If you are a mechanic, you know a machine’s basic care and maintenance, changing oil, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires etc. It’s easier for you to predict which part is causing trouble and is preventing the smooth functioning of a machine. If you are a baker, you know how the ingredients are behaving and reacting and you can predict the problem zone in a bake, you can fix and you can very well create delicious outcomes. It is like knowing your job well and being able to run it trouble-free.
Today, we are understanding one such key component of baking. It’s Gluten. Gluten in bread baking is one of those topics, which is under a spotlight. I have answered many queries about gluten below, which is of great help to know and understand the nature, reaction and response of ingredients. Why gluten is an essential integrant when it comes to bread baking. This article will refine your bread baking skill.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in some grains, largely in wheat. It acts as a binder, it holds together and adds to a “stretchy” quality of dough which is essential for that unique texture, volume, and appearance of bread. Gluten is formed when two of wheat’s native proteins, glutenin and gliadin, come into contact with water. When these proteins absorb water they bond together forming an elastic network called gluten. As the dough is kneaded more, these strands become stronger and more elastic. It helps dough rise by trapping gas bubbles during fermentation, which happens because of the presence of yeast.
This is an interesting and informative read about yeast, which will answer these queries All About Yeast
Getting back our focus on Gluten, How you knit using strands of wool and make it into a garment/sweater. Gluten behaves like those strands of dough that gives strength and structure to the bread. It’s like a magical net of strands. Kneading is the process to accomplish gluten. You can knead with hands or simply use a machine for the task. But you can’t skip kneading when baking bread. Kenwood KM287/ Prospero Stand Mixer 900W (Silver)
When we grind wheat flour, we destroy the structure of the seed (the cells and organelles), preventing germination. But a cascade of chemical reactions will still occur when the flour is hydrated because the materials that cause the reactions are still present. Gluten development occurs when we add water to the flour and let the enzymes work as they were intended. Gluten doesn’t even exist until flour becomes wet.
For good bread, we need gluten and the flexibility of gluten strands. The balance of two qualities: plasticity and elasticity. Which depends on the hydration. Think of the dough for the bread, like a rubber band. If the rubber band is very stiff, it will not expand that much. If the rubber band is very weak, it will break as we try to stretch it. Our bread dough should be like a flexible stretchable expandable strong rubber band that will hold the shape. When the dough is baked, the gluten network stretches to hold on the carbon dioxide produced by yeast.
Gluten is found in these grains: Wheat, Barley, Bulgur, Rye, Spelt, Oats, Kamut, Triticale, Semolina, Pumpernickel, Farro
Gluten is not found in these grains: Rice (all varieties), Buckwheat, Teff, Amaranth, Quinoa, Corn, Hominy, Millet
A strong gluten network will produce baked goods with a lot of chew and a sturdy structure. In contrast, a weak gluten network will produce baked goods and are light and tender. Hence when baking tender cakes, delicate pies we don’t overwork our better. We are using the same maida, but kneading it for a network of gluten strands when baking bread. In contrast to pie, biscuits, cakes were we use a rubber spatula to mix ingredients and bake.
It is also important to note that while hydration is absolutely necessary to develop gluten, high hydration can actually weaken the gluten structure. Once the proteins in flour are fully hydrated, additional water dilutes and weakens the gluten structure. Hence, we use the batter for cakes and dough for bread.
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Cake flour, pastry flour, all-purpose flour are other products available in the market. They contain less protein (weaker gluten). With their low levels of weak gluten, these “soft flours” produce a more tender product like cakes and pies. Bread flour and durum semolina (used for pasta) contain the most protein and form strong, high-quality gluten. These so-called hard flours are ideal for bread and pasta because the strong gluten gives the heavy dough structure and the finished product a pleasantly chewy texture.
Maida … all-purpose flour is a decent choice for almost everything. It’s one for all kind, of product for most of the Indian bakers. Over time we have learnt to tweak the ratios and usage of it for various results.
Whole-wheat flour, by the way, is very high in gluten-forming protein, but it’s not the best choice for lofty yeast bread because the shards of bran in the flour tear the strands of gluten, inhibiting its development.
Whole wheat, bread, durum semolina has 12- 15 % of protein content.
Our Maida has 9- 12 % protein content.
Pastry flour has 8-9% of protein content, and
Cake flour has 7-8 % of protein content.
If you wish to increase gluten content in your bread and you are looking for a market like results, you can add a tiny bit of gluten powder to your flour. Wheat gluten provides strength and structure to the dough, which helps the dough rise to its highest peak.
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Other ingredients that effort the gluten formation.
Fats work to coat the proteins in flour, making them resistant to water absorption. Solid fats, oils, and egg yolks coat gluten proteins and prevent them from forming long, strong strands. This is literally where the name “shortening” came from. For example, when making tarts or pies, the first step is to thoroughly work the fat into the flour. Once coated with fat, the flour granules don’t absorb much moisture when you add wet ingredients. So less gluten is formed, and the tart crust stays tender and flaky.
Sugar is hygroscopic in nature (meaning that it absorbs and holds onto moisture). Because sugar so readily absorbs liquid, it leaves less liquid readily available for the proteins in flour to develop gluten with. Sugar hinders gluten; salt helps it. Sugar molecules encourage tenderness by attaching to water molecules before they can bind with glutenin and gliadin. Again, no water means no gluten. Salt, on the other hand, makes gluten stickier and stronger. Vinegar also helps to make gluten more expandable, adding a tiny bit to the recipe will help in stretching of the dough.