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Feb
9,
2021

Overcoming the Gluten-Free Baking Challenge

Feb 9, 2021

Touted by the media for it’s alleged health benefits, the gluten-free diet has become increasingly fashionable over the last decade. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, the gluten-free food industry grew by over 136% between the years 2013 and 2015, which translates to over 2 billion dollars in sales – and is expected to keep growing. That’s right, it seems that this diet is not a passing fad, but rather is fast becoming a preferred lifestyle choice for many people all over the world. To cater to this new trend, many bakeries started to experiment with new recipes in order to offer gluten-free breads, quickly realizing that gluten-free baking can be very challenging, to say the least.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein complex found in wheat, rye, barley and their derivatives. It is an important component in bread-making because it’s made up of two protein fractions, glutenin and gliadin, which are responsible for dough elasticity and extensibility respectively. More specifically, during the baking of yeast-leavened products, the gluten proteins bind together to form a mesh network that traps the gases formed during fermentation, allowing the dough to rise while maintaining its structure, shape and unique texture.

Why are people looking for gluten-free products?

Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet was originally intented as a treatment for people diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which is estimated to affect roughly 1% of the population. For those people, the ingestion of gluten triggers an auto-immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine, ultimately resulting in a slew of symptoms related to gastro-intestinal problems and malabsorption of nutrients, ranging from bloating and diarrhea to anemia to bone disease, cancers and more. Avoidance of gluten-containing foods has been also prescribed for people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which is estimated to affect up to 15% of the population. In these cases, while the intestines remains physically healthy, the consumption of gluten-containing foods can lead to various degrees of digestive problems and other non-specific symptoms (such as headaches, fatigue and brain fog). Moreover, celebrities and widespread media have been increasingly advocating gluten-avoidance for numerous alleged health benefits, based on anecdotal evidence. In fact, Forbes reported that over 3.1 million Americans are avoiding gluten-containing products, 72% of which are not clinically intolerant to gluten. Fact is, more and more people are slowly giving up gluten regardless of whether they are diagnosed as gluten intolerant or not, and the demand for gluten-free products is sky rocketing.

Mastering gluten-free baking
Owing to the challenge of gluten-free flours to form a protein network that provides structure and strength to dough, breads produced in the absence of gluten tends to be flatter, denser, crummier, less chewy and less tasty. In fact, while more than 64 000 gluten-free products are currently offered on the market, 60% of gluten-free consumers believe the quality of gluten-free products could be improved. Luckily, Lallemand offers a variety of innovative baking solutions that can aid in improving the strength, volume, texture and overall quality of gluten-free baked goods. Lallemand products are backed by skilled technical support staff that will be happy to assist you in determining which product best suits your process and application.

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