not all horrible. I’ve eaten plenty of delicious gluten free bread since going gluten free. You just have to have a little patience and diligence to find it sometimes =)
The quality of storebought bread is improving (thank God!!). Udi’s and Rudi’s are our favorite brands and you can often find them in the freezer section of large chain grocery stores or health food stores. Whole Food’s gluten free bread is also good. Enjoy Life’s GF bread was dry and crumbly when we tried it this winter. Against the Grain Gourmet makes a mean gluten free baguette!
You can make an incredible variety of gluten free breads using mixes. There are so many GF bread mixes on the market right now, and they use a lot of different flours and recipes. You’ll really be amazed at the different tastes and textures that you can get in gluten free bread. Finding a bread mix that you love is simply an exercise in trying different mixes and seeing what you like.
The best gluten free bread that you will ever find though, is the gluten free bread that you make at home. (Homemade wheat bread was always better than the store bought loaves too, right?) Making gluten free bread at home is really not at all difficult once you have a good recipe and a little practice.
Obviously it’s faster to buy a loaf of bread. Store-bought bread wins this one hands down. However using a packaged mix cuts down on the time to some extent. Baking bread at home takes the most time, but later in the course I’ll show you how to save time making Gluten Free Bread at home if you’re using a recipe.
An interesting phenomenon happens when someone starts start a gluten free diet. They instantly start shopping for a bread machine and for a stand mixer! Instantly!
Why is this?
It’s like their brain automatically jumps from, “I need to bake gluten free bread. That’s going to be hard!” to “Therefore I will need hundreds of dollars of counter-consuming, kitchen appliances to make this easier.” That couldn’t be further from the truth!
In fact, spending hundreds of dollars on a bread machine and stand mixer could keep you from becoming a confident gluten free baker.
What Does It Mean to “Know” How To Bake Gluten Free Bread?
When I speak of learning to bake gluten free bread, I’m talking about a deep level of knowledge. If you can’t explain what is going on in each step of the bread-making process, troubleshoot problems, and confidently try substitutions, then you don’t KNOW gluten free bread. That’s the level of “knowing” that I want my students to come away with.
How do a bread machine and expensive stand mixer come in the way of that?
First, when you use a bread machine you don’t see what happens. You put the ingredients into the machine and then it does everything else. You don’t see what the dough looks like after it’s been mixed. You don’t know the temperature of the “oven”. You can’t see how the bread is rising. Basically, if some aspect of the bread doesn’t turn out right, you don’t have any knowledge of what happened after you closed the bread machine lid to help you figure out the problem.
If you bake your bread in a loaf pan in your oven, you can see the bread. You can watch the dough as you mix it and determine if the flour:liquid ratio is correct. You can watch the bread rise in the loaf pan and see exactly when it needs to go into the oven and if it’s rising too quickly or too slowly. You can watch the bread while it’s in the oven and see how much rise it gets from the “oven spring”. You can see if it’s rising very high and then falling.
You can measure the internal temperature of the bread and know, with certainty, that is is done (or not done). You can use an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oven. You can change the size of your loaf pan to get a different loaf shape. You can experiment with different pan materials…stoneware or stainless steel or glass. You can take notes on all of this in your kitchen notebook, and then you’ll actually be able to ask for help with your bread baking and have the information that an experienced gluten free bread baker will need in order to advise you.
The only problem with the stand mixer is that it’s expensive. If you have joint issues, then a stand mixer may very well be necessary. But if you don’t need a stand mixer and if you have a limited budget your money is better spent on equipment that will help you bake bread better.
Here’s the kitchen equipment that I think every new gluten free baker should buy instead:
Finding the right gluten free bread option for you will be a balancing game. Once upon a time we only ate gluten free bread that I baked at home. Now that we’re traveling, we’ve been using more mixes. When we visit our families at the holidays, we often buy pre-baked gluten free bread at the grocery because it’s the most convenient option. If you’re new to gluten free, don’t get discouraged. Based on what you’ve just read, figure out whether buying bread, baking from a mix, or baking bread from scratch makes the most sense for you. And then start small; try one bread and see if you like it. If you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Find another option and try it.
Categories: Pillar Articles - Bread