Baking Gluten Free…Should My Equipment Be As Well?

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Take a stroll down the specialty aisle at any conventional grocery store these days, and you’ll be surrounded by non-traditional baked goods, pastas, soups, cereals, and drinks labeled “Gluten Free”. If you or someone you love suffers from Celiac Disease or a Gluten-Intolerance, you will be well-versed in the world of GF (gluten-free). You can spot gluten from a mile away and know to steer clear of it for health reasons. Or perhaps you don’t personally suffer from the side-effects of ingesting a food product with traces of gluten, but you are a chef who wants to diversify your menu to cater to all peoples and all health concerns. Regardless of what camp you fall into, the world of gluten-free food has opened up new opportunities and challenges for food manufacturers, chefs, bakers, home-cooks, and even equipment manufacturers.

Let’s start with defining gluten. Gluten is an all-encompassing term to describe the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape and structure, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten, in and of itself, to the general population, is not bad. It is not an additive that one sprinkles for extra flavor (think of the bad rap MSG gets). But, for those who suffer from Celiac Disease or a Gluten-Intolerance, gluten can produce debilitating side-effects, such as digestion issues, fatigue, and long-term break down of the small intestine.

If you’ve ever baked at home before, you know that most of all baked goods start with a foundation of wheat in some variety, whether that be all-purpose, bread, pastry, cake, or rye flour. Wheat permeates so much of our world in ways we aren’t even aware. So, if we desire to make a baked good gluten-free, what are substitutions? Creative food scientists, bakers and chefs have found that they can create flours out of amaranth, rice, buckwheat, almonds, coconuts, corn, potato, quinoa, soy, and millet. In combination, these alternative flours, plus stabilizers and preservatives, can replace the traditional wheat flours commonly found in baked goods.

But keep in mind; if gluten is the “glue” of food, once we eliminate it, we must find creative ways to keep our batters and breads from falling apart once baked. If not formulated properly with the right binding and leavening agents, gluten-free flours don’t have enough structure to hold their shape and give the typical mouth-feel one would associate with breads, crackers, brownies, pizza crust and cookies. Most gluten-free doughs start off with more of a batter consistency than a firm dough consistency that can be kneaded, molded, shaped, tugged, manipulated, and formed.

Now that we know what gluten is, let’s talk about the impacts gluten-free food production has on the world. On the customer-facing side, gluten-free options are ever increasing. The demand for such offerings creates a supply that is ever growing and meeting the needs of the consumer. This is wonderful news for someone with a gluten sensitivity who misses enjoying traditional baked goods. On the formulating side, gluten-free baked foods are always improving. Formulators are finding new ways to enhance the structure and nutrition of these types of breads, pastries, and baked goods. Gluten-free foods are becoming harder to differentiate from their traditional counterparts. A gluten-free brownie tastes just as decedent as a traditional brownie.

On the machining side, these gluten-free doughs (or batters in many cases) need to be handled with care. Typical divider, rounder, former, and depositors aren’t capable of processing gluten-free bread products due to their consistency. The equipment you are accustomed to using in traditional baking isn’t going to work very well or at all for gluten-free products. Since dough-like gluten-free formulas vary greatly and typically have more water than traditional breads or buns, it is very important to discuss your equipment needs with professionals, and to always test new non-traditional doughs ahead of purchase.

The good news is, when it comes to gluten-free production, most of your current Doyon kitchen equipment will do the job for these delicate and loose doughs. Planetary and spiral mixers are already designed to mix batters and doughs with efficiency and speed, so continue to use your current mixers as is. During the shaping, molding, and forming stage of your production, make sure to reach out to Doyon for specific recipe application. Since hydration ratios and absorption rates of gluten-free dough is different than a standard wheat-based dough, not all dividing, rounding, forming and depositing equipment will be able to effectively handle your product.

If your gluten-free product has yeast in it, a proofer will be needed to create humidity and heat to activate the rise in your dough. Check out our full line of proofer and retarder/proofer combinations, such as the KDP11 and KDPR21. As for baking, any standard and traditional oven, whether it be convection, gas, electric, combi, rotating or artisan, will bring your raw gluten-free product into a state of baked perfection. Doyon offers ovens of all shapes, sizes, air technologies and steam capabilities to meet your baking needs. Doyon can even slice your gluten-free bread once it’s been completely cooled with our CPF series bread slicers.

As gluten-free businesses grow, it is very important that the equipment invested in keeps up with the demand. Collaboration will be the key to determine what equipment best suites your gluten-free production. Working hand in hand, baker and manufacturer can work together to offer wonderful gluten-free food products, so good that consumers won’t even miss the gluten.


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