December 2, 2013
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?
There are two components to learning to bake gluten free bread:
1) Following a recipe exactly and
2) Closely observing the break making process.
When I speak of learning to bake gluten free bread, I’m talking about deep level of knowing. 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 cooking class 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: