The Fresh Loaf

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The Role of Starch in Gluten Free Breads

Abe's picture

The Role of Starch in Gluten Free Breads

I understand that starch is added to gluten free breads for texture and moisture. My question is wouldn't a grain based gluten free flour have starch in it, just like wheat, or are we adding extra to make up for the lack of gluten which also gives the bread texture and moisture as well as structure?

My next question is can one get around adding all that 'extra' starch using the flour itself? With ideas like scalding the flour or making a tangzhong? Then all one needs to add is something for structure like psyllium husk powder. 

Just thinking of ways around nutritionally empty add-ins. 

HeiHei29er's picture

Will be curious to hear the feedback on this topic.  I have tried a few different GF bread recipes for my daughter.  I started with using off the shelf 1-for-1 exchange blends.  I've tried a few different brands.  In all cases, the flavor of the bread I make is much better than the store bought, pre-packaged GF loaves.  But...  The texture is usually quite dense and it weighs about as much as a boat anchor even though the crumb is not overly moist.

I've since moved away from the pre-blended mixes and started mixing my own.  I've started with this blend as a starting point.  I've done one bake with it, but wasn't happy with the results.  I'm trying another one as I'm typing this.  The blend does have a lot of starch in it though.

GF is a much harder nut to crack from a texture standpoint (at least it has been for me).

Abe's picture

And well worth your time to try it is this one:

There's a few points i'd like to make though...

1: Even if you think you've found superfine flour which the recipe calls for you'll do well to err on the cautious side and reduce the hydration by 10%. Not forgetting the ACV and Honey adds to the hydration. 

2: The yeast seems to be a bit high. She calls for Active Dried Yeast and I used Instant Dried Yeast. Even though IDY should be reduced when using as a substitute instead of ADY I  found halving it produced excellent results. That makes me think even if ADY is used perhaps it can also be reduced. Whatever the case watch the dough! 

3: Bake at 425°F for 1 hour in the loaf pan then take it out of the pan and return to the oven for an extra 45 minutes. It seems long but in fact it's right. It is 425°F and not 325°F as in the video. Think there's a mistake in the video but the write-up is correct. 

The ingredients on the whole are very wholesome. It is delicious and one of the best gluten breads i've found. My idea was just to find a way to reduce, or do away with, the extra starch. 


HeiHei29er's picture

Thanks!  I'll have to give that one a try.  She's fairly picky and I don't think would go for the inclusions, but I can certainly use that flour blend as a starting point.  Plus, if those temps/times are correct, I haven't been cooking my loaves nearly long enough!

Abe's picture

How high is the hydration of your usual gluten free breads. The fine flours, starches and psyllium husk powder enables this bread to be very high hydration hence the extra long bake.

HeiHei29er's picture

With my pre-mixed blends, I was doing 85-88% batter breads plus egg whites, butter, and honey.

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

Is it possible to get a good (for your taste) crumb and texture from a 100% whole wheat or 100% rye bread?  If so, then you can do a gf bread that's 100% whole grain with a texture that's still not as open but acceptable with some adjustment in expectation.  I've been wanting to try this recipe from HUG Bakery.  I don't know if they have a blog, I've only found this on Facebook:

Have you tried injera?  The traditional process uses a step where part of the dough is heated.  I've been wanting to try it, it's on my list as well as tangzhong.

As to starches, I have not found a way to make the loaf light and fluffy without using really high percentages of starch, up to 66%.  This in an attempt to mimic breads that are mostly white bread flour.  If I were trying to mimic 100% whole wheat or rye my approach would be different and I would use lots of teff as it has good extensibility.  Starches, eggs, psyllium husk, specialty hard-to-get flours, fine grinds, etc.  There are just so many variables.  But there are people working on it! 

Abe's picture

This does confirm what I thought was the reason behind adding in all that starch. Gluten free grains don't lack starches per se but not only does gluten add structure it also helps retain moisture and brings better texture. So with gluten free grains we add extra starch to make up for this. 

