I knew we were in for a treat when she began her presentation by comparing the baking of gluten free bread to architecture. Architecture? How, exactly, does baking bread compare? Well -- and she put it much more elegantly -- bread requires both strong structural timbers on the outside as well as lighter elements that expand easily. When the yeast bubbles up, the flours with high protein content (buckwheat, amaranth, garbanzo, quinoa, etc.) provide the timbers up which the flours with more lift (tapioca, potato starch) rise up and grow. The combination of flours adds up to a nice, crusty, loaf of bread -- with nutrition, to boot!
Linda also opened our eyes to a whole new world of possibilities for making gluten free bread "stick together" a little better: a function which the gluten in wheat, barley, and rye usually performs.
As gluten free bakers, we can't use wheat, barley, or rye, or course; xantham gum has heretofore been the "go-to" binder in gluten free baking. However, not only is it quite expensive, but some people have reported that it causes digestive troubles.
Linda mentioned a wealth of alternatives to xantham gum, including, for instance, bananas and rice. Yes, that banana that's just a little too ripe for eating -- or the bit of rice from last night's dinner -- can be tossed into a batch of gluten free bread dough to assist in binding.
Just yesterday, however, I used psyllium husks (a tablespoon), after reading a tip from the Skinny GF Chef site.
For those of you who try to consume more fiber, you may be familiar with psyllium husks. Put as little as a teaspoon in a glass of water, and the whole mixture will thicken quickly.
The psyllium husks worked marvelously well (I used a teaspoon, and also three eggs). That is, the husks worked despite the fact that I had added too much yeast and the bread rose too quickly. Its progress up and over the side of the bread machine pan was only interrupted when I removed some dough and placed it in a loaf pan, then in the oven. (if it sounds complicated, it is). But, when the bread was done, it was one of the best loaves I have baked! And the psyllium husks, really helped, I think, to make the bread thick and -- well, more substantial.