Bread Experiments

 

Purpose of the experiments

Wheat-free baking is never going to rival wheat-based baking. Wheat is a pretty singular substance. There is nothing quite like it:

Gluten-free yeast-leavened breads are commercially available. A few of them are even good, but the vast majority bear little resemblance to artisan or even supermarket wheat bread. There are also a number of innovative gluten-free cookbooks, and while a number of these breads taste very good, their texture and keeping qualities are less than desired. There are ways to make gluten-free baking better. There are new methods, and there are new products. The purpose of these experiments is to find ways to create better bread.

The first seven experiments focus on my preference which is flavorful bread with an aggressive texture - not "health food" style bread, but something akin what good wheat-based bakeries in Italy and France produce and what craft bakers produce in the US. I've not achieved this level of excellence, but that is my goal. However, not everybody likes robust breads. Some people like bread that is mild, fluffy and takes a supporting role to that which accompanies it. Nothing wrong with that. If this is the bread you want, read the first two experiments and jump to Experiment 8.

What's new and what's old?

Expandex is new
The latest is new product is Expandex, a non-GMO modified tapioca starch. It adds extra stretch to non-gluten bread.

Questions and Answers

Here are some questions and answers regarding my personal opinion on Expandex:

Q: Is Expandex really different or is it just like regular tapioca starch?
A: No, it is really different. Tapioca starch sometimes pours and splashes, but Expandex has a different texture. Bread that is baked with Expandex is much more stretchy. You can slice the bread thinly and make sandwiches. The bread doesn't crumble easily.

Q: How much Expandex do I need in my recipes? Expandex is expensive.
A: Yes, it is expensive. However, I've made bread with a lower percentage of Expandex than the manufacturer uses in the single sample recipe, and both breads are very good. Expandex is worth the expense. The trick to using it will be to use the right amount in the right type of bread. At the present time, I believe that the amount is on the order of 1 - 3 Tablespoon per 3 cup-of-flour recipe. I've not yet made GF pasta from GF flour mixes. This ratio could be different.

Q: Should I use Expandex to make cookies and cakes? The manufacturer says that it makes crispier cookies.
A: I don't know about you, but crispy cookies are not a problem for me. There is hardly anything more crispy than a Scottish shortbread made with rice flour. Making cake-like cookies and softer cookies has been an issue that gluten-free bakers solve with difficulty. Short answer: If it looks like a sandwich loaf, I'll think about Expandex. If it is something else, we probably have a recipe for a really good gluten-free version. Some of these cake and cookie recipes have been shared at: http://base.google.com/base/a/vdolcourt .

Q: If I use Expandex can I make good tasting breads that do not use xanthan and guar gum?
A: Yes, the manufacturer's bread recipe does not have xanthan or guar gums or gelatine. However, they recommend about 50% Expandex in your dry ingredient recipe. I think the resultant is a bit too much like rubber bands.

Q. My bread shrinks and falls in, but it tastes good. Does Expandex prevent the shrinkage?
A: I don't think so. I used Expandex in a recipe that used to fall in, and it still falls in. But if you follow the recipes in Expandex Experiment #1, these have a pretty good chance of not falling. Experiment 2, described below, discusses some strategies for making more stable yeast breads.

Q: Can I just mix Expandex with one of the commercial flour mixes - like Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Mix - and achieve the desired results?
A: Sort of. The manufacturer recommends this. I more-or-less tried this in Experiment 2, and I did get some extra stretch, but the result was not nearly as good as when I substituted a portion of the tapioca starch in the basic flour recipe for Expandex. So, I don't really recommend that approach. Although I did not do a exact one-to-one experiment, the results didn't warrant spending either the time or resources perfecting the addition of Expandex to pre-mixed flour recipes.

What's old?
Your current gluten-free yeast bread recipes if you are unhappy with them. I was certainly am unhappy with them until I got well along into experimentation. I am working on modifying them to improve physical stability, meaning I don't like the shrinkage when the bread cools and I hate it when the bread falls in the middle. See Experiment 2 for the results of some testing modification of both flour mix and recipes. Maybe you can modify your present recipes and get more enjoyment from them.