/ Food & Drink

Can breadmakers produce a decent gluten-free loaf?

Gluten-free bread

Have you tried making gluten-free bread in your breadmaker? Were you disappointed with the results? Perhaps it’s more important to change our mindset than our recipes in order to get a better loaf…

During our recent live breadmaking Q&A, members asked about making gluten-free loaves in breadmakers. They wanted tips on baking a successful loaf as their recipes were producing disappointing results.

But why is it such a big issue? Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, and triggers an immune reaction in people with coeliac disease that can damage the lining of the small intestine.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease which, Coeliac UK says, is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60. By the time some people are diagnosed, they may be so used to eating ‘normal’ bread that gluten-free options seem disappointing. But why – are our expectations higher than they should be?

The worst thing since sliced bread?

Linda Smith, said:

‘I’ve just bought a Panasonic 256 breadmaker. I have to have wheat-free bread but no matter how well I follow the recipe/instructions, it doesn’t produce a decent loaf. I have tried three times using different recipes and the results are greasy, wet, flat and unappetising – disastrous! What am I doing wrong?’

But what do we class as a ‘decent’ loaf? Admittedly, if you compare gluten-free bread and a normal homemade loaf, the two look nothing alike.

Gluten-free bread is denser and has a closer crumb texture, as it’s the gluten strands in wheat flour that give bread its structure. Recipes have to compensate for the lack of gluten in flour by using other ingredients; and the flour itself (rice or potato can be used) makes the texture dry and crumbly.

And because the bread structure and texture won’t be the same, gluten-free bread is never going to look or taste anything like a normal loaf. So maybe gluten-free bread should be described as a gluten-free alternative, rather than ‘bread’?

Gluten-free bread on test

We wanted to put this to the test further, so we enlisted the help of expert baker Patrick Moore, of the More? Artisan bakery, to assess gluten-free bread made in two Best Buy breadmakers.

I’ve never made gluten-free bread, so when I saw the results I thought I’d done something wrong. They hadn’t risen as much, were almost brick-like in appearance and one was slightly sunken on the top!

Our expert, however, actually thought they were OK – for gluten free loaves. The texture and taste was more like a crumpet than bread, but both had a nice thick crust – and didn’t taste as bad as I was expecting. Granted, I wouldn’t swap my usual homemade loaf for them (if I didn’t have too), but I still went back for more.

How to improve your gluten-free bread recipe

Our expert’s advice on making gluten-free bread is to add an extra egg, or soak seeds overnight and add them in, or experiment with a little more (or less) water. And if all else fails Patrick recommends trying ready-mixed gluten free bread flour.

Most breadmakers now come with a gluten-free setting, but some don’t, so if you’re in the market for a breadmaker with a gluten-free setting we’ve just added this search option to our breadmakers reviews.

Do you make gluten-free bread in your breadmaker and have you any success stories you’d like to share? Do you think we need to lower our expectations in order to enjoy our gluten-free loaves?

Jocelyn Droppa says:
29 September 2011

In my experience gluten free bread needs a more slow prove than ‘normal’ bread to give it the structure. I would try making it with chilled liquids and taking it out of the bread maker to prove and see if the results are different. I gave up on the breadmaker I used to have when I was first diagnosed because the GF function was a lot faster than normal bread – when it actually needs to be slower.

Daniel Lunn says:
30 September 2011

Your remarks on gluten free bread are interesting, but do not solve my problem and what is, I suspect, a problem shared by many others.
I don’t need gluten-free bread – I need WHEAT-free bread, and nowhere do you mention this in spite of Linda Smith (mentioned in your article) stating specifically that her problem is wheat intolerance. I can have rye, buckwheat, cornflour, oats, etc. and and I can even tolerate spelt. I have a bread maker, but nowhere can I find a decent recipe for, say, rye bread or spelt bread which doesn’t have wheat in it. I’ve just come back from Brittany where one of their traditional (and superb) breads is made from rye and buckwheat so I know it can be done but I cannot find a recipe for doing it in a breadmaker.
Would it be possible to persuade an expert to produce breadmaker recipes breads with grains other than wheat?

Katrhrein Curtin says:
1 October 2011

I very much agree that there is not enough advise on wheat free bread. Any help in that direction would be very welcome!

Lesley says:
23 June 2012

I hope you have found what you are looking for, before I knew I was gluten intolerant i tried making bread with spelt flour in a breadmaker, it was amazing, but because it rises so fast the best way is to use the “Dough” setting, let it rise once (proving) then let it knead then take it out and put it in a normal loaf tin to rise and bake it in the oven, it gives superb results. Some breadmakers have a spelt setting. Other than that the book mentioned by others for gluten free bread and cakes is ok but take notes as you use it so you can adjust the liquid to suit.

Joychip says:
1 January 2016

I use the following recipe and use the basic setting for a nice spelt loaf.
500g White spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
300 ml water
1 tablespoon oil

Colette says:
15 June 2016

Spelt is in fact a form of wheat. Like other forms of wheat, spelt contains the gluten protein, and therefore isn’t safe for those of us who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Hope this helps!

Chris Gordon says:
30 September 2011

HI you need a Panasonic which will bake a proper rye loaf I think. Most breadmakers as you say use a mixture of flours. I happen to love rye bread and wanted a breadmaker which can cope with dark rye flour. I haven’t bought one yet though, so check the recipes online at Pansonic

Yvonne Coppock says:
30 September 2011

There’s a book called “Gluten-free Bread & Cakes from your breadmaker”, by Carolyn Humphries, available on Amazon. It has lots of bread recipes. My favourite is Mixed Seed Bread which is made with rice flour, but you need to experiment for yourself to see which you like. I add poppy seeds as well as the sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds she suggests, and I find the seeds help to disguise the fact that it’s not proper bread. She also recommends using Xanthum Gum (available from health food shops) to give something nearer to the consistency of wheat. The trick is to time your baking so that the bread is ready just when you want to eat it. You get the lovely smell of fresh bread and it tastes good straight from the breadmaker. However, after that it’s really only nice toasted. So slice it and freeze it, so you can take out a couple of slices to toast when you need them. Having said all this, since I discovered Genius bread (available at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and health shops) I hardly ever make my own, because Genius is the nearest you can get to real wheat bread.