How do I get more whole grains into my gluten-free breads?

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A reader asks: Are there any substitutions for the rice flour or the potato starch? I’m trying to boost the nutrition.

One easy thing to do is to swap brown rice flour for all the rice flour that we call for in Mixture #1 from our 2014 book, Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DayIf you do that, you need a slight increase in water because whole grains always take a little more (see page 61 of the book). With the swap, Mixture #1 will be 75% whole grain by weight, since U.S. sorghum products are whole grain (at least, any that we’ve seen). People have asked about basing breads on almond, millet, or quinoa, but we found that if you try to base a yeasted bread on any of those, it just doesn’t work–the texture and flavor weren’t close enough to traditional bread for most of our tasters and readers.

The other thing is to focus on the recipes that use Mixture #2, which appears in Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day on page 62 (and use it in the recipes on pages 96-108). Mixture #2 is 100% whole grain in the first place.

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Substitutions for ingredients in my gluten-free recipes

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Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day tries to accommodate a wide variety of food sensitivities but some readers asked about substitutions for what’s called for in the book’s flour mixtures, and so here are swaps for flours that some of our readers don’t eat. Others may be possible, but these are the gluten-free substitutes that actually worked.

Flour Mixture #1 is based on rice, sorghum, tapioca, and potato, with xanthan gum or psyllium providing structure. If you’re sensitive to the bold-faced ingredient in the list below, you can try swapping in one of the suggested gluten-free substitutes. But keep in mind that if the recipe already has some of that ingredient, you may throw off the flavor or consistency. Are other substitutions possible? Maybe, but it’s risky.

White rice flour can be replaced by brown rice flour, but increase the water by 2 tablespoons per full batch of our dough recipes. It seems that at least some rice flour is pretty much a requirement for a good result, whether white or brown. If you can’t use rice at all, you probably need to try a different method.

Sorghum flour can be replaced with oat or amaranth flour.

Tapioca starch/flour can be replaced with arrowroot starch/flour or cornstarch. However, cornstarch cannot be omitted from the brioche recipe–substitutions there just did not work.

Potato starch: You can try proportionally increasing the other starches/flours in the flour mixture, but you may have to adjust the water to keep the consistency at about the level that you see in the video.

Corn starch: In testing, it was tough to decrease corn starch in these recipes, despite much experimentation. You could start trying partial swaps, or combination swaps for other powdery starches or GF flours, but as I say, this was frustrating. On the other hand, if you can tolerate a little density, or are willing to settle for flatbreads only, you could end up with something acceptable to you. For the books, the doughs had to be multi-purpose, including working well in sandwich loaves and other lofty breads. The flatter you’re willing to accept–the more leeway you’ll have when you experiment with swaps for corn starch–but I can’t make any guarantees here.

Finally, some readers have asked about ingredients like almond, millet, or quinoa. Though those appear in small amounts in some of the book’s recipes, they don’t make a good yeasted bread when you start to use more significant amounts.

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Dense or gummy interior, or inadequate rising in my gluten-free breads. What am I doing wrong?

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If the breads in Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day are coming out dense or gummy, or don’t seem to rise as much as you expect, here are the things to check:

Expectations: No question about it, gluten-free breads are denser than wheat breads, and they don’t rise as high. Plus, they get most of their loft in the hot oven (that’s called oven spring). Don’t expect to see a lot of visible change while the loaf is resting (after its shaped).

If you’re not loving the no-egg version: Since 2009, our wheat books have included one chapter with gluten-free recipes, always with eggs. Many of our gluten-free readers asked for gluten-free recipes that were also egg-free, so when we wrote Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day in 2014, we made our default Master Recipe egg-free, with a variation that includes whole eggs or egg whites (on page 73). But–there’s no question that the egg versions have better rise and are less dense. If you can eat eggs, our favorite is the egg white version; there’s more on this at a post describing the version with egg. If you cannot eat eggs and you’re finding the no-egg version too dense, go through all the tips on this page–and if you’re still not happy with the density of the loaf-breads, consider using the dough for flatbreads that won’t require as much structure and loft.

