Braided Bread: Gluten-Free

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I love baking bread. At first, making gluten-free yeast bread seemed like a daunting challenge. Like anything, it just takes a little practice. Now it’s as easy as pie.

4 cups Bob’s Redmill All Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour plus 1/2 cup for dusting
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup sugar (evaporated cane juice)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
1/4 cup nondairy milk, plain, unsweetened

Preheat oven to 200oF.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, and salt if using.

In a medium size bowl mix the sugar with the yeast and pour in 1 cup of the warm water. The water should be lukewarm, not hot, or the yeast won’t work. Beat the mixture with a fork and let sit for about 5 minutes. The top should foam. If it doesn’t the yeast is no good and the dough won’t rise.

Add the oil yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and form a dough. The dough will be very dry and stiff. Add remaining water, 1/2 cup at a time to create a slightly sticky moist dough. It should be a very sticky dough, not a batter. It may be easier to use a stand mixer. Incorporating the water into the stiff dough requires a bit of muscle!

On a cutting board or work table liberally sprinkle the surface with the flour. Spread flour on your hands as well. Divide the dough into 3 uniform balls. Roll each dough into a long roll about 1 1/2 inches thick. Place the 3 rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Attached the 3 ends at the top and carefully braid them, attaching the ends at the bottom. If the dough cracks a little you can pinch it back together.

Using your hands or a food brush, liberally coat the bread with nondairy milk, smoothing the surface. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Place on the top of the oven and cover with a towel. I have a gas oven with the burners raised above the top surface of the oven so that the sheet is not directly touching the heat – it is just in a warm environment. If you have a flat surface cook top you many want to place the bread on a rack so it is not in direct contact with the heat. Allow the dough to rise and double in size for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Increase oven temperature to 400F and bake bread for 10 minutes. Remove bread from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Bake the covered bread for about 30 minutes. To determine if the bread is done, insert a toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.

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