What you should know about baker’s yeast:
Not all baker’s yeasts are gluten free! When purchasing, always check the ingredients list on the package. Gluten-containing ingredients such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or freekeh must be labelled if the product contains them.
Two types of yeast can be used for baking. First there is baker’s yeast, also called fresh yeast or compressed yeast. It is available in shops and usually comes in a cube. The other is dry yeast, which can be stored for longer periods and usually comes in a small packet. I recommend the latter for anyone starting out with gluten-free baking.
Dry yeast is widely available, easy to use, easy to store and usually gluten free. If you don’t have much experience, I also discourage the use of so-called active dry yeast. It has special requirements and must be handled in a specific way. Just buy some good old dry yeast from the supermarket – any brand will do.
Yeast is a sensitive little creature. It needs certain temperatures to ferment/rise (referred to as ‘rising’ in this article). Yeast rises the best and most quickly at temperatures around 32°C. It is important to know that, while rising, yeast cultures die at temperatures over 45°C.
The yeast needs an accelerator to rise well. Ordinary sugar can be used. All you need is 1 teaspoon per packet of dry yeast to get the yeast rising. If there is no refined white sugar in the house, you can also use crystallised rice sugar, corn sugar, etc.
There are three types of processes for making a yeast dough. In the ‘direct process’, all of the ingredients are processed at the same time. The yeast dough has a shorter overall rising time. In the ‘indirect process’, a yeast sponge is made first and the dough needs a longer or doubled rising time. Then there is the cold process, which is interesting because it only needs half the amount of yeast and is then left in the refrigerator or a cool place for approximately 12 hours.
What else is important to know about baking with gluten-free yeast dough?
The baking ingredients must always be at room temperature. You should therefore always take ingredients such as eggs, cream cheese, yogurt and milk out of the refrigerator in advance. It is just as important that the ingredients not be too hot, since they could kill the yeast cultures as described above.
Binders for gluten-free flours:
Gluten-free flour needs a gluten binder replacement! This is absolutely essential. This is already included in ready-to-use flour mixes. When making your own gluten-free flour mixes, you must always make sure to add a suitable binder. The most common binders are guar gum, locust bean gum, xanthan gum and arrowroot starch.
Which gluten-free flour is suitable for yeast dough?
It is very important to use the right gluten-free flour. It is the most important ingredient for beginners in gluten-free baking with yeast. The best thing to do would be to buy a gluten-free flour mix that already says on the label that it is suitable for yeast dough or light bread. These are suitable for light-coloured, yeasted pastries.
A few more helpful ingredients in my kit:
Most of us know from past experience that gluten-free yeast dough tears easily, the dough texture is too porous and anything but smooth, and that gluten-free baked goods are very dense, not as fluffy, and tend to dry out fast.
- Xanthan gum helps make the structure of the dough smoother and softer. Even if you use a store-bought gluten-free flour mix, 5 g (1 level teaspoon of xanthan gum) to 500 g flour works wonders and the dough is also easier to knead. As an alternative, you can also use 10 g of guar gum, but it doesn’t produce the same results. If you buy xanthan gum, make sure it is high quality and gluten-free.
- Very finely ground psyllium husks help improve the structure of gluten-free dough even more and allow it to retain moisture. If you can’t find finely ground psyllium husks in the shops, you can also grind them yourself in a spice of coffee grinder. The process generates a lot of dust so be careful. If the recipe doesn’t say to add ground psyllium husks, the dough will usually need more liquid, around 10 – 15%.
- Apple cider vinegar or another acid lightens up the dough. You can add up to 4 Tbsp of acid for 500 g gluten-free flour. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste it afterwards.
To lighten up a yeast dough even more, you can add a packet of baking powder or cream of tartar baking powder to 500 g flour. Again, make sure it is gluten free. Many recipes simply call for double the amount of yeast to lighten up the dough. This is a matter of taste, since the baked goods will have a very strong yeast flavour.
As we all know, gluten-free baked goods tend to dry out quickly. This is why recipes with eggs, yogurt, buttermilk or quark/cream cheese as ingredients are very suitable. For savoury baked goods, finely grated carrots, potatoes or courgettes can be mixed into the dough.
What about rising?
If you haven’t worked much yet with gluten-free yeast dough, it is best to start with a yeast sponge. This will let you know whether the yeast is active and, in some cases, can keep you from wasting expensive ingredients on a baking project that is doomed to failure.
How to make a yeast sponge:
Simply take 50 ml of the liquid in the recipe (milk/water), heat to lukewarm and pour into a small container, sprinkle the dry yeast on top, then the sugar, put it aside and wait for around 10 to 15 minutes. The yeast will activate. Then carry on with the rest of the recipe.
Kneading the dough:
Overall, it is important to handle gluten-free dough gently. Knead it a bit more slowly and somewhat longer rather than too vigorously and fast, otherwise your gluten-free dough will become tough. Gluten-free dough should only be kneaded just as much as necessary. Once you have reached the desired consistency, stop kneading. There are only very few types of dough, such as strudel dough, that need to have a tough consistency. These must be kneaded for an extra long time.
Letting the dough rise:
Many recipes tell you to let the dough rise covered and ‘undisturbed in warm place’. What does that mean? It actually means at room temperature, away from any drafts.
Metal and glass bowls are not ideal for letting a gluten-free dough rise at room temperature, unless they can be warmed or are placed in the oven during rising (at around 35°C). The glass or metal materials cool down too quickly. For best results, use a plastic bowl with a cover just placed on top so that the dough can still breath.
Should the dough rise once or twice?
It is often said that gluten-free yeast dough should only be allowed to rise once. This is what I also believed for a long time, but it is not true. There are enough recipes in which the dough is successfully risen twice.
I could go on and on for hours about gluten-free yeast dough. But these are the most important points for now.
If you are new to gluten-free baking with yeast, I also have an easy recipe to share with you. The dough only needs to rise for a short time and it doesn’t matter what kind of bowl you use ?.
Have fun baking these gluten-free lemon-buttermilk wreaths.
Author: Stefanie Grauer-Stojanovic