When it comes to baking your very own gluten-free bread, it’s both a labor of love as well as a lesson in patience through the process of trial and error. In fact, if you’re a beginner, there’s going to be a whole lot of trial and error. Though, the truth is, even if you’re on the more experienced side of things, you’re still likely to run into the odd fail here and there. One particular fail that is pretty much a rite of passage in the world of gluten-free bread is the “collapse.”
So, how to avoid the dreaded “fail” of a collapsed, sunken-in loaf of gluten-free bread? Well, it boils down to pretty much three possibilities, you’re either one; over-proofing, two; not quite hitting the mark with the oven temperature and baking time; or three, adding too much water.
Making your gluten-free bread doesn’t really allow for much experimentation or wiggle room for substitutions or omissions of ingredients. The key to a good loaf of gluten-free bread is to follow the recipe you’re using as closely and accurately as possible. Once you’ve practiced and had several experiences, you’ll have a better handle as to where, in a recipe, you can make adjustments (if any). Expertise gives you the flexibility and know-how to make adjustments, if necessary, and the knowledge of how to fix any mistakes when things are going wrong fairly quickly.
Proofing time is important with any bread whether it’s gluten-free or not. With regard to gluten-free bread, it gives the dough time to strengthen in order to capture the pockets of gas being created by the yeast as it’s eating through the sugars.
Now, despite the fact that the ingredients in a gluten-free bread mimic as closely as possible gluten characteristics, it still ain’t gluten. Sticking to the suggested amount of proofing time is imperative, as going beyond can almost guarantee that your dough will over-proof. Obviously, there is a little wiggle room here, particularly in regard to the ambient temperature; so that in the winter your proofing time is likely to be longer than in the summer.
Many recipes offer the suggestion of allowing your gluten-free dough to proof, doubling in size. Stick to the suggested time, even if your loaf hasn’t doubled in size.
Another way in which gluten-free bread gets a little help along the way is where it’s proofed; namely a loaf pan. Proofing in a loaf pan helps by maintaining the shape and structure of your baked loaf of gluten-free bread. Being forced to stay within a confined space, allows the dough to rise upward, rather than expanding out and potentially flattening. There’s just one hitch, or not really a hitch, but you don’t want to allow the bread to rise above the rim of your loaf pan. An overabundance of gas accumulates within the dough, therefore leading to the baked loaf collapsing during the baking process or just after removing from the oven.
While it may be tempting to allow your gluten-free dough to rise above the loaf pan because it looks like it will be that much fluffier and airy, don’t. It’s important to remember that there is a final rise in the oven, so your dough still needs the “walls” of the loaf pan to help maintain its shape and structure.
Time & Temperature
Gluten-free bread tends to bake better at lower temperatures than regular bread. The reason for this is that gluten-free bread recipes call for more moisture than regular bread. Baking at a lower temperature allows the gluten-free bread to rise without baking it too quickly and dry out enough to set the shape and structure of the final loaf.
TIP: If you find that your loaf is browning too quickly, you can tent some aluminum foil over it once it has stopped rising.
So, taking the temperature down from 325°F (163°C) to 300°F (150°C) and adding another half an hour to the baking time, should help to prevent your loaf from sinking or collapsing after baking.
Once it’s baked, leaving the gluten-free loaf of bread in the oven with the oven door propped open to cool down slowly can help prevent that sudden collapse from the drastic temperature changes.
Too Much Moisture
So, you’ve adjusted the proofing time – you aren’t over-proofing. You’ve lowered the temperature and extended the baking time – and it’s still collapsing. What now? It’s very possible that there is too much water, or moisture in the to allow the baked loaf of gluten-free bread to support itself.
So, if you find that your loaf of gluten-free bread collapses after baking but isn’t wet or sticky in the middle, it’s likely due to an excess of water. Try reducing the amount of water you use by about ¼ cup (59g). As long as the dough is still fairly wet, and not at all crumbly, this minor adjustment shouldn’t affect the overall taste of the baked result, but will most certainly help maintain its structure and help avoid the dreaded sink or collapse.
The Key Takeaways
The main takeaway, particularly when it comes to gluten-free bread (and I really cannot stress this enough) is that when following a recipe try as hard as possible to stick to the recipe and avoid adjusting, omitting, or using alternatives. Unless the recipe offers areas for you to make adjustments, you really should just avoid it. Sticking to the recipe and the instructions will more or less guarantee the desired outcome of a great loaf of gluten-free bread.
If you want to steer clear of a loaf that sinks or collapses once baked keep in mind the following:
- You don’t want to over-proof, stick to the suggested amount of time and avoid allowing it to double in size (remember it will rise even more during the baking process)
- Lower the oven temperature, and increase the baking time – just a bit.
- Reduce the amount of water (I know I said stick to the recipe BUT if the above two tactics haven’t affected whether your loaf sinks or collapses, this minor adjustment can make all the difference.
That’s it, like I’ve said before baking, in general, is a labor of love and a process of failures and successes. The more you practice, the better you get. Don’t give up, just keep trying and you’ll get there.