WHEN it comes to bread, coeliacs have it tough. Bread, mostly made from rice flour, is often heavy, grainy, and tasteless, and hardly worth the extra cost compared to regular bread.
Today many people suspect they are gluten intolerant and want to give gluten-free bread a go. It was this observation that inspired today’s survey.
Is there any bread worth buying at all, or should we make our own, substituting ground almonds for flour and using eggs for lightness?
There are recipes for variations using a range of flours made from beans and nuts in Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley (Fourth Estate).
If you want to come closer to the fuller sourdough experience, you will need to go the whole hog and get a starter dough going, but once under way you can have fun with flavours.
If suspicious of gluten intolerance, and without a medical diagnosis, spelt flour could be worth trying before cutting out gluten.
Spelt is a wheat grain, but Whitley explains that it has not been bred for disease resistance as many wheat varieties for flour usually are.
It usually has a lot more flavour and probably has more nutrients than regular flours. I am not coeliac, but I use it for cakes which don’t require too much of a lift as spelt is slow to rise.
There are lots of gluten-free recipes in the just launched Delicious by Denise O’Callaghan (Mercier Press). Meanwhile, here are some gluten-free breads worth buying.
Pana 400g €3
Sold unwrapped over the counter at its Merchant’s Quay shop in Cork, this bread is made from a base of rice flour mixed with ground lentils. The latter could account for the depth of flavour. The bread is made in the morning before other breads to avoid contamination.
The texture, while a little spongy and moist, had a light crust and was more natural than all the others and had real bread flavours. Delicious toasted, and good enough for sandwiches.
Aldi Has No wholegrain rolls 180g €1.39
Three rolls are flecked on the outside with toasted sunflower and poppy seeds, while inside the texture is light, quite like regular bread with nicely gritty poppy seeds for bite. The texture was even better when warmed in the oven and they are good halved and toasted.
I was intrigued to see that while the main ingredient is rice flour, there is prune purée listed, which provides moisture rather than taste. A fair price too.
Kelkin multiseed sourdough 200g €2.45
This tastes quite sweet at first bite. The next obvious flavour is of seeds — a high 10% sunflower with some poppy and linseeds that add to the texture in an otherwise light bread. It‘s not too gritty or dry, though made from rice flour — buckwheat flour dilutes it.
While there is no depth of flavour resulting from a sourdough starter being used, the result is a pleasant bread which is very good toasted.
Lidl Just Free multigrain sliced pan 400g €1.89
Lots of linseeds, millet, poppy and sunflower seeds add to the texture. Also has prune purée. Rice flour is the main ingredient, but it’s not too gritty and the result is light.
There is a light chemical-like flavour all tasters noticed. Like many of these breads there are a few chemical thickeners and preservatives used for long shelf life. They seem more evident in this bread.
Tesco Embrace multigrain loaf 400g €1.89
Prune purée, treacle, sugar beet pulp, psyllium husk powder and a low number of seeds are added to tapioca starch and rice flours thickened with a number of additives to make a pretty good bread. From the widest range of gluten-free products that I found in one supermarket.
Juvela fibre sliced loaf 400g €4.87
We wrapped the bread in foil as suggested on the pack and warmed it for five minutes at 200C/ 400F/Gas 6. We also tried, as instructed, heating in a microwave for 10 seconds on a piece of kitchen roll. The result was a pleasant bread with good flavour.
I was surprised not to find rye flour in the list of ingredients as it had that kind of flavour, perhaps supplied visually by the added iron, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, thiamine and folic acid. Expensive.
SuperValu Free From white sliced loaf 400g €1.89
This loaf has rice flour, potato starch, sunflower oil, tapioca starch. Like other samples, glycerine is used is to keep it moist. Methyl cellulose is used here, and in other samples, as a thickener and emulsifier which helps to keep an even texture.
It is quite difficult to deliever shelf life and a light texture without some additives. The taste was a little sweet (caster sugar is used), and wasn’t liked as much as other samples.
Aldi Has No white baps 240g €1.39
Three in a pack are produced in Ireland and have have a fairly regular light bap texture, making it a good burger bun. Rice flour and tapioca starch are the main ingredients, and there are the usual additions of cellulose, potato starch and rice starch.
Perhaps it’s the rice bran extract which helps, along with the yeast, to give it a good, albeit light, bready flavour.
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