Baking is a challenging art, that over time becomes more and more intuitive producing better and better results. Some lessons take a while to figure out, while others are pretty quick and easy to figure out. The latter is obviously where it’s at. When you get gluten-free crumbly dough, it’s pretty easy to feel out at the beginning of the preparation process, saving you time and ingredients right from the get-go.
When your gluten-free bread dough is way too crumbly, it is likely the result of either an excess of dry ingredients (i.e., gluten-free flour mixture) or too little moisture being added during the initial mixing and measuring phase. To fix it, you can try adding small increments of liquid and mixing until you get the desired texture.
The fix here seems fairly straightforward, but you have to take into consideration that the measurements in the recipe have changed. Think about, for example, whether you mismeasured the dry ingredients or the wet, or perhaps you substituted a different glute-free flour than the recipe called for. Whichever is the case, there is likely to be an impact on the final results of your baked gluten-free bread.
Back to Basics
I cannot stress it enough, whether you’re just starting out in gluten-free baking or you’ve been at it for a long time, you must follow the recipe you’re using to a ‘T’. Gluten-free bread recipes are finicky, if you adjust, omit or substitute even just a little bit, the baked end product can turn out less than ideal and quite possibly inedible.
TIP #1: To avoid having to omit, adjust or substitute any ingredients in the recipe you’re following, go through the recipe first. Make sure to ask yourself if you have the time, the right (amount of) ingredients, and the tools that are being called for in the recipe. If the answer is no to any of these you can plan accordingly.
It may seem silly, but if you’ve ever been caught while preparing your gluten-free bread dough, just as you realize you don’t have a pivotal ingredient, you know what I mean. You undoubtedly don’t want to throw any of it out (the ingredients be expensive, yo!), but truth be told, even once it’s baked there is quite a good possibility that it’ll be thrown out anyhow.
So, it might seem type-A to follow a recipe exactly as is stated, in addition to going through the recipe to ensure you have everything you need to make it right. In the long run, however, it will save you time, money, and your tastebuds. You’ll be much happier having done it right the first time, rather than going through the headache and heartache of a failed attempt.
TIP #2: It’s worth investing in a scale if baking is something you do regularly. Using a scale to measure your ingredients means, you can weigh your mixture to see whether or not it’s off. It’s much easier to re-trace any mistakes you’ve made along the way if you know the difference in weight between what you have and what it should be.
The Dry Ingredients
If you’ve been researching gluten-free bread baking, or you’ve been in the thick of it, then you may be aware of the fact that not all gluten-free flours are the same. What may work for cakes, muffins, and cookies, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for bread. That being said, you’ll want to pay attention to the types of gluten-free flour combinations you’re purchasing and pay attention to the intended use. If bread isn’t listed, then it’s best not to be used as such.
When starting out with gluten-free bread, it’s easiest to start out with pre-mixed gluten-free flour mixtures. Mixing your own as a novice is likely to lead to a range of successes and failures. Becoming familiar with the texture and consistency of gluten-free bread dough using a pre-mixed gluten-free flour combination, allows you to gain more experience successfully. Once you become more familiar your expertise will increase, and you may want to dabble in making your own gluten-free flour mixtures.
The whole grains that are often used in gluten-free flour mixtures usually absorb a lot of moisture, which can impact the texture of the dough making it more crumbly. This is why you often find gluten-free bread recipes call for more moisture than feels intuitive. To read more about the different types of whole grains, seeds and legumes used to make gluten-free flour you can read my article Why is My Gluten-Free Bread Gummy?
One way to avoid adding too much gluten-free flour to your recipe is to withhold about ½ cup (about 2.25oz / 64g) from the mixture, that way if it’s isn’t need you’ve saved yourself from having to add any additional liquids. Keep in mind, gluten-free bread dough is more like a thick batter rather than like a (gluten) bread dough.
The Wet Ingredients
As stated above, most gluten-free bread recipes call for more liquid, whether water, dairy, or non-dairy milk, oil, eggs, etc., than you’re used to if you’ve worked with gluten bread recipes. Here I wouldn’t hold back any liquid, as was suggested above in the dry ingredients, use what is called for, but try to avoid using more. You may no longer have a crumbly dough but could end up with a gummy baked gluten-free bread.
Also, as stated above, best to follow the recipe and all its suggestions. If the recipe calls for reserving some ingredient or adding in increments, then do it as suggested. To be completely honest, that’s the best way to avoid a gluten-free bread baking disaster.
Ultimately, as has been perhaps over-stated (and I’m sorry about that) follow the recipe you’ve chosen to use. It’s been tried and tested, and you definitely want to avoid having to make adjustments, like adding incremental amounts of water to moisten your dough to get that batter-like consistency. Making adjustments means you don’t know what kind of results you’re going to end up with, and following the recipe as closely as possible pretty much ensures you the desired results.
- Follow the recipe
- Make sure you have all your ingredients in the right amounts
- Measure as precisely as possible, ideally by weight
…and if you’re afraid of a crumbly dough and want to avoid it altogether, hold back a little on the gluten-free flour mixture, and add only as needed.
That’s it. Pretty uncomplicated.
You’ve got this.