Gluten uniquely holds three characteristics important to bread making: elasticity, viscosity and extensibility.Although most of the buzz these days is how to take gluten OUT of food, it’s important to understand why you need it IN dough, and how to fully optimize it.

Wheat gluten is made up of gliadin and glutenin. These two proteins form a gluten matrix while the dough is being kneaded. This matrix has three qualities that are crucial for dough:

  1. Elastic
  2. Extensible
  3. Viscous

The elasticity comes from hydrogen bonds and entropy inside the gluten molecule — giving dough its springy texture. The extensibility allows the dough to stretch without breaking. Gluten’s viscosity is evident when the dough relaxes. The gluten flows, repelled by its hydrophobicity. These characteristics help with dough strength, texture, stabilization, water absorption, flavor, and retention of gases during the rising stage.

What are wheat protein isolates?

Wheat protein isolates are proteins made from vital wheat gluten that are optimized to provide additional functionality. The term “isolate” indicates the protein content is 85% or higher. Some wheat protein isolates will maintain their viscoelasticity, but become much more extensible than vital wheat gluten

Bring on the gluten boost!

All of this is occurring naturally inside dough when wheat, rye or triticale is used. However, some products need an extra boost. For example, the bran in whole wheat flours can break down gluten structure. Vital gluten is condensed wheat gluten and has a high protein percentage (around 73%).

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