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Comparing and Judging the Quality of Different Gluten-Free Breads

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FG Roberts G-F Cottage bread (left) versus a competitor's G-F white bread 
Compare the fine, closed-cell structure of true yeasted bread (left) versus the cake-like structure typical of many gluten-free breads.

We thought you might be interested in the way we have judged the quality of our gluten-free breads over the years.

We are our own  harshest critics and we will continue to be so until our breads score a perfect 10 in each category below.

But to give you some idea how we think we are going in this quest for the 'holy grail', we've done some comparisons with other breads and mixes available.

This is not to denigrate those who are putting huge amounts of effort into G-F bread development, but more for us to see how far we've come and how far we've got to go to make G-F bread as good in every area as its wheat counterparts... so that life for the gluten intolerant is more "normal".

What Makes Bread "Good" ?
Apart from the nutritional value of a good loaf of bread, there are other factors which make up the true enjoyment of our most basic and versatile food.

No doubt people will have their preferences about what makes bread "good" and it becomes hard to be unbiased when commenting on things like "taste", "texture" and "ease of use".
Over 15 years of trials, we have become very fussy and critical about every facet of gluten free bread.
So here is our take on our own success- thus far- with regard to how bread which is made with our F.G.Roberts Cottage Mix stands up against what many would say is a "good" white, wheat based loaf from a major bakery chain, and some gluten free competitors whose mixes and loaves we have trialed here in Australia up to the 17th February 2011.

Each trial loaf was scored out of a possible 10 for each of the 11 criteria, making 110 the highest score possible. The exception was Loaf C, which being a pre-baked loaf was scored out of a maximum of 90 because two of the criteria (n/a) were not applicable.

Check our results and then compare your current gluten free breads using these same criteria below to see how your providers are going.

comparison chart

A = White wheat loaf from a bakery franchise (* ...of course this "perfect loaf" fails miserably when it comes to gluten-intolerance or allergy and scores a zero in the chart above.)
B = FG Roberts Gluten-free Cottage Loaf Mix.
C = The best gluten-free loaf chosen from among four commercial  pre-made loaves from:
  • BRUMBY'S BAKERY White Gluten Free Loaf
  • PATTIES FOODS White Gluten Free Loaf 
  • VITALITY BAKERIES Traditional Gluten Free White Loaf
  • COUNTRY LIFE Gluten Free White Loaf  
D = The best gluten-free pre-mix loaf we could make chosen from amongst five well known brand mixes from:
  • The Real Bread Mix by Springhill Farm
  • Easy Bake Bread Mix by Orgran
  • Easy Bakers Mix by Laucke Flour
  • Bread Mix by Basco
  • Instant Bread Mix by Well and Good

Explanation of Test Criteria

Versatile Dough

A true dough enables all sorts of shapes and varieties of loaves, rolls, buns, pizzas, baguettes etc to be produced. Almost every gluten-free bread in the world fails in this regard as it is unable to be formed into a stretchy mouldable dough either because it is a batter or because it fails to hold shape during the rise and bake.
Therefore they must rely on the shape of the tin the mixture is placed in.
Batter is more messy to work with, difficult to clean up after mixing and is generally unsuitable for commercial bakery equipment.

Gluten has been the key to creating a 'normal' dough- based bread.

We are delighted to have discovered a combination of gluten-free ingredients in a formulation which can to a large extent mimic a gluten based dough and therefore result in excellent  gluten-free breads of all shapes and sizes.
Pre-made loaves can be convenient (loaves represented by LOAF C above) but of course have no versatility at all compared to making your own.
And any pre-mix that does not form a mouldable dough scores a zero on our chart for this section.

Loaf Height/Volume/Value
Loaf height and volume determines the lightness of the bread and usually its value cost wise. The fewer loaves from a kg of mix, the more costly it is.
Our mix gives as good as if not better loaf height and volume than its wheat equivalent. Its cost is therefore relatively very good considering the more costly ingredients compared to the mass production economies of scale of wheat bread.
Value is also further reduced when your G-F bread is half thrown out because it has become very unpalletable so soon after making it or purchasing a loaf.
Aroma and Taste
Each flour and ingredient combination has its own particular aroma and taste. Our aim here was to prevent any chemical, milk powder, eggy or artificial smell or after-taste from bread produced by the mix.
Many breads when toasted from mixes we tried also left a very pungent and unpleasant smell lingering in the air.

