Gluten is the general name for proteins found in grass-related grains, such as wheat or barley. It acts as a glue that holds food together and gives it shape. When we make bread, the flour we use most often comes from wheat. As we learned in our the first blog post in the Chemistry of Cooking series, wheat flour contains the proteins glutenin and gliadin, which form gluten when combined with water. As the bread dough is kneaded, the gluten proteins are uncoiled and become stretchy. It now has the texture of gum, and it traps the little bubbles of carbon dioxide from the yeast and prevents the gas from escaping, allowing the bread to rise.
It’s important to note that unless you have celiac disease or any gluten sensitivity, gluten is not bad for you at all! But because some people cannot digest gluten, there has been high demand for gluten-free products. On their own, gluten-free flours don’t have the elasticity we want for dough, and typically produce a much denser product. To fix this, blends of different types of grains are used to create gluten-free flour mixes with a more versatile consistency that will produce a similar product as wheat flour.
A frequently used binder, xanthan gum, is added to gluten-free flour mixes to give the dough some elasticity and make it easy to use right out of the bag. Because the base ingredients for gluten-free flour can be very different, different brands can produce varied results in baked goods, giving a recipe a completely different taste and texture.
Which Flour Do You Like Best?
- Unbleached all-purpose flour has about 10% protein (gluten), and is the most common flour used in baking. You can also purchase all-purpose gluten-free flour from a mixture of different sources.
- Almond flour is gluten-free, and is very absorbent, so you only need to use ¼ of the flour mixture in your recipe.
- Barley flour has very low gluten, so when you make bread with yeast, you’ll want to use a mixture of ¾ barley flour and ¼ all-purpose flour.
- Bread flour is made from hard, high-protein wheat. It has more gluten strength and protein content than all-purpose flour, making it the best candidate for yeast bread.
You can use these different flour types to make bread, and decide which tastes the best to you! Here’s a recipe for bread with almond flour to get you started. Otherwise, use the above paragraph for a guideline as to how much flour you need.
Experiment with different types of flour, and see how your bread turns out!
The recipe below was taken from tasteofhome.com, and is one of their most popular bread recipes (https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/basic-homemade-bread). The only ingredient we’ll be changing is the type of flour, so we can see how the amount of gluten affects the texture of the bread.
- 1 package (¼ oz) active dry yeast
- 2 ¼ cups warm water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 6 ½ cups flour (all-purpose, bread, and gluten-free)
Dissolve the yeast in warm water--this is called “blooming”, or waking the yeast up. Add sugar, salt, oil, and three cups of flour (remember, you are making three different loaves!). Beat with a mixer (with dough hook attachment preferably) until all ingredients are well combined. Add the remaining flour ½ cup at a time until a dough forms.
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead until it’s smooth and elastic--about 5-10 minutes (this may not be as evident with the gluten-free dough). Then put the dough in a large bowl coated with oil - make sure to turn the dough to coat all sides with oil! Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1.5 - 2 hours.
Bake the bread at 425℉ for 15 minutes, and then lower the temperature to 375℉ to continue baking for another 15-20 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and sound hollow when the bottom of the pan is tapped. Place the bread on a wire rack and let it completely cool before you take a bite!
“Different Types of Flours”. What’s Cooking America, whatscookingamerica.net. Accessed online on 11/10/17.
“Basic Homemade Bread Recipe”. Taste of Home, tasteofhome.com. Originally published as Basic Homemade Bread in The Taste of Home Cookbook 2006, p452. Accessed online on 11/10/17.
Di Nucci, Gustavo. “Give Bread 2”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 11/9/17 from publicdomainpictures.net
Kratochvil, Petr. “Raw Dough”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 11/10/17 from publicdomainpictures.net
Revel, Richard. “Wheat Field”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 11/9/17 from publicdomainpictures.net
Libby, Junior. “Sliced Bread”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 11/9/17 from publicdomainpictures.net
“EleanorD Kneading”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 11/10/17 from commons.wikimedia.org