If you’re making the gluten-free recipes from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, there were typos that mainly affected the gluten-free recipes. Click here to view the corrections. The recipes will seem much too wet without these corrections.

Inadequate mixing: Consider using a stand mixer if you’re finding the loaves to be denser than you like. It’s certainly possible to get good results by mixing with a spoon or dough whisk, but you really have to work at it, to get a completely smooth mixture, and some of our readers are giving up too soon. Bottom line, the stand mixer will give more reliable results. One thing to be aware of–the very high capacity stand mixers (eg., 6-quart) don’t work well for this gluten-free dough–it seems to “climb” up the flat beater and avoid the mixing process. Stick with about a 5-quart capacity.

Wrong hydration: In other words, too much or too little water relative to the flour mixture. If you’re swapping for a flour that we didn’t test with, go back to Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flours (not their flour mixtures), which are the only ones readily available in U.S. supermarkets, and test again. Other flours may absorb water differently, and you may need to adjust. If you can’t find Bob’s, you may need to adjust the water–take a look at our videos so you can see what the dough looks like fully mixed. If there’s no explanation for your overly wet dough, consider mixing it a little drier next time–increase the flour by 1/8-cup, or decrease the liquids a little.

Swapping in a flour or other ingredient we didn’t test with: As above, all bets are off if you aren’t using what we tested with. In particular, we did not have good results with rice flours from Asian markets.

Measurement  problems: You’ll get most accurate results if you weigh the ingredients rather than using cup-measures. We’ve had good experience with the Escali and the Eatsmart digital scales. Cup measures may be allowing too much (or too little) flour, which throws off the hydration. If you do use cup-measures, be sure to pack gluten-free flours into the cup (like you were measuring brown sugar). These flours are powdery, and we found this to be the only way to get reasonably consistent volume measurements with gluten-free flours (this is very different from what we recommend in our wheat-based books and in videos and posts here on the website).

Oven temperature may be off… which can wreck your “oven spring.” Always check with an oven thermometer.

Adequately preheat your baking stone: Some ovens and stone combinations require a longer preheat than the 20 or 30 minutes we specify in the book.

Resting time: Make sure you’re resting for the full interval that we recommend in the book.

Large loaf: In general, we tested these as small loaves (usually one pound), so if you made something larger, rest them for longer, and bake them for longer.

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Gluten: What is it? And what grains contain gluten?

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Short answer: it is a protein that’s found in wheat, wheat variants, barley, and rye. These grains appear in many of the foods we eat.

But I am chagrined! It seems that I, a medical doctor, was destined to write the six pages in Gluten-Free Bread in Five Minutes a Day, called:

So what’s the problem with gluten? For whom? A wee bit of science

But my “wee bit of science” never told readers exactly what gluten is! So my apologies for that. Maybe I should ask Jimmy Kimmel if I can be in his “What is Gluten? video (not to single out folks from Los Angeles, but they don’t seem to know, and I didn’t help matters):

The longer answer: It is formed when two proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye (gliadin and glutenin)–are mixed with water. It’s gliadin that causes the immune reaction in celiac disease. Plant scientists call these “storage proteins” because they serve as the protein source for the emerging seedling (remember that these foods are seeds).

Even if you understand what gluten is, and the fact that it’s found in wheat, barley and rye, you may not know all the varieties of wheat that don’t contain the word “wheat” in their name. Here is a longer list of grains that are genetically related to wheat and contain gluten. Remember, many foods contain hidden sources based on these grains:

Wheat (all-purpose flour, bread flour, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, wheat germ, graham flour, pastry flour)

Barley and barley malt





Faro (sometimes spelled farro)







Sprouted wheat, sprouted wheat flour


Yeast brands that contain enzymes or dough enhancers which enhance wheat doughs. Most yeast brands are fine. These enzymes/enhancers are often derived from wheat, so check to be sure your yeast is labeled “gluten free.”

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