The recipe I have found above is excellent. One of the better ones i've tried. Check it out and let me know what you think. Would love to build on that and see if we can get around the high percentage of starch but still keep the quality. My next idea would be to use the starch in much smaller quantity but make a tangzhong with it and increase the brown and sorghum flours. Might scald the flour too. I'm also going to make it a sourdough. 

I don't have facebook but i'll see if your link works for me. 

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

Abe, I haven't tried the Food 52 recipe.  I like that it only has three kinds of flour which simplifies things, as it can end up being a zillion ingredients to do GF bread.  A couple of observations about it. 

It's not that much flour, so a small loaf.  This can help keep it from getting too dense as the loaf isn't as heavy to rise.  I've noticed that my baguettes are nice and fluffy, but a boule with 450g flour is more of a challenge to keep lifted up.

I'm not a big fan of rice flours in bread.  I think it makes the dough really heavy and dense.  That being said, lots of GF people swear by it and in particular that super-fine brown rice flour which I haven't tried.  So if it's working for you just ignore this comment!

It has oil in it.  That's great for a sandwich style and for keeping the crumb from drying out, but it works against having an open crumb as fat "shortens" the crumb.

It doesn't have a protein, which is fine and a lot of my recipes don't have one.  But, if you're looking for better structure and texture and a more open crumb consider looking into adding protein to your bread. Egg white is the absolute best, as it's almost pure protein and it adds extensibility as well as structure.  My current theory on it is that it really helps set the gel matrix since psyllium liquifies in heat and egg solidifies. It can really open up the crumb.  It does make the dough a bit sticky and harder to handle though.  Also it's not vegan and it's an allergen.  Tofu, pea protein, whey protein, rice protein, are all things I've been playing around with lately.

Gluten-free grains are very bad at holding moisture compared to wheat flour.  There are a few exceptions, including  teff (which is high in bran and protein) and buckwheat.  Oats are something I've been trying lately that might also fall into this category.  Sorghum is pretty good at holding moisture but it's not as flexible/extensible as the other grains.

I hope you have fun experimenting!  I'd be curious to hear what you find in regards to the tangzhong method as I've been meaning to try it.


Abe's picture

I fully agree with you and like the recipe because of its simplicity. It has few ingredients, more wholesome than other gluten free breads which are loaded with gluten free bread improvers and it's quite delicious. 

The reason why i'm trying my hand at gluten free is not because I need to avoid gluten but because I want to include these gluten free grains in my diet and appreciate them for what they are. So many lovely interesting grains out there but often ignored simply because they lack gluten. Wish to see if I can make a really good bread out of them testing my skills. Also my sister is a coeliac so approaching it with some personal interest and experience. She used to get bread in a can on prescription all those years ago. The bread was nothing but dust barely held together. One had to toast it to be able to eat it. We've come a long way since then but I have a goal to produce some excellent gluten free bread. 

You've given me a lot to think about. Thank you. I'll let you know what I come up with next. It'll be based on the Food52 recipe which I think is a great foundation to build upon. 

Abe's picture

Hi Gina,

Replaced the cornstarch with brown rice and sorghum flour. Used just 20g cornstarch to make a milk tangzhong and turned it into a sourdough. 

Big success! A lovely soft crumb. In fact I think an improved crumb and such good flavour. 

I'll be doing a write-up soon. 

idaveindy's picture

To the group:

This web page:

has a basic list of GF protein-containing flours and GF starchy flours.

She recommends 4 parts by weight protein-containing flours, and 6 parts starchy flours.

The flours are:

4 parts by weight of any combination of:

  • Brown rice flour.
  • Buckwheat flour.
  • Corn (Maize) flour.
  • Mesquite flour.
  • Millet flour.
  • Oat flour.
  • Quinoa flour.
  • Sorghum flour.
  • Teff flour.

