Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Boule / Photos by Shauna Ahern

I’ve been fascinated with gluten-free bread recipes because they attempt to do what shouldn’t be possible: create a network of pliable solids that can expand and trap gas released by yeast, giving you a leavened bread without gluten. It’s also invariably a good-for-you loaf, with a rich variety of grains. Shauna Ahern, aka gluten-free girl, author of her the eponymous book and recently Gluten Free Girl and the Chef with husband Daniel, is among the best and has developed this seriously good gluten-free loaf for my bread-baking month. (There will be one more bread baking post; I know, it’s February, but who cares. Bread is Life. Remember these awesome rolls.) Celiac is a very real intolerance to the main proteins in flour (and soy sauce and many many other things, see frank conversation with Carol Blymire on it’s effects). I’m delighted cooks such as Shauna are inventing ways around it. (Maybe one day soon, we’ll have a cure for it, as this USA Today story suggests we’re headed for.)—M.R.

by Shauna Ahern

The first years after I had to give up gluten, I turned away from photographs of crusty bread and piles of pasta.  Why make myself miserable by focusing on what I could no longer experience? I ate my sautéed chard, pulled pork, and white cheddar with pleasure.  I turned away from the rest.

Now, however, after learning how to work with gluten-free flours and make mistakes in the kitchen and take notes about what didn’t work, I look at photos of crusty bread and think, “Bring it on.”  I can make that.  In fact, I will.

So when Michael posted this recipe for a multi-grain boule, and called for us all to make more bread this winter, I scrutinized his ratios and walked into the kitchen.  A few attempts later, I was out on the porch, taking photos of this boule, warm from the oven.  A warm boule made without any gluten.

Now let me remind you of this: there is no substitute for gluten.  Gliaden and glutenin combine forces to create elastic binding in doughs that I will never achieve, no matter how many different flours and slurries and starches I try.  Those of you who can eat gluten?  Please start baking bread.  You have it so easy.  Go.

However, I might not achieve the same air pockets or mile-high rising of dough, but I still want great bread.  And this is great bread.  It’s mostly made of whole grains: teff, oats, and buckwheat.  (Those of us with celiac, like me, can only eat certified gluten-free oats, so please be aware of that before making this for your friends.)  The almond flour adds a great nuttiness and some fat.  The arrowroot and potato starch help lighten and bind the dough.  The eggs enrich the bread and help keep the crumb soft, along with the milk powder.

The taste?  Hearty and grainy, but not gritty.  As my husband says, “it tastes healthy, in the good way”.  There’s a kind of dark intensity to it, like a European bread, which tend to be denser than American breads.  It’s like a rye bread, but without the rye.  The texture of the crumb is soft and pliable.  The crust has a crunch.

Let’s put it this way.  Those rolls you see below didn’t last long after I took that photo.

Gluten-Free Multigrain Boule

Makes 2 small boules or 8 rolls
If you are new to gluten-free, some of these ingredients will feel unfamiliar.  Don’t worry.  They’re good.  Almond flour, teff flour, oat flour, and buckwheat are simply great grains that everyone should be playing with in their breads.  When you bake gluten-free, you have to combine flours for the best taste and texture.

What might seem odd here is the gel-like slurry you make with the flaxseed and chia seeds.  Most gluten-free baked goods recipes call for xanthan and guar gum, hydrocolloids that bind the dough and mimic some of the effects of gluten.  However, I have recently discovered that neither ingredient does great things for my digestion.  So, I have had to cut them out.

The lovely discovery of this is that the gums, it turns out, actually thwart gluten-free baking.  Most gluten-free bread, no matter how good, has a slightly gummy texture, a little like cornbread. Without the gums, and with a slurry of flaxseed and chia seeds instead, gluten-free bread has the texture of bread.

  • 15 grams ground flaxseed meal
  • 15 grams ground chia seeds
  • 60 grams boiling-hot water
  • 100 grams gluten-free oat flour (make sure it’s certified gluten-free)
  • 100 grams almond flour (make sure it’s blanched almond flour, finely ground)
  • 100 grams teff flour
  • 85 grams potato starch
  • 85 grams arrowroot powder
  • 70 grams buckwheat flour
  • 30 grams milk powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 8 ounces warm water
    Making the flax-chia slurry.

  1. Mix the flaxseed and chia seeds together. Pour in the boiling-hot water.
  2. Whisk, quickly, until the seeds have formed a thick, viscous slurry. Set aside to cool down.
    Combining the dry ingredients.

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oat flour, almond flour, teff flour, potato starch, arrowroot powder, and buckwheat flour in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk them together to incorporate them together and aerate. Add the milk powder, yeast, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine.
    Finishing the dough.

