Thursday, August 22, 2013

More Than You Needed to Know About Gluten.

I've had a fun time this week baking. On Sunday, I made a lovely rosemary olive oil bread. Then I got serious,.making whole wheat flour banana bread on Monday and whole wheat blueberry muffins on Wednesday. Right now I have the mixer working on my first 100% whole wheat sandwich bread. We'll see how it turns out. I'm nervous, since I don't have any gluten to add. I want to learn to make things without any weird ingredients like gluten or flax seed.

On the Characteristics and Purpose of Gluten
"But why, oh, why," inquires the Sarah of 5 months ago, "would you need to add gluten to bread? Doesn't it already have gluten? What is Gltuen anyway?" Before I began my bread-making quest, I had no idea what gluten was. I only knew that it was something in grain that celiac people were allergic to. After reading a ton of articles, I feel like I understand everything about bread-making so much more now that I understand gluten. Whole wheat berries have a shell (called bran) and a little, meaty reproductive part (called the germ) and the rest is what I think of as the meat- it's the starchy, center part. Technically called the endosperm, but since I can't say the word sperm without giggling, it I shall be referring to it as the meat. Gluten is a protein that is found in the meat. All purpose flour is made by removing the bran and germ and grinding down the meat. Whole wheat flour is made using all three parts of the wheat and therefore has a slightly lower amount of gluten by volume. But that's only half of the problem. When bread rises, the yeast is giving off gas (it's quite a flatulent organism) that becomes trapped by chains of gluten (that link together during the kneading process). The husky bran tends to stay sharp and tough. It's what gives whole wheat flour its added fiber bump as well as its brown color. So, the bran particles are in there pushed in between layers of gluten chains and as the gas moves them ever so microscopically, they are like, "Shwack! Shing! Take that, sucka!" slicing up the chains of gluten. The air then escapes and the bread doesn't rise as much and you get a dense loaf of bread.

So right now, I am trying recipes that just take advantage of the gluten content available in whole wheat flour but, let's be honest, my freshly ground wheat probably has pretty sharp bran in it, so I may have to cave and start buying gluten to add to my breads.


  1. Wow! That was really educational, but why might extra gluten be bad for you?

  2. It's not bad for you. It's just expensive/another thing to buy