Due to an increased focus on dietary consumables and practices today, a wide variety of products have filled the market to meet the more enlightened eating needs of consumers. And one such recent addition is the gluten-free
To begin with, what is gluten? Gluten is a kind of protein present in wheat, spelled, barley and rye. It is a combination protein comprising two parts enveloped in each other: gliadins and glutenins.
But what about its presence in bread? Well, making traditional bread requires a very limited set of ingredients: generally flour, water, yeast, and salt. Now, these breads turn out so because of gluten, which binds everything together. When gluten becomes “activated” in the presence of water and motion (such as during dough-kneading), it functions like glue, ensuring that the flour-based foods are kept together, and it also contributes to the soft, spongy state of cakes and breads.
In gluten-free breads, this “culinary cement” called gluten is replaced by some other binding item! Thus, these breads are baked with all such kinds of grain and legume flours that don’t naturally contain gluten, including rice, quinoa, almond, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, and so on. As for the substitute binding agent, the available choices can be categorized into gums and starches. Some common gums used are xanthan gum and guar gum; and, some generally used starches are corn, arrowroot, tapioca, and potato.
Gluten-free bakers normally go for a combination of both flour and starches/gums to prepare their products, because even as both of these react in their own characteristic ways, together they produce the same effect as gluten does.
Some basic nutrients present in gluten-free bread include- dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, protein, calcium, and iron.
What Makes Gluten-Free Bread Different?
Gluten-free bread may look similar to the traditional wheat bread that is very widely consumed. Yet still, there are finer differences which can be discerned on a closer look:-
- Varying Taste- The regular wheat-based bread is almost consistent in texture and taste because the ingredients used are fairly the same. But, gluten-free bread is extremely varying in this regard, because the chosen flour, for one, can be anything- rice, quinoa, almond, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, to name some- depending on the consumer’s taste.
Size and Rise- Wheat-based breads have a delicious-looking rise that also adds to their airy texture, but gluten-free breads tend to be comparatively flatter. They generally carry ingredients that make them heavier, more fiber-dense, and smaller in size.
- Unevenly Brown- While wheat-based breads would be evenly brown in color, the gluten-free variant does not have its color as equally spread out
- Not as Spongy- Gluten is the protein responsible for giving the bread a spongy quality; thus, wheat-based bread shows a good amount of sponginess. But that’s why gluten-free bread is comparatively denser and some even have a gritty texture.
- Spoils Sooner- While wheat-based breads tend to last fresh for longer and do not expire that quickly, gluten-free bread stales faster, and has a comparatively shorter shelf-life.