Discover the importance of gluten in traditional bread baking and how to replace it in three delicious gluten-free bread recipes.
There’s nothing better than the comforting taste of homemade bread straight from the oven. But with a gluten-free diet, suddenly this tasty treat seems out of reach. Learn how you can make delicious brioche, sandwich bread, flatbread and much more with the recipes and tips in Ellen Brown’s Gluten-Free Bread (Running Press, 2013). In this excerpt from chapter one, learn the role gluten plays in traditional bread baking.
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The first step in gluten-free bread baking is to understand the role that gluten plays in traditional breads. Most bread depends on gluten to succeed; gluten is that versatile protein that, when developed, forms a strong air-trapping network that creates breads’ characteristic honeycomb structure and crumb.
In gluten-free breads, the goal is no different. But it is more complicated to re-create wheat breads’ thick crusts and inside soft airy pockets without what many would consider a very essential component to what makes bread, well, bread.
While eliminating rye and barley from the gluten-free diet presents some challenges, eliminating all forms of wheat and wheat flour is a Herculean task—especially when baking bread. Wheat flour contains as many as thirty proteins, and two of those—glutenin and gliadin—form gluten when moistened with any liquid ingredient. These two proteins grab water and connect to form elastic strands of gluten. If flour has a lot of these proteins, it grabs up water faster, making the strong and springy gluten that is needed to bake bread; that’s why high-protein bread flour is frequently specified in recipes for wheat breads. The formation of this elastic gluten network serves many functions in a bread dough. Like a net, gluten traps and holds air bubbles created by the natural leavening of yeast or the chemical leavening of baking soda or baking powder. When a dough is baked, the stretched flour proteins become rigid as moisture evaporates from the heat of the oven, and sets the breads' structure.
Replicating this structure is no easy task. There is no magic wand to wave that can remove the gluten from wheat flour, because the proteins are built into the DNA of the wheat plant. But with the addition of a few other ingredients to nonwheat flours, the results can be just as good.
Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free Bread © 2013 by Ellen Brown, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Buy this book from our store: Gluten-Free Bread.