The Technicalities of Creating a Soft Eating Gluten Free Loaf

For many bakers the gluten-free sandwich loaf is often seen as the holy grail of bread-making, as it is a challenge to make a full flavoured, light tasting bread without gluten. As many recent gluten-free bakery product launches have demonstrated, it’s a growing market and offering a gluten-free alternative is big business. Thew Arnott’s Technical Manager, Graham Booth, looks at the challenges of removing gluten, while still ensuring the bread looks and tastes good.

“Gluten, which comes from the Latin word for “glue”, provides elasticity and strength to traditional dough. When kneading bread dough or making pizza dough you will have witnessed the stretchiness of gluten in action. Without this rubber band-like protein, gluten-free breads have insufficient material to give the loaf its structure.
While wheat-based bread can be made with just wheat flour, water, salt and yeast, gluten-free loaves, however, require reformulation with numerous ingredients to replace the high levels of starches and gluten (cereal protein) found in wheat flour. Alternative starches must replace the two long sugar molecules, Amylose and Amylopectin, found in wheat. These starches give the bread its characteristic crumb and texture.

So, what’s the secret to good soft-eating gluten free bread? Even though most gluten-free flours contain starch, many do not contain enough to make a soft sandwich loaf. Therefore, we need Tapioca Starch. Without it the loaf is liable to turn out dense and heavy. Tapioca Starch is rich in Amylopectin which also adds an almost gluten-like stretch to recipes. Notice I said “almost”. There is no like-for-like replacement for gluten. Tapioca Starch makes bread which is lighter than both corn starch (which can get a little heavy) and potato starch (which is light but doesn’t add much stretch).

We also need Xanthan Gum to support the Amylopectin in the (gluten-free) starch. Xanthan Gum is not a gluten replacement, but it does prevent gluten-free bread from collapsing in on itself. Made by a bacterium called Xanthomonas Campestris, Xanthan Gum becomes very viscous and sticky when combined with water. It doesn’t quite have the same elasticity as gluten, but it does a good job providing structure to gluten-free products. If you omit it from this recipe, you would make a very short, very dense loaf of bread”.

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