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

    • Click on the Gluten-Free FAQs tab above, and then choose these two items:

      Substitutions for ingredients in our gluten-free recipes

      Whole grains in gluten-free baking: how can I get more of them into the flour mixtures?

      • Hi- I am an experienced gluten free baker (former bakery owner) and I was fairly disappointed with using your basic recipe from the gf artisan bread cookbook as a loaf bread. There is extremely little rise and I have found that in my own recipe, folding in whipped (stiff) egg whites gives the best rise. Have you tried this? I used your addition of the eggwhites with the water but stiff found it dense. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

      • Have you tried all the suggestions above? Note that we were having problems with the 6-quart stand mixer (not the 6 1/2 as it said until recently corrected). And also very important– are you making any ingredient substitutions? Are you using Bob’s Red Mill flours, which is what we tested with? Are you making the version with xanthan, or the version with psyllium?

        If none of these are helping, then yes, try whipping the egg whites before adding and see if that helps. If you have a chance, I’d love to hear if that worked well for you…

      • I was wondering if you have ever tried any non-dairy milk substitutes in your bread recipes as I’m dairy free & gluten free? If so, what works well? Thanks

      • Most of our gluten-free recipes are made without dairy–so it’s much of an an issue with our recipes. Brioches which call for butter are the exception, though some of ours call for oil.

      • I am wondering if and how to use albumin instead of egg whites for the master recipe?

      • It might work, but I don’t know how to advise you on the liquid. You’ll need some water with the powdered albumin.

  1. I do not know what I might be doing wrong. I have your gf artisan bread cook book. I have made two batches of your nbr one mix. Just trying to make the first simple bread. I used a mixer on second batch – have a baking stone – have a new oven thermometer- thought I followed all your directions very carefully – the dough just does not raise. Do you ever teach any classes?

  2. Mixture #1 Using BRM flours. I substituted brown rice for white rice flour every thing else the same. New oven thermometer, heat baking stone 60 minutes, let dough rest same amount of time. Not much oven spring, finished bread very dense, good flavor but not what I’d serve to company. The outside doesn’t sizzle and crackle, it actually looks like some thing made of clay, kind of grey and ugly. HELP!!

      • Yes, I have seen that post and my loaf looks very similar except for the color. I think using the brown rice flour instead of the white is causing the color to not be so white. I can live with that. My loaf looks like yours before I put it into the oven,but not much spring at all. When it comes out there isn’t anything brown on it. I am using xanthan gum. We can have eggs so will try that next time. I do have enough left to do a loaf in a pan, will try that.
        Thanks Zoe for your help.

      • Hi Alma,

        I do think the egg version will produce a lighter loaf. Are you adding the sugar? It helps the gluten-free loaves get better color. Last thing is to make sure your oven is running hot enough with an oven thermometer.

        Thanks, Zoë

  3. I have a bucket of dough in the frig right now. I used whole eggs and I do use the sugar. I test my oven each time, so feel confident the temp is correct. I plan to do a loaf in a bread pan this afternoon. Also, the spring with the two hour resting outside the frig was much more this time than the first batch. I’ll let you know.

    • Well, I still haven’t nailed this bread. My last bucket was made with eggs (whole), the crumb was only marginally better. Still really dense. I did the last of the batch in my loaf pan, and they did not turn out any better. The picture on page 85 of your book doesn’t look anything like my loaf’s. There is barely any change on my loaf baked from the one that has risen. My yeast is good, I’ve tested it. My oven is correct, I checked it, I use my stand mixer. I use a digital scale to measure. Thanks

      • Hi Alma,

        Are you adding the additional water because you are using the brown rice flour? The additional water will loosen up the dough and allow it to rise better.

        Is your water warm to the touch? Is the kitchen warm or on the cool side? I just wonder if the temperature of the dough is cool, which would require a bit more resting.

        Are you baking on a baking stone? If so, how long are you preheating?

        Thanks, Zoë

  4. I also am having issues with the basic bread (Mix #1) being extremely dense. I am an experienced baker, have a nice stone, temperature is correct, following the mix and steps exactly (BRM flours, eggs, water amount and temp, sugar, xanthan gum, yeast) and all ingredients are fresh. I’ve tried the longer resting time, whipping the eggs and a slightly higher oven temp but I just can’t seem to nail this. Is there any value in increasing the amount of yeast to get a little more loft?

