Science: What is Gluten? Here’s How to See and Feel Gluten

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See and feel gluten with this simple kitchen experiment.

Gluten—an elastic protein that has the ability to trap air, much like a balloon—is formed when two important proteins in wheat flour, glutenin and gliadin, bond together in the presence of water. Whether we are trying to create more of it in rustic bread or pizza dough or working to limit its development for tender baked goods like cakes and muffins, there’s no denying gluten’s importance. But beyond our conceptual understanding of it, is there a more tangible way to see and feel gluten? We ran a simple experiment to find out.

We made two basic doughs by mixing flour and water in a food processor until a smooth ball formed. For one dough we used cake flour, which contains between 6 and 8 percent protein, and for the other one we used bread flour, which usually runs from 12 to 14 percent protein. After making the doughs, we placed each in a mesh strainer and massaged them under running water to wash away all of the starch. Once the water ran clear (a sign that the starch was gone), we were left with two piles of essentially pure gluten. The differences in the appearance and texture of the two doughs were a dramatic confirmation of the profound impact of gluten.

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  1. I like how for thousands of years most people could consume gluten and all of the sudden from 2010 everybody just can't tolerate it anymore. Bunch of spoiled picky eaters.
    Also I have a severe case of celiac, so I am obviously complaining about people who are perfectly fine.

  2. cool love me some science with my food, do you have any tips for baking with out gluten. my mom is allergic to it. and i really want to make her a nice cake but it keep ending up like concrete

  3. I wish we could see a video showing us what gluten does to our bowls. I bet it fills them and sticks them and clogs them… That explains a lot of health problems people often have…

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