Chef Bryce Shuman of Betony shares how to tackle a gluten-free bread roll recipe.
What makes a great roll, gluten-free or otherwise? I would like it to have a nice, flavorful crust and a delicate crumb that is moist and springs back a little but is not gummy or too chewy. I would like for it to have great flavor — nice and yeasty, with just the right amount of carmelization.
When you begin to bake gluten-free, you will find that there are a few things that can become challenges when dealing with the ingredients that you have to work with, i.e., not bread (wheat) flour. Here’s how to think about baking gluten-free rolls.
The ingredients that you will be using to bake these rolls will be mainly water, rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch. These starches dry out quickly, do not have any glutens to allow for the dough to stretch and create the pockets of gas that form the crumb, and do not have much flavor. We will need to add a few things to help with the structure and the flavor, and we also need to be conscious of our methods when handling the dough and when baking.
So first we consider our ingredients. In the rolls you will find the previously mentioned starches, water, yeast, soy and whey proteins, guar gum, molasses, and a little salt. Each ingredient plays a different role. No pun intended.
Rice flour is the main ingredient in many gluten-free recipes. We like it because of its absorbency and its ability to form a stretchy, pliable dough, but it can be too gummy if just used on its own. We don’t want mochi necessarily.
Tapioca also allows for elasticity, and the potato starch gives the dough body and helps to maintain the moisture in the dough. We add the proteins for structure and for flavor and to help with consistency in the crumb.
Guar gum is a stabilizer and hydrocolloid that allows the dough to stretch and form the expanding pockets of gas as the dough proofs and rises. It helps do what the gluten strands would do in wheat rolls.
Molasses adds flavor and sweetness and helps with the color.
And, of course, add a little salt in the dough to season it, but not so much as to kill the yeast.
Next, the mixing is important. Dry ingredients go in first, then the yeast and the molasses. After that we mix in the water in thirds, allowing the dough to form smoothly, scraping it off the bottom to ensure even mixing and no clumps. You want it to be homogeneous.
After you add all of the water and continue to mix this batter, you will watch as it comes together off the sides of the walls and forms a dough as the starches and the guar gum hydrate and absorb all of the water. The dough will still be pretty wet.
Handling the Dough
Be sure to use a non-stick baking spray when removing the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a sprayed board. Spray your hands as well when handling the dough because you do not want it to stick to your hands.
Roll and portion the dough, keeping your hands lubricated.
Form the rolls into even balls and transfer them onto a sprayed baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover and insulate to allow the rolls to rise. There are two things to watch for here. Be sure to not over-proof — there is quite a bit of yeast in the recipe, and it needs it, but the rise will happen pretty quickly.
If they over-proof, they will fall and become very dense. Also note that these rolls, like most gluten-free bread, only get one rise out of the dough. You cannot punch it down and allow it to continue to rise; it will not come up again.
After the rolls have doubled in size, it is time for them to bake. Since these particular starches dry out pretty quickly, it is important to bake them in a moist environment to keep the crust from being too dry. In order to do that, we place a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven to create steam, and we spray the rolls with a little water before scoring and seasoning.
We add flavor to the roll by seasoning with fleur de sel and with caraway seeds, just as we do with our caraway dinner rolls, so that they have the same appearance and flavor.
Hope that gets you rolling.