Grains containing gluten are used as ingredients for a wide range of prepared and commercial foods. Wheat flour alone is found in thousands of products due to its ability to give products structure and assist with the thickening and coating of products.
In addition to the gluten found in grains, gluten can also be added as a separate ingredient in its own right. This product is made from washing the starch out of a flour slurry.
This additional Gluten is used in the bread industry to supplement the gluten proteins already naturally present in flour and subsequent dough. To the baker gluten adds valuable properties:
- increased dough strength
- better gas retention and elasticity, which gives products good structure and uniform shape to bread
- better water absorption and retention, improving yield, product softness and extending shelf life of bread
- enhanced flavour
An example of additional gluten being added to the ingredients of a bakery product is in the manufacture of hamburger buns. The addition of gluten to the dough provides the elasticity needed so that the buns retain a uniform shape when filled.
Gluten can also be a useful ingredient in products other than bakery products, as the following examples highlight:
- Batter: Ensuring a durable adhesion of batter crusts to foods is a quality problem, especially in frozen foods. Using a dusting of gluten powder before applying the batter vastly improves the adhesion in both hot and cold temperatures and the results are comparable to (more expensive) egg. The gluten also assists with food moisture as the product is better sealed and the surface crust that results is crispier and more appealing.
- Pasta: Pasta manufacturers prefer to use semolina made from Durum wheat as it produces better quality pasta. However the addition of gluten to semolina made from other wheat varieties can improve their suitability for pasta doughs.
- Meat products: Gluten is widely used in processed meats, as a binding and enriching ingredient. It is used in beef, pork and chicken sausage products and as a common ingredient of pizza toppings.
When compared to flour, commercial gluten is an expensive product at about six times the price, so it should be used at only the required level to meet product quality requirements. Some useful points to remember when using gluten as an ingredient at home or in a bakery setting are:
To make a useful improvement in the dough structure, approximately 4% of extra gluten is added (based on cereal weight).
If adding dried gluten to a bread formula then more water is required. This is approximately 1.5 times the weight of gluten added.