Gluten-free bread isn’t like bread that contains gluten (duh, right?). When making a regular loaf of bread, the gluten needs to be worked to become stronger and more elastic. Gluten is essentially what makes the bread, and the more it’s worked the better the gluten structure. So, you can naturally assume that gluten-free bread is going to be a little different, and the steps aren’t all necessarily the same.
When it comes to gluten-free bread, kneading more often than not doesn’t even apply. Most gluten-free bread mixtures tend to be more batter-like as a result of the higher hydration requirements, rather than dough-like, making it particularly challenging and even superfluous to knead.
Now, depending on the type of gluten-free flour, or gluten-free flour blend, you’re using there may be the occasional need to knead. Most importantly, follow the recipe.
Gluten Free Dough Texture: Dough or Batter?
On the whole, gluten-free bread tends to have a consistency much more akin to a batter, rather than doughy. Perhaps, depending on the flour mixture being used it can become something in between batter and dough, though likely closer to batter still.
Why is this? Well, the key here is that the flours and flour blends that are used to make gluten-free bread usually contain grains, seeds, and such that absorb a lot of moisture. Consequently, the gluten-free bread mixture tends to require much higher hydration to compensate for the high rate of moisture absorption of the whole grain, legume, seed, and/or nut flour being used.
Another thing to bear in mind is that most gluten-free bread recipes recommend flour that is a mixture of various ground-up seeds, grains, nuts, legumes, and even fruits. Each “flour” used to produce the blend, lends a particular attribute that when used collectively, mimics the results of regular wheat (or other gluten grain) flour. Each contributes to the overall nutrition, texture, consistency, and final product. As a result, there are many types of gluten-free flours out there, each with a specific “best use” whether for baking bread, cake, muffins, pancakes, you name it. Each is suited to the type of cooking or baking being carried out.
So, the upshot of all this is that gluten-free bread recipes usually require more moisture and ingredients to obtain results similar to that of traditional bread containing gluten. The bottom line is that that mixing is the key. Gluten-free baking, bread baking being the focus here, really do benefit from mixing the ingredients well. The purpose behind mixing all the ingredients thoroughly is to evenly disburse the ingredients, which leads to overall consistency. Leading to more air-pockets created by the mixing which provides a nice fluffy loaf of gluten-free bread.
Ultimately, if your mixture of gluten-free bread ingredients is more on the sticky and soggy side of things, then you’re on the right track to an ideal loaf of gluten-free bread. Here is where any experience with regular gluten bread baking needs to be set aside, as with it often comes the desire to add more flour when the mixture is too sticky – the opposite is true of gluten-free bread making.
So, No Need to Knead Gluten Free bread?
Traditional bread requires the work of kneading to produce a strong and elastic gluten structure with which to hold all the gas that yeast produces as it is eating up the sugars within the flour. When you aren’t working with gluten, there is no need to knead – simply mixing and ensuring that your yeast is active is essentially all that is required.
TIP: Make sure your yeast is active before you add it to your mixture by blooming it. Combine the water, a teaspoon of sugar, and yeast in a bowl and wait about 10 minutes. If you see that it is foaming up, you have active yeast. If not, you’ll need to chuck it and buy yourself a new package of yeast.
You will find that a stand mixer, or a bread machine with a built-in mixer, may become one of your favorite tools as either is quite helpful in ensuring everything is mixed efficiently; leading to an even distribution of all of the ingredients and producing those coveted air pockets.
If You Need to Knead
There is always going to be an exception to the rule, particularly in the craft that is gluten-free baking. With such a variety of ingredients and such a wide array of effects on the end product, it’s easy to understand why. If the recipe you are following suggests that kneading will be necessary it is necessary to keep in mind that gluten-free dough must be handled carefully. There is no gluten holding it together and, if you ever thought that gluten was easily broken, the gluten-free dough is a little more persnickety. What this all translates to is that you will have to take your time moving slowly and carefully. Working the dough too quickly and strongly will lead to a tough dough. You only want to knead the dough as much as the recipe calls for and no more.
If you’re a beginner at gluten-free baking, your best bet is to follow the recipe you’re trying out as accurately and precisely as possible. You do NOT want to stray, gluten-free bread is finicky, fussy, complex, and requires your patience. This means sticking to the ingredients as they are, with no substitutions, omissions, replacements, or additions until you’ve had enough practice that you can tell when you’ve done something wrong.
The truth is, that baking anything requires a lot of practice to gain the experience of knowing when things are working and when we can make changes and experiment. Following a recipe means that someone (or, perhaps several people) has already tested and vetted this method. Your results are likely to be similar, if not the same, so long as it’s followed as closely as possible. Thus if the recipe says to mix for 5 minutes at low speed, you mix for five minutes at a low speed. If it suggests kneading for 2 minutes, you knead for two minutes. The methods and the processes are completely dependent on the type of bread you’re aiming to make and the ingredients being used/suggested.