Baking - Breads, Ingredient Insights

Gluten-ous Maximus

Wow! I was talking with my mom recently about oats, and we were both wondering if oats contained gluten. I thought it would be interesting to do a post about gluten, but do you have any idea just how much information (legitimate or otherwise) is out there about gluten? You probably do. I figured there would be a lot, given the abundance of gluten-free hype and products these days. It’s pretty overwhelming, and much of it seems conflicting – like so many things (fats, sugars, meat, dairy, etc.)

What's in a flour? Depends on the flour, but all the flours in my bin contain gluten.
What’s in a flour? It depends on the flour, but all the flours in my bin contain gluten.

Let me re-ground myself. Here’s what I knew about gluten before. It is produced by two proteins in wheat flour when liquid is added and worked around. The more the dough is worked, the more gluten is formed. It gives breads their structure and strength. Hence why so many gluten-free things end up crumbly (in my experience).

Here is a very little bit of what I know now that I have tried to find more information about it. These proteins that produce gluten are present not only in wheat, but also in barley and rye flours; and there are A LOT of different varieties of wheat (spelt, semolina, kamut and graham to name a few). There are many conditions that can be aggravated by gluten, including celiac disease and many skin conditions. I’m not going to formulate any opinions or conclusions right now, as I have not done nearly enough reading to do so in a truly informed way. And I don’t have the time right now to read everything and decide what’s legitimate or not. It’s a lot to process. I do know that I really love bread, and am very grateful that I don’t have to worry too much about what I’m eating in that respect.

To the original question of oats, I learned that pure oats do not contain gluten (meaning the proteins that produce gluten), but they do contain another protein (avenin). However, many oat products cannot guarantee that they are totally gluten free, especially if they are processed in an environment that also processes wheat, barley or rye, so for people who have serious reactions to gluten they still need to pay close attention to package labels; and if you are preparing something for the gluten-free person at the party you’re going to, make sure the oats are pure, because it can only take a little bit of gluten to cause serious repercussions for some people; and a certain percentage of people with celiac disease actually react to the avenin in oats the same way they do to gluten, so if you’re not sure then it’s probably best not to use oats as a gluten free option.


Baking - Breads

Rye Bread

I get confused sometimes about rye bread. Some have caraway seeds, some don’t; some have a sour dough base, some don’t; some loaves are round, some are long; some are dark, some are light, some are marble; and some I like, some I don’t. There’s a farm market bakery I get a lot of bread from and they sometimes make a dark rye bread that I really like. It’s got a nice chewy texture, no seeds, and no sour taste. That’s my kind of rye. Unfortunately it hasn’t been a very popular product, so they will only make it if someone specially orders it.

I have been rather lazy in my bread baking lately, so I have been getting a lot of my bread at the market; but the rye is also more of a specialty bread, so it is more expensive. I decided to take the plunge and try to make some myself.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago I made one attempt that failed. Well, it failed in the sense that the bread totally sank into a couple very flat loaves, but the taste and texture were quite good. We were still able to use it for sandwiches.

I didn’t give up. A couple weeks later I tried a different recipe, and it came out very well. It used a mix of unbleached all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and rye flour (equal parts of each), and it used dark beer. The beer gave the bread a richer flavour, and the texture was nice and chewy. I was very happy with how it turned out, and will be making it one of my regular bread recipes!