The thing with gluten-free bread

Several fresh loaves of bread

Being diagnosed with coeliac disease changed a lot for Isabella - and yet there was one particular thing that hit her especially hard: giving up bread.

She quickly realized that many things could be more or less easily replaced by alternatives, but really good bread? That was simply impossible to find. And so she began experimenting in her kitchen until she was finally satisfied with the result.

When the first Isabella Café was opened, her customers were also able to try her breads - and they have been a real hit ever since.

We spoke to Isabella about making her gluten-free breads and asked her what makes them so special, what the challenges are in making them and what the secret of her own flour mix is.

Isabella, what is so special about your breads?

During a 2-year development phase, I put together our own basic flour mix for our breads, which forms the basis for all our breads. It consists of pure organic raw materials and is balanced in such a way that it contains as many nutrients and fiber as possible and the breads remain moist for a long time. My flour blends are completely corn-free and all breads are vegan.

I have also developed my own sourdough, which is the only leavening agent in many of my breads.

What are the challenges you have to deal with when baking gluten-free bread?

Gluten provides binding and elasticity, both of which are missing in gluten-free flours. If, for example, you were to take a normal bread recipe with spelt flour and simply replace it with wholegrain rice or corn flour, you would end up with a dry, crumbly lump.

For a good gluten-free bread, you should mix different flours together and add one or more binding agents (e.g. carob or guar gum, xanthan gum, psyllium husks or arrowroot flour). Gluten-free flour also requires more liquid than gluten-containing flour. So you have to think completely differently when developing recipes.

Is there a special preparation method for making gluten-free bread?

In terms of craftsmanship, there is not much difference to conventional bread making. However, the dough feels completely different: it is much stickier, tears very quickly and can hardly be stretched. My bakers always despair about this at first, as they have trained in normal bakeries and have to completely change their approach with us.

Various delicious rolls and croissants

Do you have your own special preparation method for making Isabella's bread?

I like to prepare pre-doughs that give the bread a crumb that stays fresh for a long time, e.g. swelling or scalding pieces, and sourdough is also a pre-dough. We have found that gluten-free doughs should be kneaded less than those containing gluten. In addition, the breads do not rise as much in the oven, so we leave them to rest for as long as possible before baking so that they rise nicely. We use different methods for baking, sometimes we bake breads in molds, so that the dough can be kept even softer - sometimes we bake free-form breads, i.e. the dough develops its full volume in a proofing basket, is then turned out onto a tray and baked immediately. This is how all our pure sourdough breads are baked.

Can you also work with a classic yeast or sourdough for gluten-free baking?

Yes, anything works here: fresh yeast, dry yeast, sourdough or a combination of yeast and sourdough.

How do the various gluten-free flour alternatives compare to flour containing gluten? And which flour is best?

There is a gluten-free flour that is the easiest to use in terms of baking properties: buckwheat flour. However, many people cannot tolerate buckwheat. I take my basic bread mix (contains wholemeal rice flour, wholemeal millet flour, tapioca and potato starch and psyllium husks) and combine it with teff, quinoa or buckwheat flour, for example. Any other gluten-free wholemeal flour can also be combined well.

What is so special about Isabella organic bread flour? Why exactly this combination? How did you come up with it?

I wanted as much fiber and as little starch as possible and I also wanted all the raw materials to be organic. They should also contain no corn or wheat starch.

All gluten-free breads and available flour blends on the market at the time contained corn. However, through close contact with our customers, I knew that corn was problematic for many.