Moreover the whole bread making process relies on the yeast working synergistically with the gluten in the wheat flour to raise and then hold the mixture to give it a light and spongy texture. Remove the gluten and you remove one half of the process. You can add yeast to other flour mixtures but while they will raise it, there is nothing in those flours to ‘hold it up’ so it falls flat and you get solid, rock-like loaves.
Using endless combinations of flours and xantham gum to provide a little elasticity, home and micro bakers did come up with edible loaves but they staled very quickly so had no serious commercial potential. The only saleable loaves were the much heavier wholemeal or pumpernickel style loaves which had always been solid anyhow.
And then in 2009, there was the Genius moment. Lucinda Bruce Gardyne, a professional chef with a gluten intolerant son, had created a home bake bread which worked pretty well. The breakthrough came when she got backing to take it to a large commercial baker where, using higher levels of fat and egg white, it was developed into a ‘supermarket’ bread which not only looked and tasted like a standard loaf with a standard loaf texture, but had a viable commercial shelf life.
The bread was not perfect. It did include egg and was higher in fat and sugar than a standard non-gf loaf and it did, and still does, have a tendency to develop holes. But it was light years better than anything that had come before and swept all before it. (Genius is now a multi million pound brand selling across Europe and further) And of course, once Genius had cracked it a number of other manufacturers followed in their footsteps including Warburtons and a number of the supermarkets.
Genius, in somewhat of a miracle of freefrom manufacture, has gone on to develop gluten and dairy free croissant and pain au chocolat. Not, reasonably enough, as good as the original fine wheat flour and Normandy butter ones, but certainly an acceptable alternative for those who can never eat the originals.
The artisan bread market meanwhile has gone down a more wholefoody route, experimenting with alternative grain, superfood and new world seeds such as teff and quinoa to create a very viable range of freefrom wholemeal-type breads.
It will be interesting to see what the next few years will bring.