Proper gluten hydration will ensure flexible dough that is easily extensible.

Gluten Hydration

What is Gluten Hydration?

Gluten hydration is the ability of water molecules to bind to polar sites on the gluten proteins. Gluten functions best when there is enough water available to hydrate its polar sites, resulting in excellent elastic and extensible properties. The micro-structure of hydrated protein has been shown to be functional rheologically.1

How it Works

For optimal gluten hydration, there must be enough water, a physical agitation system (energy input), properly aged flour or proper oxidation systems or long holding (hydration) time.

All of these affect how the gluten protein unfolds, hydrates and develops to its full capability in a dough system. In high-speed systems, there is usually not enough holding time (with little or no bulk fermentation), to allow the gluten to hydrate adequately by itself. Therefore, dough conditioners come into play to help strengthen, hydrate and fully develop the gluten.


Gluten is the water-insoluble proteinaceous component of wheat flour. When hydrated, it forms a viscoelastic mass that is mainly responsible for the mechanical properties dough.The ability of gluten proteins to adequately hydrate affects its ability to function. Hydration depresses the glass transition of gluten and grants full mobility of protein chains at ambient temperatures.2

The development of gluten progresses from gluten lumps to gluten strands.3 The ability to change this progression affects how well the gluten hydrates and becomes functional. Inadequate gluten hydration not only takes a longer time to mix,but may negatively affect the volume of the product and create a short and crumbly texture.


Gluten hydration can be best obtained with aged flour in a sponge and dough or preferment system with a long holding time (12-18 hours of bulk fermentation) or with a high impact  hydration technology. When flour is not aged, with an inadequate bulk fermentation time, chemical aging through oxidizing agents and dough conditioners is required. Adding hydrocolloids also influences gluten hydration via influencing its water binding capacities.4


  1. Kontogiorgos, Vassilis, “Microstructure of Hydrated Gluten Network.” Food Research International 44.9 (2011): 2582-586.
  2. Cuq, Bernard, Joel Abecassis, and Stephanie Guilbert. “State Diagrams to Help Describe Wheat Bread Processing.” International Journal of Food Science and Technology 38.7 (2003): 759-66.
  3. Auger, Fredric, Marie-Helene Morel, Jacques Lefebvre, Muriel Dewilde, and Andreas Redl. “A Parametric and Microstructural Study of the Formation of Gluten Network in Mixed Flour-water Batter.” Journal of Cereal Science 48.2 (2008): 349-58.
  4. Bárcenas, MarÍ­a Eugenia, Jessica De La O-Keller, and Cristina M. Rosell. “Influence of Different Hydrocolloids on Major Wheat Dough Components (gluten and Starch).” Journal of Food Engineering 94.3-4 (2009): 241-47.