A month ago, I had the best Thursday ever. When I showed up to work, there were three bright orange Sainsbury’s bags waiting for me. Inside of them were gluten-free items I haven’t had in over two years, including: fluffy brown sandwich bread, pita bread, rosemary focaccia bread, and crumpets.
Since moving to Thailand, I have only really baked and eaten two gluten-free bread mixes. These are the Yes You Can Multigrain Bread and the Spring Hill Farms bread mixes. You can find more information on my reviews of gluten-free bread here.
While the Yes You Can bread is quite easy to make as you don’t have to wait for the yeast to rise it has a slightly eggy taste. I have also found that my stomach has difficulty breaking down the seeds. I have opted to put the mix in my food processor to mill the seeds, instead.
The Spring Hill Farms bread was my favorite for a while, as it has a nice outside texture, smell, and taste. Although, I grew tired of it getting hard after a day or two, especially when it takes a good two hours to make this bread. All the effort did not seem to add up to the end product. This mix is best used as a pizza base or buns which you can freeze and take out when you’re ready to bake.
So this leaves me at my current conundrum: how can I make a good bread that tastes excellent, does not fall apart for sandwiches, and makes a nice toast?
Living in Thailand certainly has it’s challenges. Unlike Canada or the UK, ingredients like Xanthum gum, agar agar and sorghum flour are hard to come by. Sunshine Market does have a few of them, but I have boycotted them because they have glutened me twice. So what’s a girl to do?
I can find Yes You Can & Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flours in my local Villa. They usually have buckwheat flour too. At my local Topps they normally sell white and brown rice flours, but some recipes call for glutinous rice flour. Will that be gluten free, if is it milled here in Thailand? I have no idea! I shall endeavour to find out.
Anyway, back to the point, this website lists 20 gluten free bread recipes that I shall experiment with. http://glutenfreeeasily.com/bountiful-bread-basket-top-20-gluten-free-bread-recipes/
I am going to try this one first. I will substitute the flours with 3 cups of the Yes You Can gluten free flour. http://simplygluten-free.com/blog/2013/04/gluten-free-soft-bread-recipe.html
Stay tuned for some updates!
Living in Bangkok does not offer a lot of options in terms of buying gluten free bread. There are no American chain bakeries or little French patisseries. If you want gluten free bread, you can marry a chef or make it yourself.
I chose the second option, as my past is littered with a few shady chefs and they need no longer apply (of course, unless you’re Gordon Ramsay). That being said, I’m sure the man makes bread in his sleep. I don’t. I said before that baking doesn’t always come naturally to me, so please, bear with me.
The Criteria (Hey, I’m a teacher, this is important!)
I have tested these brands at home with some success. I have made bread or buns and pizza crusts from each product. But when it comes down to choosing which brand I will whole-heartedly support, I need to consider a few things:
- Taste and smell
- Dummy-proof instructions and dough
- Price and availability
Let’s begin with….
Now I know you’re thinking but that’s pizza crust and yes, you’re right. But on the back of the box it suggests that you can use the mix for buns and other things. Being highly open to suggestions, I did. Can’t lie, they weren’t great.
The instructions were easy, the dough turned out as I expected. I should’ve used a rolling pin (not my forearm, but who wants to lug a rolling pin home from the grocery store in 35 degree Celsius heat?), so my first pizza crust was a bit thick. It didn’t taste great if I’m honest. Nor did the buns; they were somewhat reminiscent of cardboard mixed with soy milk. No amount of peanut butter could hide that peculiar taste. Which is strange, considering this has the most amount of ingredients compared to the other brands, so I would expect it to be awesome.
In terms of nutrition, I’m sure it’s fine. The website doesn’t really specify how much a serving is. In addition, I wasn’t too impressed with the lack of protein and fibre. I personally don’t think I’ll be buying this again, as I had to trek all the way downtown for it and then paid 300baht. To be fair though, it was the first one I found in a grocery store in Thailand and I was pretty freakin’ excited to try it.
I found these products in my secret gluten free shop. Translation: I know where it is but can never remember what it’s called. This box set me back 210baht.
I love that Orgran is absolutely anti-everything! They hate eggs, wheat, yeast and milk!
Ok, so maybe being anti-everything isn’t the best attitude when it comes to wheat free bread. But I must say that I was pretty impressed with how easy it was to make this. The first time wasn’t great as I didn’t heed the ‘let dough rise in a warm spot.’ Yeh right! I ain’t turning off my air-con to let some stupid bread rise!
You can guess what happened to that first loaf. It didn’t rise and it was denser than a frozen hockey puck! On a more positive note, because the bread was thicker than a lumberjack’s beard, it was very easy to slice and freeze. The second time round was more successful – I even added hot water to help that puppy rise. My friends were much more impressed the second time!
