Gluten is one of the most important wheat proteins in the baking industry for very obvious reasons. Attention has not been paid to the importance of gluten because of unfounded information about the healthy and highly necessary baking ingredient.
Gluten is a protein present in wheat, rye and barley. The protein is hardly synthesised but processed from natural wheat flour. Usually, the wheat is soaked in water. This allows the gluten to be activated. The wheat is then processed to remove everything else aside from the gluten. It is then dried and ground to what we know as vital wheat gluten. Going through all the stages of processing vital wheat gluten isn’t just for the fun of it, it’s for the following reasons:
Vital Wheat gluten is a powerful swelling agent. The addition of a few teaspoons of Vital Wheat Gluten to your flour makes your dough rise and gives elasticity to it. The swelling of the dough is made possible through as the protein helps trap gases and moisture within the dough. Without gluten, the baked food appears dry and stale in no time. The presence of gluten in the baking process adds to the chewiness of the final product.
Research has shown that the addition of vital wheat gluten to both white and whole grain flour significantly increases the quality of the dough produced. Bread and dough that is made with flour and vital wheat gluten have long spoilage period and can easily be preserved.
The use of gluten in baking makes the dough viscose and thick. The use of gluten in low protein flour easily compensates for the lack of protein.
The presence of gluten is responsible for the soft and fluffy feel of bread and cakes. Gluten helps to absorb moisture and then retains the moisture during the baking process in the oven. This prevents your bread from drying out from the heat of the oven. The elastic nature of gluten keeps air and moisture within the dough giving it the soft and fluffy feel.
Another reason you have to make use of vital wheat gluten in baking is that it is a rich source of phosphorus. A measure of about 125 mg is present in 55 g of vital wheat gluten. This means 2-3 teaspoonful of vital Wheat gluten contains the recommended 1,250 mg dietary requirements for adults and well above the 700mg recommended for children.
Storing dough in very cold temperatures is known to reduce its strength and eventually the bread quality. But it has been discovered that adding vital wheat gluten while mixing the dough will considerably reduce the loss of quality from the dough even after it has been stored at below zero temperatures. Bread or whichever product is eventually made of that dough will still maintain much of its quality characteristics.
Bakery products are known to have a very low shelf life as they cannot stay for too long without refrigeration. Adding vital wheat gluten increases the length of time they can stay at room temperature before their quality starts to reduce. When dough with vital wheat gluten is used to bake bread, the time it takes before mouldstarts to form on it is delayed for a bit longer than usual.
Vital wheat gluten is added to bakery products to fortify the lower quality flour or even flour with low protein content. The addition of vital wheat which is very rich in protein increases the protein content and enhances the low-quality flour. This practice of fortifying low-quality flour with vital wheat gluten is very popular in the baking business.
Vital wheat gluten has a very low-fat nutrient, and this helps to maintain a reasonable cholesterol level. Fatty products have a high level of cholesterol, and they are not ideal for consumption when trying to maintain a nutritional diet. As a result of the low level of cholesterol, when vital wheat gluten is properly applied to baking products, it can be considered as heart friendly and nutritionally safe.
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-Akshit Gupta (Asha Ram & Sons Pvt. Ltd.)