This is not a gluten bashing article; it is just about a chef demonstrating how gluten is formed. A few years ago, a rising interest in gluten-free diet became the next big health news. With many celebrities endorsing the choice of a gluten-free diet, it became a new craze in the US without many people even knowing what gluten is and how it affects our body. Today, people have a better idea of the gluten component in our diet. But very few know how it actually looks and feels. For those who don’t know yet, gluten is an insoluble protein composite, made up of two proteins named gliadin and glutenin in the presence of water. It is an elastic network of proteins that have the ability to trap air much like a balloon. This gluten network fills with smaller starch granules and gas bubbles, which allow the bread to rise and cakes to gain that sensitive structure.
Now we have long known that gluten is essential in baking, but mainly we have done a lot of talking and not a lot of shows. So, how gluten is formed? And what is gluten on a tangible level? Can you feel gluten? A chef at America‘s Test Kitchen ran a simple experiment to test that. He made two basic dough by mixing flour and water in a food processor until a smooth ball formed. For one dough, he used cake flour, which contains the least amount of protein of all the different types of flours, and you can find it at the grocery stores. In addition, cake flours are often bleached, which further weakens the protein. For the other one, he used bread flour, which contains the most amount of protein and is generally not bleached.
Even in a smooth ball of dough, you can’t actually see gluten because surrounding that gluten is a whole lot of starch, as shown by the chef. In order to deal with the surrounding starch, the chef washed the dough in water. Yes, running the dough through water is the best way to eliminate the gluten surrounding starch. He did so by placing each dough in a mesh strainer and massages them under running water to get rid of all the starch. Once the water is clear, a sign that the starch is gone, he was left with two piles of essentially pure gluten. Note that this not how gluten is formed; it comes into existence the moment flour powder meets water.
There were major differences in the look and texture of the two. The low protein cake powder formed a very small amount of really weak gluten. On the other hand, high protein bread flour formed a large ball of highly resilient rubbery gluten that can be stretched very wide without breaking. To show just how elastic this bread gluten ball is, he did something a little bit unconventional (crazy). He treated the dough ball like a balloon and inflated it with compressed air.
What did he teach us from this experience? High protein bread flour is used for making bread because it develops a lot of very flexible gluten. Which, as you can observe in the pictures, acts like a balloon. It traps air and creates high rising loaves. For cakes, we enough gluten to provide a bit of structure without turning them tough. We turn to cake flour for its less protein quality and reduce gluten potential. All-purpose flour, as the name suggests, is good for many foods that fall in between these extremes, such as pie dough and cookies. This entire process not only tells us how gluten is formed but also tells us about the way we can actually visualize it.
How is gluten-free bread made?
Gluten-free bread is made with the replacement of wheat, barley, or rye with rice, sorghum, tapioca, potato starch, or buckwheat flour as the main ingredient. These other types of flour don’t contain glutenin and gliadin, which are the two main components essential for the formation of gluten.
How is gluten removed from wheat?
But how is gluten removed from wheat? It is done by the process of centrifugation. When wheat flour is gone through centrifugation, the starch component dissolves, but the gluten remains because of its insoluble property. It is where the gluten is separated from the flour.
How is gluten bad for you?
How is gluten bad for you? Why are companies making gluten-free products, and why are there are so many people supporting it? Just because, yes, this is the correct answer. Gluten is only really bad for you if you have celiac disease because it damages the walls of the small intestine in these patients. If you don’t have this condition, there are no life-changing health benefits. People are switching to these diets to boost energy and lose weight based on testimonials on media, not on evidence. Food companies are happy to do it because it makes the products more expensive. According to Dr. Leffler from Harvard Medical School, normal & healthy people are just wasting their money going for a gluten-free diet.
It can even cause more foul than good. Whole wheat and traditional bread are a source of dietary fibers, vitamins, and minerals that are essential to our body and bowel movement. Especially in pregnant women, Vitamin B9 is critical, and the whole wheat is a good source of it.