The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Gluten Free?

mjsallorganic's picture

Gluten Free?

As I am about to launch my bakery and start baking bread like crazy, a friend of my husband's comes to visit and announces that he's discovered that he's gluten intolerant.  He goes on to describe his symptoms and how much they've improved--nearly disappeared completely, as he's weened himself completely of any gluten.  So, what's next?  My husband nods along and says he has the same sypmtoms!  So, he experiments with a weekend of no wheat anything, and lo and behold, we discover the cause of the pretty much all of his digestive issues!

A baker married to a gluten-intolerant?  Is this some kind of a bad joke?  No, it really isn't.  So, I'm looking to all of you experienced bakers for some advice on gluten-free flour.  And, I really would like to hear from those of you who have actually used these products, rather than just having heard of them.  I am determined to carry an extensive line of gluten-free products in my bakery, but I'm fearful that they will all taste, well--less than great.  I hope to learn differently.

Thanks in advance for any advice.



fancypantalons's picture

Approach gluten-free baking as a *completely different animal*.  It's like comparing baking bread to baking pie, they're just that different.


fancypantalons's picture

Gluten-free products *can* be great!  It's just hard to get there and takes a lot of experimentation (a friend of mine is actually a professional baker at Kinnickinnick Foods, and they make fantastic gluten-free baked goods, but they spend a lot of their time developing and testing new recipes as it really is a whole new area of food preparation.)

ananda's picture

Hi mjisallorganic

First of all congratulations on setting up a new bakery business; I'd like to wish you all the best with your exciting new adventure.

I can advise on gluten free recipes, although you may want to look over the posts here first.

I have worked in gluten free related projects for about 10 years, and feel I should offer some precautionary advice for you to at least consider.

It really does not make a lot of sense to make gluten free products in a conventional bakery.   There is some difference between people who have a gluten intolerance, and those who are allergic and suffering high levels of Coeliac diesease.

Don't get me wrong, it is great that you want to offer decent products to people who really can be pretty poorly, and have a desperately limited range of palatable foods to look forward to.

However, I worked for a Company who got into gluten free, and realised immediately the importance of being able to substantiate their claim that their products were REALLY gluten free.   They buit a dedicated bakery, totally separate, and monitored for levels of gluten in the premises!

I genuinely believe these products should be made in an environment where gluten is an excluded item.   The same applies to claims for "nut-free" and any other food item which involves genuine allergy.

It may seem hardline, but I have met people who can become very poorly from consuming just the tiniest amount of gluten.   If you want to meet the needs of these people, you have to be able to substantiate your claims that your products meet THEIR quality standards.

What else can you tell us about your bakery?   It sounds very exciting

Best wishes


sharonk's picture


Andy makes an ultra-important point about being able to substantiate the "gluten-freeness" of a bakery and its products. Most people with true gluten intolerance cannot risk eating bread products that have come into contact with gluten on machinery and equipment. There is so much gluten in the air of a bakery because flour flies around so easily. Dedicated gluten free bakeries are the way to insure everyone's safety, the gluten-free bread eaters as well as the baker's liability.

That being said, most conventional gluten free recipes are depending on gums and chemical leaveners to make them feel and act like bread. 99% of what's in the bakeries and retail markets are these types of breads. Most people are happy to eat these bread products as the business is exploding.

In order to make successful gluten free bread one has to understand the properties of all the different flours available. Some absorb moisture, some fluff up the final product, some make it smooth. I experimented for a few years and finally found success combining sourdough techniques with gluten free flours.I also was able to make the breads using only pure food ingredients eliminating the need for gums and chemical leaveners.

I now teach bread baking classes and am getting ready to publish a book.

You can get a free download of my starter and pancake recipe. Making pancakes was how I learned about all the different flour properties. Much easier than making a zillion failed breads.


Good Luck with your bakery, whether it is gluten or gluten-free!




jbaudo's picture

I discovered this product from a gluten free cookbook "Gluten Free Baking Classics" by Annalise G. Roberts and have never looked back.  The cake recipe that I use from the book (yellow cake) I have served on many occasions  and have actually been asked to make this cake for people who aren't even gluten intolerant - they just loved the cake.  The sandwich bread is delicious and last night I made the focaccia and my husband raved, he couldn't believe it was gluten free.  The recipes are very scientific in that if you change even one little thing the whole recipe is thrown off - so you must follow the instruction explicitly and measure very carefully.  The only place that I have made changes is the muffin recipes.  I use the procedure for the cake instead of the muffin procedure.  The muffin instructions result in a crumbly dry product but if I follow the cake instructions using the muffin ingredients the muffins are delicious.  I also have to make everything dairy free so I use rice milk and oil and whole fat coconut milk for the cakes and muffins.  I have also noticed that the type of yeast I use makes a huge difference.  The little packets of active dry yeast work much better than the active dry bulk dry active yeast in the jar.  Don't really understand why the products are made differently - they should be the same (they are labeled the same and made by the same company) but they even look different.  I have also been sucessful using the gluten free flour mix from the book to make pancakes from my old pancake recipe - just don't add xanthan gum to pancakes, it will ruin them. 