6 parts by weight of any combination of:

  • Arrowroot flour.
  • Cornstarch (US), aka corn flour (UK). 
  • Potato flour.
  • Potato starch.
  • Sweet rice flour.
  • Tapioca flour.
  • White rice flour.

In reality, it's not that simple, because the ratio of one startchy-flour to another starchy-flour (and one protein flour to another protein flour) determines the characteristics of the batter/dough and final product.

Then  add in the complexity of the types and amounts of binders.

Here's my go-to page for a discussion of binders, it discusses guar gum, xanthan gum, psyllium, chia, flax and egg:


Abe's picture

A wealth of information there. Wait a minute... "The Bread Kitchen" i'm going to click on that link now but if my memory serves me correctly I know who that is. She used to have a YouTube channel with some excellent recipes. Still there but she hasn't posted any new videos in quite a long time. 

This is definitely something a good chart to save and refer too. Will be fun to experiment with the different flours in varying combinations. 

For the binders I do like psyllium husk powder. Can't go wrong with adding in extra fibre in ones diet and I like how it binds the flours. 

Got an experiment on the go using the Food52 recipe as inspiration but have converted it to sourdough and incorporated some ideas I had. 

Kamman's picture

Hello, good evening.  I am using the food52 site gluten free recipe  with a modification of fiber (sorghum 105g, brown rice 105g, tapioca 90 g, water 400 g, honey 30 g, 20 g psyllium, and  15 gram of flax seed, 15 gram chia seed) and bake the bread in a Dutch oven  instead of tin .

I always preheat the oven at 230°C, and bake the bread in 220°C for 1 hour 20 minutes, then take the bread out of Dutch oven continue bake at 220°C for 40 more minutes.  My bread has interior temperature of 212° F  degrees.  The bread taste good but is too moist.  I tried to reduce water contain, but it is still too moist.  

 I tried to use 15% less water, but result continue to be too moist.  

All the experiment result in good looking fluffy bread, but too moist as if the bread is still raw (internal temp 212 to 215°D)

If  there is anyway I can make the bread less moist.  The bread will then be perfect.  Thanks for your help.

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

Hi Kamman,

In order to successfully modify a gluten-free recipe, it can take a lot of trial and error or a really good understanding of the hydration of each element.  It also helps to know the different role each ingredient plays in the bread.  It looks like you've added not only quite a bit more psyllium husk, but also flax and chia seed.  All of these ingredients are binders, so now you've more than tripled the type and percentage of binder the bread has.  I'm not surprised that it's coming out gummy with that much binder.

Binders are typically gelling agents in GF bread.  That means that they hold onto water. It's difficult to bake all the water off if the amount of binder is too great.  In addition to that, any rice flour also has its own natural binders, I think in starch form.  Rice flour can also cause gumminess in GF bread because it also holds onto water very fiercely and it's difficult to bake off.  Your bake times are really, really long and yet you're not baking off all the water. A bread this size in one of my recipes would probably bake through with no gumminess in 45 minutes at those temps.

I've added flax to my own recipes to replace eggs and it didn't cause gumminess.  But chia and rice flour are both culprits when a bread comes out gummy.  I have a high-fiber recipe that I make sometimes, not published but for myself. However, it's for muffins not bread.  Smaller sized baked goods cook off the water more easily.  It has chia, psyllium, oats, bananas, etc.  It's moist inside but that works for a muffin.

If you just want a high fiber bread, I'd look for recipes that are made specifically for that.  They might have a different type of fiber in them like oat fiber, which doesn't gel like the fibers you're using.  I don't use it a lot but I have read that it functions more like a flour than a binder.  Maybe search for a high fiber keto recipe to find something that will work.  The HUG bakery recipe I linked up the thread might also be something you're interested in.  It has a high percentage of psyllium and no starches, so you could use high-fiber flours in addition to the psyllium.