  5. I’ve made the artisan bread gluten free and it came out great but I’ve tried to make the loaf sandwich bread two times and can’t get it. It’s really dense and looks strange. Can u post a video on that one or provide some advice. Should I be using something other than the master recipes dough ?

    • Hi Kelly,

      Do you have our Gluten-Free book? If so, I’d try the challah recipe as a loaf pan bread. I like the idea of doing that as a video. I will try to get to that soon.

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. Hi Guys, thanks for taking the time and energy to do all of this. I made the bread for guests and it was great on the first try (so relieved lol), but all of the subsequent times it did not turn out well. I refrigerated the dough and allowed it to rise, etc., all the same steps as the first (it was the dough from original batch). Wondering if not using it fresh right away impacts rise & density? I’m about to try a second batch of dough and I’m going to try baking a larger loaf this time to see what happens. I read all your FAQs and didn’t see this issue addressed. Any ideas would be appreciated 😉

  7. I tried making the gluten free master recipe 6 separate times, and every time the loaf has a wonderful dark, crisp crust, but the inside is dense (very small holes) and somewhat ‘wet’- almost like it it didn’t cook enough (I tried cooking one batch longer and it had a crust that was so thick it was teeth shattering but the inside was the same. I’ve followed all of the tips (I even preheated the stone for 1 hour and let the dough rise for 1.5 hrs before backing it), watched the videos, bought an oven thermometer, weigh the ingredients, and have played with the moisture level of the dough, but I’m having no success. I have a convection oven that does let out a lot of steam, but I just add more than 1 cup of water to the broiler pan to compensate. Do you have any suggestions? I desperately want to make the recipes in this book, but am very frustrated.

    • GF breads are definitely denser and damper than wheat breads, and some people just don’t like them as well. That said, most people who experience that will find that this is fixed when they may the variation with egg whites, which you’ll find in the Master Recipe chapter. We do find egg whites work even better than whole eggs.

      Find it on the bottom of the page with the Lazy Sourdough Shortcut, in Chapter 6.

    • Rosemary I had the very same problems. I tried all the suggestions that Jeff made, nothing worked. Was a very expensive experience. Got rid of the book.

  8. Rosemary: Have you tried the version with egg white yet? In the notes above, it looks like Alma stopped at the whole egg version, which is definitely denser than the egg-white one.

    The other thing is to switch to a stand mixer (or borrow one). Definitely emulsifies the ingredients better, which leads to a lighter result.

    And the other thing to remember–GF breads are denser, and as always this is a matter of taste. Check out our Amazon reader reviews, at http://amzn.to/1msOBmY. About 85% give the book 4 or 5 stars (out of 5). I think what we’re seeing is that some people just aren’t going to enjoy GF bread–it’s just not as light and airy as wheat bread. This is a trade-off, see what you think.

    But if you haven’t tried the egg-white version, that’s the next thing to try.

    • No I did continue with the egg whites, that did not work for me either. I do know the GF bread is more dense and I did use a stand mixture.

    • Hi Jeff,
      I did do the egg white version and used a stand mixer. I’ve been gluten free for 10 years so I am very familiar with gluten free bread. I’ve made many loaves at home and know they are denser which is fine. What comes out of my oven when I’ve made the Master recipe is by far the densest bread I’ve ever made. I’ve read the Amazon reviews as well, which is why I’m confused about why my bread isn’t turning out like what the people in their reviews describe. I will try another batch and see what happens.

      • Well– I have to admit, sometimes we just can’t figure it out on the website this way. I’m assuming you didn’t make any substitutions or omissions. All Bob’s Red Mill, etc.? Used the structuring agent (psyllium or xanthan)? Not at high altitude (more than 5,000 feet)?

  9. Hi. I am working with the Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I currently have a pizza dough recipe made with 00 GF flour but it’s not that great. I would like to try your pizza dough. With sugar removed from the pizza dough recipe, can I use it to make pizza/flat bread in a wood fired pizza oven? I cook at 750 degrees fahrenheit. Thanks.

    • We never had great results with commercial GF flours, which is why we developed and tested our own mixtures. You can leave the sugar out but it’s a tenderizer and you may find the results to be a little tough. Also, we don’t have access to ovens that hot so we’ve never tested it at 750F. It’d probably work…

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