CraigFromNewcastle's picture
CraigFromNewcastle (not verified)

My brother is allergic to nuts and gluten.

He had to carry around insulin injections with him everywhere he went, although now he doesn't seem to bother. 

His symptoms are that his veins all swell up and he vomits, amongst other things. 

I've just asked him to join your community to add his wonderful recipes - he makes excellent gluten free cakes and biscuits.

Andy is right - it's no good making gluten free bread in a conventional bakery - someone like my brother is highly allergic and your GF bread would be contaminated.

I hope your business took off.

Best wishes


sharonk's picture

It's interesting that you mention that your brother's veins swell up because before I was diagnosed with gluten allergy I used to bruise very easily. I would tie my shoes and my fingers would bruise where I held the laces. Of course no doctor could say why I was bruising so easily but it stopped after I went off gluten! 

I figured that the gluten allergy was interfering with proper cell development in my circulatory system. Hearing about your brothers veins validates my experience. 



CraigFromNewcastle's picture
CraigFromNewcastle (not verified)

Hi Sharon.

Sorry you had to suffer a mysterious illness, but it's good news that you found the cause.

My brother's belly swells up and his veins swell up very much - which include the veins in his brain, so his head hurts. 

He might be joining the site soon, as I recommended it to him: I thought he could share the great things he bakes all totally gluten free. 

Thanks, take care


sharonk's picture

HI Craig,

Your brother's symptoms sound very challenging. Once I removed the foods I was sensitive to, from my diet I improved rapidly. I did, however, have damaged intestines from so many years of eating gluten and was able to work my way back to complete health through traditionally prepared foods.


bpezzell's picture

I am a professional baker married to a gluten intolerant. I do not bake g-free breads. Though there is a 'niche' market for them, on a small scale I don't think it is worth the time and effort to make the attempt with the level of inconveniece, control and liability involved. We do some g-free baking in the house. My wife, however, would rather do without bread than have to settle with the extremely unsatisfactory loaves available from commercial g-free bakeries. Yes, I agree, it does seem like a bad joke.

I agree thoroughly with those who have advised you not to try baking g-free in your shop. You have absolutely no way of guaranteeing that your food is truly g-free, and for the true celiac, that is a serious issue. The tiniest bit of gluten in my wife's diet will set her back for two weeks with drastic intestinal issues and much more. Some celiacs can even react to gluten on the skin. It's not worth the risk.

That said, I disagree that the g-free have a 'desparately limited range of palatable foods to look forward to'. They have everything, except gluten. Our diet and range of foods has increased because we don't and can't always look to the easy standards like wheat bread. For excellent resources google 'Gluten Free Goddess' and 'Gluten Free Girl' in particular for baking hints. The problem is that manufactures use wheat and barley in everything. My wife bought a salad at Wendy's last year and it came with a celophane wrapped package of walnuts. The ingredients list said 'Walnuts, wheat starch.' What purpose did the wheat starch even serve? Choices have to be made that predominantly mean cooking from scratch at home. Tamari sauce instead of soy, etc. Read labels, contact manufacturers, etc.

Most commercial gluten free breads, and we've tried many, plainly stink. They lack depth of flavor that long fermentations provide and the use of xanthum and guar gums for texture provide a gummy texture that is just unsatisfying. You will find a post on Michael Ruhlman's website for a yeasted gluten-free multi-grain boule that doesn't use xanthum or guar gum that is quite delicious - real bread.

On another note though, it seems that gluten-free is the newest fad in self-diagnosed illnesses. This is the conversation I've had a couple of times: "I went off gluten and I felt so much better!" Well, let's think about it, you went off gluten and your diet changed drastically. No bread means salads for lunch, more veggies at dinner and no pasta, lean meats instead of institutional sandwiches on mass-produced bread. Your vegetable intake increased dramatically and your diet became more 'balanced'. Maybe you feel better because you're eating better?

Ok, sorry about the rant, but I think you see my point.

Good luck with the business!

sharonk's picture

Hello BPezzell,

My heart goes out to you with your expertise in gluten baking and your wife who can no longer have any of it. I met a couple at a gluten-free baking symposium who had a similar situation except that they were both bakers and one was severly gluten-intolerant. Just think of all that  flour she was inhaling and sporting on her skin. They basically closed up shop and opened a gluten free bakery after she became well enough to work again, many months.