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and apple cider vinegar together. Pour this into the mixing bowl, along with the flax-chia slurry.
  2. Mix well. Slowly, add the warm water until the dough comes together.
  3. The dough will be wet and tacky. Don’t worry. That’s the texture you want. You will be tempted to add more flour, since you are thinking of gluten bread. Do not add flour.
  4. Instead, scrape the dough into a large, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2 hours. You won’t have as much of a rise as with gluten bread. However, over those 2 hours, the dough will become more elastic and a little drier.
    Baking the bread.

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F/232 degrees C. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven now.
  2. The dough will still be a bit tacky to the touch. If you want to avoid bread dough sticking to your hands, wet them with just a bit of water. Cut the dough in half to form 2 small boules or into 8 balls for rolls. (If you still have the scale on the counter, form 3-ounce/85 gram balls.) Let the boules/rolls rest and proof further as the oven preheats.
  3. Put the boules or rolls directly onto the pizza stone. (If you don’t have one, use a baking sheet with parchment paper.) Bake until the outside of the rolls are crusty, the bottom has a good hollow thump when tapped, and the internal temperature has reached at least 180 degrees F/82 degrees C. Allow them to cool.
  4. Eat.
multigrain dinner rolls
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31 Wonderful responses to “Gluten-Free Multigrain Bread”

  • Lisa

    Michael, thank you for this! Shauna – you rule! This is perfect. I can taste it already – that mix of flours feels just right. And I can attest to the slurry of chia seeds for a gum substitute. It does work having tried it myself. And the flavor it imparts is subtle and quite nice as a tiny backnote. I am making these tomorrow and cannot wait. Thank you thank you for taking the time to do this.

  • darryl

    Thank you for this. My fav part is that it’s in grams – that’s how I bake as it is exact

  • Ann

    Michael, thank you for drawing attention to us GF bakers, embracing the spirit in which we bake (we are THANKFUL for all of our options!) and for helping Shauna spread the word! I am going to go home and make this tonight. I made my first chia slurry baked goods this weekend – WOW. Definitely an improvement on the gums!

  • Leanne Opaskar

    Shauna, what can I substitute for the oats? I have a friend with celiac disease who reacts very badly to oats, regardless of whether or not they’re gluten-free. This looks lovely and I really want to make it for her. Thanks!

  • Doug

    Uhh, where’s a handy grams to ounces, or tablespoon, translator? I don’t cook in grams. Sorry.

    • Mantonat

      Why is it that people will spend money and drawer space on a dozen different volume-based measuring containers, but can’t be bothered to purchase one simple digital kitchen scale. I have one that is the size of tea saucer (Soehnle Flip – $32) and converts standard to metric with one press of a button.

    • Steve

      While I slightly agree with Mantonat’s response (I would not have been so condescending … but seriously, buy a scale, it will change your life in the kitchen) here’s a great online website for conversions: http://www.onlineconversion.com/

      • Mantonat

        Condescending, maybe. I was just annoyed by the tone of someone who expects someone else to convert measurements for their convenience. I think it has been explained many times by people who bake that weight-based measurements work better when dealing with flour. If it’s acceptable to blow off the expertise of people who put time and effort into creating and sharing recipes, then I think a little condescension is not out of line.

        • Mary Garrard

          I really think that the weight vs. volume measuirng controversy doesn’t rise to the level where condescending remarks are necessary to get one’s point across (remembering Tucson).

          My experience as a long time gluten free baker: it works out fine either way. You weigh; I measure. You say tomayto; I say tomahto. Yesterday I made a batch of gf brownies and a loaf of gf bread (by measuring) that were outstanding, if I do say so. I brought the brownies to work to our fundraiser for the local food bank and not only did they sell out, nobody knew they were gluten free except my gf co-worker (who I told not to tell anyone else).

          These days I bake more by instinct and experience than by strict adherence to a recipe, and I think that variations in the moisture content of flours, how they’ve been stored, the humidity on a particular day, how old the flour is, where the grain was grown, the kind of butter, the quality of the rest of the ingredients, and a whole host of other factors determine how a particular batch of something will turn out. To wit: the posters here who adhered strictly to this recipe but had a dud. In my kitchen, most gf bread recipes are too wet as written. I generally reduce the amount of liquid the first time I use a recipe and then add more until the consistency is right.

          Many folks who publish recipes include both weight and volume measurements, recognizing that stubborn adherence to one way of doing things may lose part of their potential audience. If helping people who need to be gluten free have really good tasting bread is the goal, why not be flexible? Include volume measurements. In an ideal world, that’s what I would like to see. I think there is a bit too much dogma in insisting that weighing is the only way to go, because my experience shows that it isn’t!

          One final point about this specific recipe in what is becoming a far too long comment: I tried a flax slurry in another bread recipe and it turned out tasty but unpleasantly gummy and moist. Now, some might say that it was because I measured instead of weighed. But, I tried the same recipe without the flax a couple of times more to see if I could keep the flavor and lose the gumminess. It worked, and has become my favorite bread. Turns out great every time.

