People who have gluten sensitivities or gluten allergies may wonder at some point, “What is gluten?” Gluten is a complex form of protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and other types of carbohydrates. The gluten in wheat or grains gives them texture, strength and structure. It gives baked foods chewiness and texture characteristics.
What Foods Have Gluten?
There are numerous food items that contain gluten. Wheat contains gluten, so just about all food items made from wheat have gluten. Foods made from other types of grains may also have gluten. These include pasta, cookies, muffins, pastries, sauces, beer, crackers, dressings, gravy, and oats.
You can determine whether a particular food item contains gluten by looking at the ingredients on the label. If you are lucky, under the ingredients will be a statement that says something like, “Contains wheat.” When you see this, you will know right away that the food has gluten.
There are some foods that contain gluten that you might not have thought of. Some may even surprise you. Below is a list of foods that typically contain gluten. Are there any surprises there for you?
Most types of pickles
Breaded foods, such as mushrooms, chicken, or fish fillets
Apart from the foods mentioned above, there are numerous other items as well that are said to contain gluten. However, there are many food items available in grocery and specialty stores that are gluten-free, but the gluten-free food is usually much more expensive comparatively.
Why Do Breads Need Gluten?
Now let’s talk about why breads actually need gluten. Gluten is the protein substance that actually makes the bread like, well, bread. As stated above, gluten is what gives bread it’s traditional characteristics: chewy and textured. The more gluten there is, the chewier the bread.
The gluten helps the dough hold its shape. After yeast causes the dough to rise, the gluten helps it retain its shape. Without the gluten, the bread would fall flat.
What Breads Don’t Have Gluten?
It is possible to make bread from non-gluten grains, but the results are much different than wheat breads. They require that you use an electric mixer to mix the dough, since this is how to build structure in a gluten-free bread. It may be crumbly instead of chewy. The flavor will be different than that of traditional bread, though different does not equal bad.
There are many types of gluten-free bread products manufactured by companies. Such gluten-free bread products are not only free of gluten, but also tend to contain no sugar or yeast. There are a variety of frozen gluten-free breads that you can choose from, such as bread crumbs, frozen muffins, frozen specialty breads, bread mixes, sandwich breads, buns, and rolls. Some of the brands to look for are Ener-G, Against the Grain, Foods for Life, and Glutino.
Potential Problems When Baking Without Gluten
If you prefer, you can bake your own gluten-free bread. People just getting started with gluten-free baking often encounter the following problems:
- Undercooked bread – it is important to cook bread made without gluten for the entire recommended time
- Sticky dough – this is normal, but may concern some people
- Fallen bread – the dough wasn’t beaten enough with an electric mixer
As you have learned, gluten is an important component of baking. But for those who are unable to eat gluten, for reasons such as a gluten allergy or sensitivity, then it is good to know that it is possible to bake and cook without gluten.
King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Mix - http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/gluten-free-bread-mix