When I learned I was gluten-intolerant I also learned I was sensitive to dairy, eggs, soy, yeast, sugars and fruit. That made it impossible for me to eat any commercially made gluten-free breads. I had mastered a 7-day rye sourdough and had been making it monthly and eating it daily when I learned I had to give it up. I resolved right then, after finishing crying, that I would figure out a way to make a gluten-free sourdough bread that used none of what I was sensitive to.

Since my system was so severely damaged from decades of gluten damage I was unwilling to use anything that wasn't a pure food: no xanthan/guar gum, no commercial yeast, no chemical leaveners. I was also only interested in using whole grain flours and began grinding them up myself when I could find the whole grain. 

I stuck with the sourdough process and studied about gluten-free flours and how to combine them. I'm glad I persisted because I've been able to make excellent gluten-free sourdough bread using the ingredients that work for me. Since it is sourdough it has that depth of flavor you know is missing from commercial gf bread. It also has a genuine texture fostered by the fermentation and proper flour combining.

While successfully making bread for myself, it turns out there were others with similar food sensitivities so I began making the info available to people. I've gotten wonderful feedback from people who have been able to make my breads for their children who couldn't eat commercial bread. My bread seems to be suitable for children on the autistic spectrum as I have heard from parents whose children eat it without any autistic symptoms.

BPezzell, I also want to say that I've developed a complete allergen friendly food system for myself that includes gravy, bread puddings, stuffing, bread crumbs from failed loaves, stews, meatloaf, all sorts of things that traditionally involve wheat that I have reworked into excellent food.

It is possible to eat really well with food allergies, I'm living proof. I'm deeply grateful that I've had the time in my life to figure this all out.

I hear you about how difficult it is to eat out and I don't do it much. I've perfected some "cooking on the road" techniques for when I travel. I take a rice cooker, hot pot and small toaster and bring a lot of my own food. It works well. 

I've made a lot of lemonade from a lot of years of lemons!








ananda's picture

Hi bpezzell,

Allow me to clarify please?

When I wrote that statement, I really meant in connection with the manufactured food products specifically made available as "gluten free".   I stand by that.

What's more, your post does seem to back that up somewhat.   I agree that there are a load of exciting foods out there that can be used to cook and bake great gluten free food in the home...and that it will be intrinsically very healthy too.

You seem to me to be equally scathing about the very things I was criticising.   So, can we to agree to agree here?



clazar123's picture

I have a friend who recently was medically diagnosed as celiac. This was just the excuse I needed to try my hand at baking gluten free. Some things I have learned in the last months:

Bread comes in many shapes, tastes and textures. If you can't have one type, have another. Plenty are available. Now the ATTITUDE about what you can and can't have is highly individual and will definitely affect your happiness in life. If you have a positive outlook on life, this situation won't be too different. You will handle it positively. The opposite is also true. Your choice.

Non wheat flours have been around a LONG time and delicious things are made from them. Expand your horizons. We feel unsettled when our habits are disrupted. Develop new habits and patterns.

COming from a food allergy family, I understand many of the ramifications. If you are allergic (celiac included)just plan on bringing food to family gatherings that are safe for you. Bring enough for everyone if that is feasible but take your servings before the bread salad spoon gets used in the tapioca pasta salad!

As far as cross contamination in a baking environment, Andy is spot on (ananda). Some of the readings I have done for my gluten free baking learning curve state that a severely gluten allergic individual can perhaps tolerate 10mg of gluten exposure before reacting. That is a VERY small amount-the size of a rice grain?? If you swept up all the flour flying in the air and on surfaces in a bakery environment-I think you are well over that limit. I looked at all my equipment and really examined it. There are TINY pieces of flour in the rolled over lip of some of my measuring cups and up in the tiny crevices of my mixer. I believe if you want to sell GLUTEN REDUCED product for NON allergic people following a diet trend, that would be fine but for people that are ALLERGIC, you are not doing them a service. The very allergic may suffer greatly.

For my project, I had just bought a Bosch Compact mixer and I had a new-in-box grainmill.For now these are dedicated to GF only. I went to the Dollar Store and bought new measuring cups,spoons,spatula-all bright red. I had been giving her product but since reading about crosscontamination , I may have to rethink that.I am developing recipes for my friend and may have to give her the RECIPE  rather than the product so she can then make it in her newly converted to totally GF kitchen. We are learning a lot.

Commercially available GF products, like any products for allergic people, are often suspect and subject to cross contamination with any batch.   Dedicated and closely monitored facilities are the only feasible way to meet the needs of highly allergic individuals. A totally different business.

My advice to the original poster-develop a successful bakery. When you are successful, then you can entertain the idea of developing a GF bakery at a second location. GF is a TOTALLY different specialty and business with different skills and equipment needed and different liabilities. Focus on one path.


pantone_000's picture

Just this day I have read a blog site that swears to the binding power of psyllium husks for her gluten-free diet. Hope this helps: