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Is there any gluten-free bread that doesn’t taste like sh*t?

Image via Thinkstock

If there is one thing that scares people off going sans gluten, it’s having to break up with bread. And if you’ve had the misfortune of ingesting some of the more underwhelming substitutes on the market, you’ll know these fears are completely justified.

I have no idea how a consumer watchdog hasn’t knocked on some manufacturer’s doors and said, “Excuse me, are you aware the product you’ve labelled as ‘bread’ is actually just dust cut into slices?”

The irritating thing is that gluten is pretty much essential if you want your bread to have the structural integrity of a crusty French baguette. This lack of ‘glue’ results in substitutes going one of two ways – they’re either like honking onto a bit of dry wall or they’re so packed full of binding agents you need a chimney sweep to get the remains off the roof of your mouth when you’re done.

So, if you give up gluten are you destined for a life without bread? Not quite – but it’s fair to say you are going to have to make a few compromises….

If you think size matters, you’d better get over it

Sometimes I wonder if the gluten-free baking society got together and decided that for gluten-free bread to be ‘regulation’ it had to be somewhere between the size of a postage stamp and a square of toilet paper. Needless to say, if you’re used to a giant piece of Tip Top, you should probably start to familiarise yourself with the idea of smaller portions (which isn’t a bad thing).

It’s time to stop pretending you’re gluten intolerant now.

The positive, however, is that gluten-free breads are often full of waaaaay more nourishing ingredients than other breads so you’ll feel fuller for longer (even if it looks like you’ve made a sandwich with a couple of biscuits).

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Aladdin with bread
Aladdin knows my pain.
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If you’re used to paying $1 for a loaf of bread then take a seat because the gluten-free stuff is usually around the $7 mark (which by my calculations is about as far from ‘free’ as you can get). Maybe I’ll take back my above judgement on size…if the loaves were any bigger I probably couldn’t afford them.

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Get used to liking your sandwiches toasted

The trick with gluten-free bread is to toast it within an inch of its life. It doesn’t burn (here’s hoping that isn’t because the secret ingredient is fire retardant) but if you really cook the hell out of it, it gets much closer to the consistency of real people toast and actually tastes really good. I usually put mine through the toaster twice on high and it comes out perfect….plus you don’t have to stand over the sink scraping the burnt bits off anymore because you went to the toilet and forgot about it. In fact, you could probably leave it in the toaster on high for 3 days and it’d still be edible (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing).

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So is there any hope?

Yes! Eating a sandwich doesn’t have to end in an oral dust storm, a chimney sweep's brush or a flood of tears! In the last 6 months there seems to have been a tsunami of options hitting the supermarket shelves (I see a review coming on), so you definitely won’t have to say goodbye to your morning piece of toast. I would issue a word of warning with some of the supermarket brands though – a lot of them are made with potato flour, potato starch or xantham gum and I often find these too ‘starchy’ for my system but you may find you have no problems (my system is a bitch).

So what brands should you buy?

For sandwiches: 

Image: Naturis Bakery

I love the Buckwheat Loaf from Naturis Bakery. It’s gluten, dairy, sugar, wheat and yeast free and doesn’t have any of those “WTF is that??” ingredients in it. With a couple of blasts on high in ye old toaster this stuff is great. You can find it at Harris Farm Markets or purchase it online. They also do a fruit and nut loaf which is great because when I used to smell someone cooking raisin toast I’d have to hold back the urge to jealous punch them and now I can just make my own… and avoid being charged with workplace assault.

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For wraps:

Image: Old Time Bakery

Nothing makes you look more pathetic than standing in the lunch room with a gluten free wrap, rolling it up and watching it crack right down the middle, spilling the contents all over the plate along with your attempts to look ‘normal’. Most GF wraps are a pain in the arse and need to be ingested in solitude in a toilet cubicle because, thanks to them not ‘wrapping’ anything, it’s impossible not to make a mess.

The trick, is to NEVER use them without heating them first. I usually wet my hand, flick it with a tiny bit of water and then microwave it on high for 10 seconds. Take them directly from the fridge or cupboard and manipulate them at your own peril, but a bit of heat and moisture really helps soften them up and makes them more malleable.

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I always buy ‘Old Time Bakery’ Gluten Free Wraps. They’re gluten, wheat, lactose and nut free and you can get them from the supermarket or Harris Farm. I also use corn tortillas from time to time which are much smaller but they don’t require quite so much coercing to get them to do what you want.

So that is all you need to know to start breaking gluten-free bread….although if you buy the wrong stuff it’ll break by itself.

What gluten-free breads have you tried that you like? Do you have a good recipe for making your own at home?

This post originally appeared on The Allergy Kid and has been republished with permission.

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