For those who are unaccustomed, gluten-free bread is kind of terrible. It’s like the bread can’t commit to being bread. It starts out strong – looks good, smells good – but once you try to make a sandwich out of that sucker, it falls apart into a crumbly mess in a matter of milliseconds. For the last year, I’ve been entirely gluten-free (and I feel better for it – more here on the how and why), and over the course of my gluten-free adventures, I miss proper bread the most.
There are some decent options, though, and they’ve been tested by adults (Chris and I) and kids (Birdy) alike. Here are some of the top contenders in the Sparling household:
Udi’s is the first kind of gluten-free bread I’ve ever tried, and I want to like it more than I actually do. It’s not bad, but it’s my least-favorite option. The pieces of bread themselves are tiny, the bread can’t hold up unless it’s toasted, and when it comes into contact with peanut butter, it becomes sludgy almost immediately. But it will do in a pinch, and the other Udi’s options are infinitely better than their actual bread. (Like the hamburger buns. Those are legitimately awesome.)
Rudi’s is slightly better than Udi’s, but the similarity in names confuses the hell out of me. Are Rudi and Udi brothers fraught with conflict who once had a unified bakery but then split off and created their own gluten-free fortresses? Whatever the case, Rudi’s bread is slightly studier than Udi’s but with the same “better when toasted” consistency. The pieces of bread seem slightly bigger than Udi’s on the whole. This brand is a little better but only marginally.
Three Bakers was my favorite bread until two weeks ago (more on that in a second). This bread is decent in size, better than Udi’s or Rudi’s in consistency, and doesn’t have to be toasted in order to be tolerated. This bread can hold up to cold cuts and doesn’t shrink and die when touched by condiments. Three Bakers hold up pretty well when compared to the other kinds. And it makes bangin’ French Toast.
For a long time, the frustrating fragility of gluten-free bread had me baking my own bread, and the preferred bread mix was Pamela’s. While I’ve made my own bread from scratch before, it takes a reasonable amount of time, and Pamela’s mix on the gluten-free setting for the breadmaker works really well. It’s thicker and more moist (worst word ever but it applies here) than the store-bought breads, but it falls apart pretty easily when not toasted. (Sensing a theme here?)
Two weeks ago, though, I found a real winner. A REAL WINNER. The Schar brand of bread popped up in the gluten-free section of our local grocery store and holy shit, this stuff seems legit. It can hold up without being toasted, which is the first kind of GF bread I’ve found capable of unlocking that achievement. It has a consistency and texture closest to regular bread (in my opinion) and it stood up to the sandwich-in-a-cooler-on-the-beach-for-five-hours test. I realize I’m holding this stuff up against a strange standard of failure (“This bread sucks the LEAST!”), but it’s been the most successful substitution I’ve found in my 12+ months going gluten-free.
The main drawback to all of these options? They are pricey. $5 or $6 for a loaf of bread is ridiculous, which prompts us to buy less of it and embrace other non-bready options more. But the gluten-free world keeps expanding, and as someone who dove in headfirst and ditched a year’s worth of bellyaches, I’m wicked grateful for these options.