Aesthetically, the second loaf was pleasing. It popped above the bread tin’s sides and it had a lovely golden colour on top. The texture was quite spongy, which I have resigned to tolerate in Thailand. Basically all desserts are made of rice flour, so a spongy bread has become the norm for me. Bonus for soups, not so great for crunchy peanut butter.
Now, in terms of taste, it was still missing something. Again, the ingredients have some pretty technical terms. Nonetheless, it was a vast improvement from the Arrowhead Mills.
From a previous post, you may know that I found this completely unexpectedly in the Topps nearest me. Scouring the baking section for polenta, I saw this and my jaw hit the floor. Are you serious? Gluten free bread mix only two kilometres from my house? And only 179baht? Say what!?
The package says that it is a good source of dietary fibre, gluten free, wheat free, egg free and nut free. Ok, so you have to add yeast. That’s not such a bad thing, is it? Considering that Arrowhead Mills uses yeast, I figured I’d give this one a go. I was really surprised to see bare bones ingredients in contrast to the others: maize starch, potato starch, flaxseed flour, psyllium and pea protein. That’s it!
Per serving (again, not sure what a serving is) you get 4.8 grams of protein and 6.4 grams of fibre. I think this bread is kicking some nutritional ass!
Now the negatives: I found the instructions to be condescending. I know what you’re thinking, What are you on about woman? Well, the instructions tell you to use a pastry mixer and a bread machine. Forget that hoity-toity nonsense! I live in Thailand and have a two hob stovetop. I stole an oven. I use my forearms as a rolling pin. I GOT THIS!
Mixing it up took some work, but it was worth it for the end result. Using my hands instead of a flimsy spatula, it took a good five minutes to really combine all the ingredients.
Truth be told, this mix was delicious! I made 8 buns using a 3’’ cookie cutter and put two balls of dough into the freezer for pizzas. The buns turned a lovely golden colour and browned a bit on the bottom like real hamburger buns! And they smell like real bread! My flat had the aroma of a high-class bakery! Texture wise, they are a bit denser than the Orgran stuff, but they looked and felt like real bread. It wasn’t as fluffy as the inside of a baguette, but it was certainly the closest.
Bob’s Red Mill
Although my local Villa Market has the Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour, for some strange reason it doesn’t carry the special bread mix. A bit annoyed, I have to go downtown to Sunshine Market to pick this up. And it’s a pretty penny too at 296baht. Although, this product comes recommended from one of my friends back home, who is gluten free and feeds her hubby this stuff too.
In terms of ingredients, we’ve got some garbanzo flour, potato starch, corn starch, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, evaporated cane juice, fava flour, xanthan gum, potato flour, sea salt, guar gum, soy lecithin, and a yeast packet. Unfortunately it only packs in 3 grams of fibre per serving.
Ok, so I finally made this bread. It wasn’t so bad – it smelled great and had a lovely texture. The only problem is that it calls for eggs, and being a lacto-vegetarian, this was a problem. So I consulted the lovely Sarah Kramer for some alternatives. My go-to option of using bananas was not going to happen, so I chose flax seed oil instead. However, in a post-run-haze, I added too much of the nutty oil and wound up with flaxy tasting pizza crust and buns. Not good. It made for a decent pizza crust though!
I’m happy I tried it, but considering my diet, this is not a good option for me.
And finally, the winner is ….
Bob’s Red Mill (if you’re ok with eggs).
Springhill Farms – due to its nutritional statistics, lack of animal bits and simple ingredients!
Here’s a picture of the buns I made from the Springhill Farm gluten free bread mix I bought today. Don’t look too bad, do they?That one packet made 8 buns and I put two balls of dough in the freezer for pizza crusts.
Wow! I couldn’t believe my luck with Lucy’s gluten free cookies! There were three flavours, but I chose the traditional chocolate chip.
On the left is my special gluten free soy sauce, which I have mentioned previously on my blog. The big yellow label helps it stand out in the huge aisle of other sauces!
And another surprise was the gluten free bread mix by Springhill Farm!
At the best of times, I am not a super baker. I used to leave that to my Grandma Jan; she did the measuring, I did the mixing; she did the decorating, I licked the bowl. True story.
Since pigging out on gluten free bread in Koh Phangan, I returned to Bangkok determined to make my own bread. It can’t be that hard since stupid machines do it…. right?
Eeehhh? It has risen! Ok, so maybe I cheated by using warm water and sitting it in the oven on a very low temperature.
Ok, so now it’s down to taste. If I’m honest, I don’t remember what wheat bread tastes like. I know what it smells like because I regularly stick my nose into the centre of bread loaves to get that wheaty whiff. Yeh, I know that’s weird. But I bet you have some weird habits too.
In terms of taste, it’s ok. The texture on this second loaf was much better than the first. The first one was heavy and I could cut really thin slices. This one, however, is much fluffier. The top crust is a lovely golden brown and crunchy. Inside, it is a bit spongier than normal bread. Living in Thailand and eating strange rice flour desserts and cakes, I am starting to enjoy a sponge bread, over the more traditional wheat ones!