One of the worst things that can happen to any baker, whether a newbie or veteran, is a fail. Failing at a loaf of gluten-free bread can be particularly painful, the cost of ingredients, the effort, the wait – all for something less than par, and possibly inedible. Figuring out the how and why your loaf of gluten-free bread is half the battle, from there it’s practice.
Several reasons can result in your gluten-free bread having a gummy texture, from the most complicated being the ratio of flour to starch to the most simple being mixing and baking time and lastly it could be an excess of Xanthan Gum.
Most important is to follow a recipe as accurately as possible, without skimping on ingredients or trying to cut corners, as well as practice. Practice is likely just as important because you become more and more familiar with the process, and get closer and closer to your desired results (which is really quite satisfying).
The Flour Issue
Your safest bet when it comes to baking your own gluten-free bread is to use pre-blended flour for the type of bread you’re planning to make. There are plenty of pre-blended gluten-free flour options out there to suit a myriad of gluten-free bread types, even some that serve as closely as possible to all-purpose wheat flour. If, on the other hand, you prefer to see exactly what’s going into the flour blend you’re using to make gluten-free bread, there are several “flour” recipes using a variety of ingredient combinations for different flour types to make your own gluten-free flour.
|Examples of Starches used in Gluten-Free Bread|
|Arrowroot Flour||Made by grinding up the root of a tropical plant akin to cassava, yucca, or tubers known as Marant arundinacea. It is flavorless and can be used as a thickener, binder, as well as in gluten-free flour blends containing almond, tapioca, or coconut flours.|
|Cornstarch||Grinding the endosperm of a kernel of corn produces a fine white powder known as cornstarch (not to be confused with cornmeal, which is much more coarse and heavy. Often used in gluten-free blends of flour.|
|Potato Starch||Potato starch is derived not from the whole potato, but the starch that is found in potato peels. It is not the same as potato flour, which is the whole potato dried up and then ground. Potato starch has no flavor provides a tender crumb, as a binder, and helps with the overall structure. Using too much will make the final product crumbly. Works best when combined with other flours when baking.|
|Tapioca Flour||To produce tapioca flour, the root of the cassava plant is ground up. Essentially flavorless and having zero nutrition, it is used in gluten-free flour blends more as a binder. Adding structure, texture, and elasticity as well as a crispier crust. Over-adding tapioca will lead to a denser and often lead to a gummy gluten-free bread. Ideally combined with heavier flours (i.e., millet)|
|White Rice Flour||White rice is finely ground to produce white rice flour, has a very mild flavor is often used in gluten-free flour blends. Not so great on its own, but works well in combination with other flours.|
|Glutinous Rice Flour or Sweet Rice Flour||Made from sticky short-grain rice. It actually contains more protein than it does starch, but is still often used combined with other flours in a gluten-free flour blend giving a sweet and light texture to the end results.|
When it comes to the flour portion of the gluten-free flour blend, bean, seed, and nut flours can be used in the same way a whole grain flour is used, concerning the ratios within the blend you are making. Bear in mind, that the flavor of the end result will be a tad overwhelming when using larger amounts of bean or legume flours.
|Flours Used in Combination with Starches|
|Whole Grains||Seeds & Nuts||Legumes|
|Amaranth FlourBrown Rice FlourBuckwheat FlourCorn FlourMillet FlourOat Flour (ensure it’s certified gluten-free)Rice FlourSorghum FlourSweet Potato FlourSweet Brown RiceTeff FlourWhite Rice Flour||Almond FlourChestnut FlourCoconut Flour (absorbs a lot of moisture, so to be used sparingly, or with added liquid i.e., extra egg)Hazelnut FlourFlaxseed MealSalba/Chia SeedsHemp FlourMesquite Flour||Fava Bean FlourChickpea / Garbanzo Bean FlourGarfava FlourKinako (roasted soybean) FlourSoy FlourPea Flour and Green Pea Flour|
Here’s where you have to be mindful if you’re planning on making your own blend. The ideal ratio of gluten-free grain to starch ranges from as little as three parts grain flour to one part starch and as high as half and half. A flour blend with more than fifty percent in starches is going to make for a gummy texture in your bread. Additionally, if you’re planning to use a combination of starches in your gluten-free flour blend, you’ll want to stay within the 20-25% range of each type of starch, ideally sticking to just two.
Mixing & Baking Time
I think it’s fairly clear by now, that gluten-free bread is different than regular bread in more ways than simply not having gluten. Beyond the various grain, starch, and nut flour combinations to lend different flavors, textures, and types of bread, one example might be mixing time. While with regular bread dough you don’t want to over-mix or knead thereby breaking the gluten structure, with gluten-free bread mixing it really well is useful in producing a lighter batter, with more pockets of air. Mixing your gluten-free batter or dough really well also means the ingredients are well distributed, ensuring a consistent texture and flavor.
TIP: Using seltzer or soda water can help add more bubbles and create a lighter, less dense gluten-free loaf of bread.
Gluten-free bread is a smidge fussy in that any little variation, whether by substituting, altering, or omitting key ingredients that a recipe provides will seriously impact the results. If your aim is to avoid a gummy texture then you’ll want to stick to the recommended amount of gum, whether xanthan or other, that the recipe calls for as the results are bound to be gummy.
Baking time is another easy fix when it comes to gluten-free bread. Often the gummy texture is simply the result of under-baking. If you find this is happening to you, try adding 5 to 10 minutes to your baking time. After this, use thermometer (if you’re in the market for a thermometer, read “The Best Bread and Oven Thermometer You Should Use and Why”) to check that the internal temperature of 410°F (210°C) or more for a fully cooked loaf of gluten-free bread.
Finally, once it’s fully baked you can leave the bread in the oven for a few minutes with the oven door open to really make sure you avoid a gummy texture. Remove it, wait and let it cool. Like many a baked item, whether with or without gluten, slicing it when it’s hot might have a gumminess to it merely because of cutting into it too soon. Having a little patience will go a long way here – read a book, tidy up, it’s worth the wait.
Too Much Xanthan Gum
Xanthan Gum is the ingredient that replaces the gluten in gluten free bread. it is what helps to bind the ingredients together and allows for air bubbles to be trapped inside the dough and allows it to rise and be fluffy. The tradeoff is that if you use too much of it your dough will end up being gummy. It is in the word of the actual ingredient Xanthan Gum. Xanthan gum is used in very small quantities and you must be measured accurately as it is really easy to overdo it.
Make sure you have a scale that can measure in increments of at least 0.1 grams or 0.0035274 oz. This will at least give you a good start. if you notice that you are measuring correctly as per your recipe and you followed all of the above with flour blends and mixing times than you might want to consider to reduce the amount of Xanthan Gum used.
So, What Does it all Mean?
While making your own gluten-free flour bread can be satisfying and allows you to have fresh gluten free bread, it will definitely have its trials and errors which all boil down to a few fails, some practice, and ideally, a few successes for the hope towards constant success.
Overall, if you aren’t making your own gluten-free flour blend to make bread, then the troubleshooting is quite easy and limited to either not mixing the ingredients well enough, too much Xanthan Gum or too short a baking time. These issues are fairly simple to fix – make sure you mix well, and if your gluten-free loaf of bread is looking under baked (of the internal temperature isn’t where it should be) leaving it in the oven for a little while longer can make all the difference.