Taste-Test: Gluten-Free Bread

Sales of gluten-free foods are soaring and it’s no longer just those with an allergy or intolerance stocking up; in the UK, 60% of adults have reported buying a gluten-free product and 10% of households contain someone who believes gluten is bad for them. So why is a good gluten-free bread still so hard to come by?

PureBred

From sliced white and sandwich rolls to Chia seed and raisin, not only is PureBred much higher in fibre and lower in fat, calories and sugar than most other gluten-free brands, but taste-wise it’s also up there with the best. Soft, moist and surprisingly robust, this is bread that looks like real bread, smells like real bread and actually tastes like real bread too.

Price: from £2.45

Just: Gluten Free Bakery

Using traditional methods and as few ingredients as possible, in 2014 Just: Gluten Free Bakery was awarded Free-from Bakery Product of the Year. It’s certainly the brand to watch out for and while the sliced bread is too thin and small in size to negate the light fresh flavours, their Good White and Seeded Rolls are where Just: Bakery really triumphs. Crisp on the outside and soft and springy in the centre, they say it’s their mission to make free-from products ‘as good as standard wheat products, or better’ – and with these gluten, wheat, egg and dairy-free rolls they really have done just that.

Price: from £2.09

Newburn Bakehouse

While there’s little difference between the brown and white sliced breads of Genius and Newburn Bakehouse in terms of taste, we prefer those from Newburn Bakehouse simply because they’re more likely to arrive on a plate in one piece. Ditch the White and oddly-sweet Seeded Farmhouse loaves in favour of the Brown Farmhouse Loaf, which is pleasantly soft in texture and actually makes the basis of a pretty decent sandwich. Even better are their new Sliced White Sandwich Thins. Deliciously soft and surprisingly robust, simply stuff and serve, toasting for extra crunch.

Price: £3 for the loaf, £2 per pack of 4 sliced white sandwich thins

Tesco Free-From Seeded Loaf

Tesco’s Free-From Seeded Bread might be the cheapest and most convenient gluten-free loaf out there, but at £2 a loaf you really do get what you pay for. The slices are wisely thick to avoid crumbling, but the centre is disappointingly spongy and even when toasted struggles to hold itself together.

Price: £2

Genius

Genius first launched its White and Brown 400g loaves back in 2009, becoming the first, fresh gluten-free bread available in UK supermarkets. However, the brown and white loaves are only as tasty as their cheapest wheat-based counterparts, with an overly-processed sponginess that can only really be enjoyed when toasted. On a par with Tesco’s, only with a higher price tag.

Price: £2.70

Burgen

Burgen is the Vogel’s of the gluten-free world, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by both their Sunflower & Chia Seed and Soya & Linseed gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free bread loaves. The actual slices are a little dry, but they have a slightly nutty taste which is wonderful when toasted. Better than the own-brands, with no artificial preservatives or flavours for added health benefits.

Price: £2.75 

Helen’s

Gluten-free baking often requires some unconventional work-arounds, and in this case it’s the bathing of a bread tin in a water bath. While this alternative approach to kneading didn’t quite achieve the double-height rise suggested on the packet, 45 minutes in a hot oven was all this White Sandwich Bread Mix needed to billow up into the sort of light and springy loaf you can slice up, share around and make a small but scrummy sandwich out of. Health-wise it also out-ranks the majority of commercial free-from breads; all of Helen’s products are packed full of nutrients and natural ingredients, with Linseed (AKA flaxseed) used in every product because of its gut soothing properties.

Price: £2.49

Rana’s Artisan Bakery

From ‘Bold Buckwheat’ and ‘Nearly Rye’ to ‘Super Sourdough’ and ‘Double Ingenious Flatbread’, Rana’s Artisan Bakery is a one-stop shop for artisan bread mixes with a growing reputation for easy-bake breads of the very finest quality. We struggled with the just-add-water Super Sourdough bread mix, but even with our poor efforts we still found the bread pleasingly tart and moist, with a firm crisp crust and the unmistakable tang of this ancient favourite.

Price: £3.99

 Juvela

Delivered within hours of being baked, Juvela’s loaves have been developed to be as comparable to traditional bread as possible and are both decent in size and arrive still smelling like proper fresh bread. Opt for the Fibre Fresh Sliced Loaf with its nutty specklings of crushed linseed over the more processed-tasting Fresh White Sliced Loaf, or even better give one of their All-Purpose Flour Mixes a go.

Price: varies

Delicious Alchemy

A good gluten-free crust is hard to come by, and these brown and white bread mixes from Delicious Alchemy cook up a cracked and chewy crust so delicious it’s worth losing a tooth over. The recipe calls for a food mixer or bread machine and there’s really no avoiding this: when made by hand the dough emerges more like a dense and darkly knobbled brick than the light and airy loaves I’ve seen elsewhere, and while it’s still heavy with flavour it’s certainly not the greatest example of gluten-free alchemy. Better for soup than sandwiches – or really just those with a bread machine.

Price: £2.49

  Sukrin

Sukrin’s prize-winning product is the Sunflower & Pumpkin Seed Low Carb Free-From Bread Mix. Free from gluten, egg, sugar, wheat, yeast, soya and xanthan gum, it’s a wonder that this stuff actually works – even more surprising that it tastes good. The bread has a nuttiness and pleasant seedy texture similar to Vogel’s. It’s small but filling, with a surprising amount of moisture and springy lightness that really does make it feel and taste like a ‘proper’ loaf.

Price: from £6.95

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