Note: I originally published this post in April, but my friends and I have tweaked the bread recipe since then, so I’m making the changes and bumping it up for the rest of you to see.
It’s been nearly a year since I was diagnosed with serious food allergies, which was followed pretty closely by me being diagnosed with atypical celiac disease. (A set of food allergies often indicates a further gastrointestinal issue at the heart of the allergies.) For nearly a year, I’ve gone without really good bread–and for the most part, I’ve adjusted. Before my diagnoses, I had already cut back the number of starches I consume, limiting my starch preparation to one kind per meal in the process of taking care of myself. After all, I figured, do I really need bread and potatoes, or cornbread and rice, at the same meal? Unlikely–the calories usually stack up way past the nutrients when starches are doubled. After my diagnoses, for most of my meals, I’ve either used an alternate starch or just skipped the starch—and will continue to do so.
But there’s something about bread, right? And I’ve missed that something. So when I came across a gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, dairy-free (vegan) bread recipe reputed to be great for sandwiches, I had to give it a try. My hopes were not too high, because I have altered and tried several well-reviewed gluten-free bread recipes that have not turned out so well. It’s hard to make good bread when you’re cutting out the soy, dairy, and eggs in addition to the gluten, because those other ingredients are often used to prop up what breads are lacking from the gluten. But this one I could make purely as it was written, and that excited me.
Mixing the various flours for the bread, I relished the experience. I thought, Even if the bread doesn’t come out right (and it probably won’t), this is fun. It was a bit like playing in the mud or in some rain puddles as a child. Some of the very starchy, light flours I was using puffed clouds into the air as I measured them out. As I continued to measure and combine flours, I looked down to realize I was covered in smears and streaks of the various flours. A friend arrived at my apartment, and she laughed at my powdery coating. “Why didn’t you wear an apron?” I just shrugged and grinned.
Once I had combined the flours, the bread came together very quickly in the mixer–but not without me managing to splatter my bluejeans with dough (I do not claim physical grace as one of my virtues). The bread rose on top of the warm oven and then baked inside it. Another friend, upon arrival, sighed in pleasure as the heavenly scent of baking bread reached her nose.
When I pulled the bread out of the oven, I frowned as I pulled off the aluminum foil: the color was not quite was I expecting–it was lighter–and there were mottled streaks in the bread. I thumped the top of one loaf, and it sounded right–just hollow enough on the interior. I held my breath as I sliced into it–crunchy outside, soft interior. But what would the taste be? I was torn between feeling dubious and hopeful. I took a bite and chewed. And closed my eyes. And felt a surge of pure joy. Then I opened my eyes and wondered, Do I think this is great purely based on my loss of the ability to remember gluten-y things correctly? I called a friend to the kitchen pass-through window. This friend was recently diagnosed with severe food allergies–it causes a chain reaction of diagnoses when people around you see your symptoms and healing and get tested themselves. Because she had only gone without gluten for three weeks at that point, I knew she’d be a better judge of the comparison to regular bread. “Taste this,” I said, holding out a piece of bread and offering no further information. She took a bite and closed her eyes. When she opened her eyes, they filled with tears. Her face flushed, and she looked a bit embarrassed. “It’s okay to cry,” I said. “It is that good.”
“It’s real bread,” she replied with a teary smile, and asked for another slice.
We sat down to dinner–two gluten-avoiders, two gluten-eaters–and together, we demolished a loaf over the course of the meal.
Delicious Gluten-Free, Vegan Bread
Recipe for 2 loaves—it is okay to halve the recipe if you want to make just one
Note: If you are using a mixer that doesn’t have a great engine, you may want to mix it by hand at the end to ensure it’s all mixed. Since there’s no gluten to get tough from overmixing, you can mix until you’re confident.
In a large mixing bowl combine:
1 1/2 cups millet flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup cornstarch (or double the potato starch if you can’t eat corn)
1 cup potato starch
1 cup tapioca flour
4 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
4 tsp olive oil
3 1/4 cup warm water (not hot)
Mix with electric mixer–using paddle attachment, NOT regular beaters or bread hook–for two minutes. The bread dough will be more like cake batter than traditional bread dough.
Two options for the rising:
For the best rising: While mixing the bread, create a proofing box from your microwave. Microwave a small mug or ramekin with water until the water boils. Leave the water in the microwave. Pour the bread dough into two nonstick or well-greased pans. Tuck the loaves into the microwave with the water—the container of water should not be touching the pans. (I have to remove the turntable in my microwave to do this.) Allow to rise until batter extends a bit over the top of the pans–generally 30-50 minutes.
Standard method: Pour into two nonstick or well-greased loaf pans, place on a warm surface (such as on top of the pre-heated oven), and cover with a towel. Allow to rise until batter extends a bit over the top of the pan–generally 50-70 minutes. (Batter should take up about half the loaf pan before rising.)
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove loaf pans from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Return to oven and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. (Insert a toothpick or knife into the center to see if it comes out clean or doughy, if you aren’t sure when you pull out the bread.)
As with most breads, it is easiest to slice if you allow it to fully cool. But who can wait that long? I usually let it cool for a little bit, and then remove the loaves from the pans and place them on a rack to cool more while I slice it up. The bread tastes delicious warm, dipped in olive oil and herbs or spread with honey and ghee. It also works well for sandwiches after it has cooled. If you won’t be eating it within 2 days, after it’s cooled, slice it, wrap it in a couple of layers of plastic wrap, and freeze it. Never refrigerate this or other bread—it will get dry and hard if you do. If you leave the bread on the counter (wrapped), it will be good for all purposes for a couple of days. After that, it will be best used for bread pudding, French toast, croutons, etc.
Note on recipe alterations: It’s been several years now since I published this recipe, and there are over 250 comments on it at this point. If you need to make alterations to the recipe, you will probably find an example of where someone has successfully changed the recipe to suit your needs if you take the time to read the comments. I’m no longer replying with suggestions when people need alterations, because there are so many options already included in the comments. Also, though you may be able to reduce it or change the kind you use, some form of actual sugar (fructose, glucose, sucrose) is essential in this recipe, because the yeast consume it and release carbon dioxide as a result, and that’s what makes the bread rise. If you cannot eat yeast, I would suggest looking for quick bread or soda bread recipes, but yeast is essential for traditional sandwich bread texture.