Of course a "true bread" must have yeast to  help it achieve a real bread-like aroma and taste, but, numerous other ingredients we've tried ended up overpowering the lovely  savoury 'ethanol' aroma and taste typical of wheat and rye based breads which we wanted to keep - both during and after baking...and the day after also. We are very satisfied with our score here as are those who love eating it though they are not gluten intolerant.
Here our breads match with or even surpass wheat based breads in taste... we are told!

Texture and Flexibility

Here we've tried to mimic as close as possible the light, moist, fine closed-cell, flexible, airy crumb structure of a wheat based loaf. Many of our trials resulted in heavy and crumpety yellowy texture that crumbled easily and were not pleasant to eat.
We also wanted this flexible texture to remain for as long as possible. We believe we have done well in this regard.

A good white bread loaf needs a golden brown finish and a whitish crumb or texture to really appeal. Many things affect the browning of bread including sugar types and amounts, oil or fat content, starch and yeast types, baking time and equipment.
Our mixes should produce a light golden brown finish in even-baking ovens. A good crust also has a smooth top and sides, little or no sinking of the top or sides... especially on cooling, and is slightly soft and chewy (though some prefer hard crispy crusts) so it does not tear your gums. We have achieved a high score in these areas.

Fresh Keeping
Bread freshness has always been an arguable thing. What is fresh to one person can seem not so by another. Many wheat breads can keep 'fresh' (soft, moist and pliable) for many days... and even weeks, depending on the type of bread improvers in them which have been developed over many decades to enable mass production and distribution.

Gluten-free breads on the other hand have tended to go stale very rapidly by comparison... many not even lasting a whole day before becoming unpleasantly dry to eat. Others rely on large amounts of oils and sugars to help prevent this and so end up with heavy, unhealthy, non-flexible damp breads... which are not particularly good for sandwiches or for wrapping around a sausage at a BBQ.

In our opinion, bread can be called 'fresh' if its texture allows for soft, light, moist, flexible, enjoyable eating (as a sandwich... especially for childrens' lunches) on baking day and the day after it is bakedwithout the need for refreshing or reforming in an oven.
Any extension of time beyond this is either a bonus or is overloaded with unnecessary additives... depending on your point of view.

We have no additives or bread improvers in our mixes, very little sugar (dextrose) and we recommend a minimum of oil or fat during making. Bread made with our mixes should be beautiful eating for at least two days. Just beware of mould formation if kept in a warm place (usually about day 4 in a warm humid climate). Keeping it in the fridge will help prevent mould for an extra few days, but it will dry the loaf out quickly and it will lose its softness and flex.

Ease of Use
If a basic loaf is complex and fiddly for the average home baker to make, or requires much physical effort to mix and or knead, it scores low.
High scores are for minimal equipment and time and effort to produce a good loaf and clean up afterwards.
For information on the use of Bread Making Machines... some are very fiddly and others are simpler.... click here.

To make a good loaf with our bread mix involves a simple three step process of

1.mix and shape

 Some mixes are quite fiddly involving multiple steps and various pieces of electrical equipment.
Freezing and Reforming

Successful freezing and thawing or reforming by reheating in a microwave or wrapped in foil in a conventional oven is a must for good bread making as one often wishes to make several loaves at once and then store some.

A good score here sees the thawed and/or reformed loaves return to a very moist and stretchy condition without going soggy, falling apart or drying out rapidly.
loaves thawed  or reformed at breakfast should be usable for lunchtime sandwiches.


Gluten-free breads have been difficult to toast well. Because most gluten-free breads hold a lot of water and use flours which don't brown easily without lots of fats and sugars, dairy and/or eggs being added, it makes toasting take much longer and the crust often burns before the centre is toasted.

We have worked at making sure our bread toasts well although it usually takes a little longer than wheat breads. Good toast should not be soggy nor be hard and brittle.... and should not leave a foul smell in the air if you slightly over-toast it!

Low Allergy
There are countless possible food-based allergens to which different people react.
We have graded them into two groups for our scoring:

1. Allergens which have been medically shown to cause severe reactions in relatively large portions of the population and include: gluten (of course!), nuts, egg, fish, lactose (in dairy products), fructose
If G-F breads and mixes contain these, they lose 2 points for each allergen.

2. Allergens which can cause discomfort and more minor reactions but are unlikely to be life threatening: potato, soy, pea protein
G-F breads containing these lose 1 point for each allergen.

Our FG Roberts breads & mixes contain only soy from these lists which is important for its protein and browning ability.
While some react to soy as an allergen, there is research supporting the possibility of it being something that children can grow out of.

Your challenge...
We are keen to know if you have experienced a G-F bread that gives a higher overall score than the FG Roberts one above... using the criteria above.

We will keep working to make ours even better!

nd instructions.