          And, if I get around to doing the gram to volume conversions for this recipe, I’ll post them here for everyone to enjoy!

  • Andrea Dickinson

    I love that you are using grams for the flours, I have a handy digital scale – however, shouldn’t the boiling water be measured in either ounces or milliliters? Or tablespoons if it is like the other flaxseed slurry?
    thanks
    Andrea D.

  • Heather

    I also need to know a sub for oats because my body doesn’t do well with them…I think I also need ideas of which flour would work instead of buckwheat… Any ideas?

  • Flax Seed Guy

    Such a great recipe. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I too have a great appreciation for flaxseed and other incredible foods from Mother Nature. :)

  • David

    Does anyone know what’s going on chemically that allows the flaxseed and chia to provide the structure to the dough? Is it some sort of protein, or is something else going on? I, too, loathe what X-gum does to bread.

  • Mary

    Thank you for posting this! And thank you Shuana…after many attempts and finally settling for ‘pretty good’ gluten free bread, I’m so happy to see you seem to have found the magic. I can’t wait to try this and the rolls too. Can it be so?

  • Claudia

    Thanks for the recipe. Is there a reason for combining the flax seed and chia seeds, rather than using all of one or the other? I could only find the chia.

  • chris k

    Among other things, I cook at a luxury bed & breakfast that accommodates any and all food restrictions. At first I balked at using gluten-free ingredients, mostly due to my inexperience with them, but also because I regarded gluten-free diets as a passing fad. I had no idea that diseases like celiac exist.

    Although I still get anxious about cooking for guests with serious dietary restrictions, I’ve become comfortable using alternate ingredients. It really isn’t that much of a hassle, and the end products are usually just as good as the original ones containing gluten.

    I say “usually” because my biggest challenge so far has been developing a vegan, gluten-free crepe recipe. They taste alright, but the texture is always a little off – kind of rubbery – and they tear easily.

    It would be terrific to have a resource that lists common dairy and gluten-containing ingredients, and offers alternatives in the correct ratio.

  • Lisa

    back again just to tell you I made these today. I cannot believe how easy it was – two bowls and one pan with parchment. I weighed it all in one bowl and let it rise in another. I used all chia b/c I don’t like flax. I love chia. The buckwheat makes the flavor I think. I ground my own which was easy to do in the little food processor. They look exactly as the photo and taste unbelievable. I am sure I am undoing the goodness of the grains with the butter I slathered on, but I stopped (with great willpower) at two rolls. These are by far, the best, hands down, GF bread – the crust, the chew, the air pockets, the no gum taste. Yay. Thank you, Shauna. Thank you Michael.

  • philip Geneman

    I do not have much experience with gluten free baking, but I am will to try anything, thanks for this recipe for gluten free bread I will try to make this soon! thanks so much and thanks for this site.

  • cherylk

    It occurs to me that eating more gluten free foods shouldn’t just be for those with a gluten intolerance. It’s probably better for everyone. This bread looks wonderful and I think the “don’t knock it until you try it” cliche probably applies here. Thank you for this.

  • Shana

    I made these today. The taste is great, but they are hard like bricks. Any ideas? I went over the recipe and am quite sure my ingredients were right. I baked by weight, and ground the oats, (white) buckwheat, and chia seeds myself. I did think the dough seemed a bit drier than you described. Can the chia/flax slurry be overworked on it’s own or once in the dough?

  • Amber

    I made this bread for the second time today and used more water. Like Shana, my first batch was hard and the dough did seem much dryer than described. Adding more water helped make the bread a better consistency, but also made it spread out much thinner during baking. I wonder what we are doing wrong to make it different.

  • Laura

    I made this and the taste was wonderful. My bread dough also appeared too dry. I added a little extra water. I feel like maybe it should have had a little oil or butter in it. I am also curious if you used an egg wash on your bread. The picture above looks glossy and mine was much more a of a matte.

  • mariposa

    I wonder about the lack of an oil or butter in this recipe?

  • Kathleen

    Thanks for sharing this Shauna. It has a good texture and a nice hearty flavor. I added about 2 tbl. of honey to balance out the slight bitterness of the teff. The baking time was about 22 minutes (I took it out of the oven twice to check the temperature though, so not doing so may speed it up.)

  • annmarie

    As some have used all chia seeds for the slurry, may, one also use all flaxseed for a slurry? I am home and unable to get out for chia seeds and really want to attemt these beauties!

  • michele

    Oh, I was so excited to see this beautiful loaf of gluten-free bread — not only could I bake without dressing like I was preparing for a hazmat clean-up, I could eat the end result! But then I read the recipe and saw the eggs (vegan) and the milk powder (even if I weren’t vegan, like many celiacs I am completely lactose-intolerant). Disappointed again…

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