Embarking on a gluten free diet is a challenge, and a major change for most people. You may think you have to say goodbye to fresh baked bread, steaming from the oven, slathered with butter – but do you? It turns out there are many choices for gluten free breads that you can bake at home, and eat hot and fresh. In this post I compare four different gluten free bread mixes for taste, nutrition, and breadiness of the finished product. I will be continuing with this gluten free bread adventure in future posts, testing as many gluten free bread mixes and flours as I can get my hands on.
The gluten free bread mixes I tried called for some or all of the following ingredients: oil or butter, cider vinegar, eggs with sometimes extra egg whites, honey, salt and water or milk. They all came with their own yeast packets included in the mix.
Most of these mixes give instructions for bread machines, but I made all the loaves the old fashioned way, letting the ingredients rise and baking them in the oven.
Gluten Free Pantry
First I tried two mixes by Gluten Free Pantry, a french bread and a sandwich bread. The main ingredients in the french bread are white rice flour and potato starch. The instructions say to put the batter in a loaf pan, but that didn’t seem right for French bread, so instead I shaped it into a french bread loaf on a greased baking sheet. The bread dough is too moist to work with your hands, so I poured it onto the pan and shaped it with a rubber spatula. This shape held well during baking – it doesn’t have the spring of traditional dough so was a little flat on the bottom, but passable. This bread had a fantastic texture fresh out of the oven, and was great as an accompaniment to soup or stew. It had a bland flavor eaten on its own though, and didn’t hold up very well to toasting.
Next in line was Gluten Free Pantry sandwich bread mix. The main ingredients are white rice flour, brown rice flour and potato starch. This bread rose quickly and rose even further in the oven, producing a gloriously high loaf which is great for sandwiches. It had a spongy consistency and what I call a “ricey” taste.
Both the Gluten Free Pantry mixes made wet dough that you could easily beat up with a regular mixer paddle, but too wet for a dough hook or hand kneading.
The verdict for Gluten Free Pantry is a big thumbs up for consistency and breadiness, but the taste was bland. This still would work okay for a sandwich bread or a bread served with something hearty that would compensate for the lack of flavor in the bread.
Nutritionally I’m afraid this bread is not much better than refined wheat bread, since the fiber content is less than a gram per serving.
Schär Classic White Bread Mix
Next I tried Schär Classic White Bread Mix, which bills itself as Europe’s #1 gluten free bread. This mix does not call for eggs, so make sure it rises as high as you want it before baking, because it won’t rise in the oven the way the other mixes do. My loaf turned out to be a little low because I hurried it along. The main ingredients here are corn starch and rice flour, and the mix also contains psyllium seed husk, which ramps up the fiber to 2 grams per serving. This dough is stiffer than the others I made, and you can even work it with a dough hook or your hands.
Schär Classic White Bread Mix had a nice spongey, bready texture and more complex flavor, without the ricey taste of the previous bread. Nutritionally this is a better bread, since the fiber content of two grams per serving is about what you would get in a slice of whole wheat bread.
Bob’s Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix
Finally I tried a mix that really excited me for its nutritional value and promise of variety. Bob’s Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix lives up to its name with ingredients such as whole grain buckwheat, garbanzo bean flour, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, whole grain sorghum flour, tapioca flour, cocoa powder, fava bean flour and caraway seeds. This was a dark bread that would make a good substitute for rye.
This bread was easy to mix and rose well, rising even further in the oven as it baked. The finished product had a nutty, almost chocolatey flavor, with an ever so faint taste of caraway seeds. I have to tell you that I’m not a fan of caraway, but it didn’t bother me in this bread.
This bread had a crumbly texture which made it tend to fall apart, however it won hands down for the most interesting taste. Bob’s Red Mill is the nutritional winner as well, with four grams of fiber per serving. This bread is a good source of fiber and other nutrients that are often lacking in a gluten free diet. I am thinking it will go really well with jam.
These breads don’t seem to have the shelf life that a loaf of wheat bread has. They get stale quickly. So eat up and enjoy your gluten free bread while it is still fresh.