Not long ago my son said, “You never make bread any more.” With a teasing tone I responded, “Awww, would you like to have fresh bread waiting for you when you get home from school?” With a sheepish grin (because he is an 18 year old boy) he said, “Yes.”
Not long after that I made fresh bread for him and had it waiting when he got home from school. There was one problem. I forgot the xanthan gum.
Do you ever wonder what would happen if you just left xanthan gum out of recipes? Well, some recipes would be okay. Maybe not optimal but okay. But bread is not one of those.
First of all, if you’re wondering about the shape of the loaf and what kind of bread it was, I made this sorghum bread in the slow cooker. It worked really well as far as cooking goes.
When I made the dough, I knew it was too wet. That should have been my clue, but instead of thinking to add the gum I added more flour. That only added to the problem. This bread did not hold together AT ALL. I tried cutting it in chunks like corn bread, but when you tried to eat it, it just crumbled and pretty much had to be eaten with a spoon.
So much for the idea of treating my son to fresh homemade bread! He did eat a little, but most of it went into the freezer as bread crumbs.
Repurposing gluten-free failures
The bread was perfect for bread crumbs and only took slight pressure from my hand to crumble. As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In my case, when life gives you crumbly bread, make bread crumbs.
Most gluten-free baking failures don’t have to go into the trash. A sad cake can be used in a trifle. Failed cookies can be crumbled and turned into a pie crust. Failed bread can be used in a casserole or turned into bread crumbs.
Why is gum used?
Why do gluten-free breads need gum? Well, because they don’t have any gluten. Gluten acts as a binder. You know how wheat bread is made from dough that is elastic and stretchy (think of Italians throwing circles of pizza dough up in the air)? That elasticity is due to gluten.
And have you ever wondered why gluten-free dough is not kneaded like wheat dough? Kneading works the gluten. Without gluten, kneading is not needed.
Gluten-free dough never becomes stretchy like wheat dough, and it is usually much more wet (closer to a batter). Gum is used to hold it together. My bread was a perfect example of why xanthan gum is used.
Sometimes you see guar gum in recipes. I even have it listed in a few of mine. Guar gum also acts as a binder. Xanthan and guar can pretty much be used interchangeably, though they are slightly different.
Some people avoid gums for various reasons. Recently, I have been avoiding them too because guess what? That same son recently figured out that he doesn’t tolerate gums!
I’ve read that people use flax seed and/or chia softened in water as a gum substitute (it is also used as an egg substitute), but others say that using psyllium husk works even better. Psyllium husk is used in many fiber supplements, but if you try it, be sure you are getting 100% psyllium husk without sweeteners or flavorings.
I have experimented a little with using whole psyllium husk, and so far it has worked great and not been noticeable at all in the final product. I have not yet tried it for a loaf bread, so I’ll have to keep you posted on that. But you’re likely to start seeing it show up in recipes I share.
So that’s the story of my failed bread. I’d love to hear about a time you forgot to add gum to a recipe and how it turned out!