Exclusive: Project Studies the Ways to Improve Gluten-free Bread

Two associations in Belgium and Germany developed a project to study the influence on ingredients in gluten-free breads. The GLUeLESS project, developed between October 2015 and December 2017, was a collaboration between Flanders’ FOOD (Belgium) and FEI (Germany).

As gluten-free bread lacks a protein network that can bind water and forms a matrix in which starch is embedded, tackling these challenges is essential to provide an answer to the growing market demand.

Europe is currently the largest regional gluten-free market, in terms of volume and revenue. It is mainly driven by a growing number of diagnosed celiac disease patients as well as a positive consumer reaction to a gluten-free diet.

The GLUeLESS Project

Producing tasty glutenfree bread with good shelf life remains a challenge; this was the main premise of the GLUeLESS project, as the researchers found room for improvement. In addition, the current generation of glutenfree bread contains considerable amounts of thickening agents, emulsifiers and other additives, but also sugar and fat to improve taste, mouthfeel and structure. The recipes are often complicated with a long list of ingredients. The goal of this project is to understand the role of different ingredients and/or additives in quality determination of glutenfree bread, according to the specialists: “By studying the entire preparation process of glutenfree bread from A to Z, it is possible to link the improved quality of the end products directly to changes measured during the preparation process.” Analyses of the batter during mixing and fermentation, of the transition to bread during the baking phase and of the bread immediately after cooling and after storage were performed, to pinpoint crucial quality determining factors during the different phases of glutenfree bread making.

Based on a standard recipe, the researchers swapped some of the ingredients and determined the effects on quality of products. The two different formulations for gluten-free breads included a version with rice flour and the other one with Cassava starch and egg white. Researchers studied the directions of further improvement in the flavor of crust and crumb, avoiding or masking off-flavors from ingredients. They analyzed how desired flavor is generated comparable to traditional bread (yeast), as well as the structure of crumb, volume, firmness, stability, retardation of staling and preservation of freshness.

“The main difference in the preparation of dough for gluten-free breads compared to a standard wheat bread was the inclusion of air during the dough preparation. To obtain a high volume of the gluten-free breads, much more gas has to be incorporated during mixing/kneading in the gluten-free doughs. This requires a softer consistency of the doughs and higher shear intensity compared to traditional wheat dough. Additionally, the formation of the gluten network is not relevant for this type of doughs. Therefore, forming is also different because of the dough consistency,” the researchers explains for WorldBakers.

The main difference in the preparation of dough for gluten-free breads compared to a standard wheat bread was the inclusion of air during the dough preparation.

In the first year of the project, a tasting session with the participating companies was organized, to determine the sensory quality of different gluten-free products that can be found on the market nowadays. In total, 52 breads and 25 different cookies were assessed. The breads produced in a small artisanal bakery were evaluated with the highest scores. The differences between the breads can be attributed to the ingredients used as well as to differences in production methods and craftsmanship between producers, noted the specialists while determining how can the process be replicated on an industrial scale.

Technological aspects for an optimized preparation of the dough/batter for high-quality gluten-free breads were also part of the project, in addition to investigating ingredients and flavour development. A special focus placed on adapting the mixing procedure to the properties of the novel/ functional ingredients for gluten-free breads. “This approach aimed to adjust mixer settings, so the as speed, shear rate or order of incorporating different ingredients would enable the optimum water immobilization and incorporation of gas, resulting in a good gluten-free bread quality,” their report writes.

Currently, gluten-free product variety is much higher compared to 25 years ago. Products differ in ingredients, are available different ranges, and their quality has improved, with more ingredients available. Overall, there is a better understanding of ingredients’ functionality in the formulation. The researchers say that a higher demand for gluten-free products leads to more product development, which leads to more and better products, which also means higher sales.

Flanders FOOD is a platform for the facilitation of innovation for a more competitive, innovative and sustainable agrifood industry in Flanders, located in Belgium.

The Research Association of the German Food Industry (FEI) is a non-profit organization, supporting research projects in all fields of food science, food technology and nutritional science.

The scientific work was done by three institutes:

  • KU Leuven, Laboratory of Food Chemistry and Biochemistry, Leuven, Belgium;
  • German Institute of Food Technologies, Quakenbrück, Germany,
  • Leibniz-Institute of Food System Biology, Freising, Germany.

The gluten-free food trend is showing no signs of stopping, according to a recent study by Transparency Market Research that projects the gluten-free food segment to reach USD4.89 billion by 2021, growing at a CAGR of 7.7%. Besides noodles, cereals, bread mixes, and beer, about one third of the sales is represented by breads and buns.

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