Serious Eats: Recipes

How to Make Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread

Gluten-free bread. I'm the first to admit it suffers from a bit of a bad reputation. The premade loaves tend to be expensive and homemade recipes often are dense and fall apart when sliced. What's a gluten-free eater to do? Live without bread? My answer to that is an emphatic "No!" Gluten-free bread can be wonderful! For my first column on Serious Eats, I wanted to share my recipe for Easy Sandwich Bread. In this column, I'll be baking all sorts of gluten-free goodies: cakes, cookies, pies, etc. But bread seems like the perfect place to start because sometimes in life, you just need a sandwich. Let's get baking!

Unlike wheat-based bread, which can be made with only flour, water, salt and yeast, gluten-free bread requires a few more ingredients. While I am happy there are more "exotic" gluten-free flours on the market, this recipe only uses two specialty gluten-free ingredients: brown rice flour and xanthan gum.

The one ingredient that might have made your ears perk is xanthan gum. Usually the follow-up question to, "Elizabeth, how do I make bread?" is "Why do I need to use xanthan gum?"

Simply put, you need xanthan gum because you don't have gluten in the dough. Gluten, which comes from the Latin word for glue, provides elasticity and strength to traditional wheat-based doughs. If you've ever kneaded dough or watched someone throw pizza dough over their head, you've witnessed the stretchiness of gluten in action. Without this rubber band-like protein, gluten-free bread dough is lacking the essence of what gives bread structure.

Enter xanthan gum. While I wouldn't go as far as calling xanthan gum a gluten replacement, it does prevent gluten-free bread from collapsing in on itself. Made from a microorganism called xanthomonas campestris, xanthan gum becomes very viscous and sticky when combined with water. It doesn't have the same rubber band-like properties of gluten but it does a good job providing structure to gluten-free breads. If you accidentally omitted it, you would have a very short, very dense loaf of bread.

After a temporary hiatus, "Gluten-Free Tuesdays" are back. Elizabeth Barbone of GlutenFreeBaking.com will be joining us every other week with a recipe. (Elizabeth will be alternating Tuesdays with Shauna James Ahern, who will join us again next week.) Please give Elizabeth a hearty SE welcome! —The Mgmt.

[Photographs: Elizabeth Barbone ]

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