Managing expectations will help when formulating gluten-free doughs, no matter whether this is the first project attempted or several dozen items down the road.

For one thing, the degree of hydration changes drastically, and bakers make mistakes by underestimating this factor, according to Jeff Casper, R&D manager, Horizon Milling, Wayzata, MN. He and William A. Atwell, PhD, retired Cargill researcher and consultant, Champlin, MN, recently wrote a handbook covering gluten-free formulation and processing methods, set for publication by Eagan Press, St. Paul, MN.

“Gluten-free bread falls between a batter and a dough,” Mr. Casper said. “It is very different on a rheological basis from standard doughs. And typically, it will be extruded rather than divided, even using depositors such as batters normally use. You will be dealing with a more sticky item, and cleanout programs will also have to adapt.”

Mixing, on the other hand, is deceptively simple: Wet out the ingredients, and don’t overmix. “You’ll find the dough development stage to be more mixing than kneading,” said Rajen Mehta, PhD, senior director, specialty ingredients, Grain Millers, Inc., Eugene, OR. Hydration develops the structure, but it also limits machining. “If you knead too much, you can destroy the structure, especially of the starches,” he cautioned.

Bakers who normally use a two-speed mixing procedure (a short period at slow speed and a longer time at high speed) will need to reverse this pattern. “With gluten-free doughs, the slow mix is longer and the high speed shorter,” Dr. Mehta said. “Another thing, the total mix time goes down.”

After mixing, makeup needs to get done quickly. “Because of the level of hydration involved, you will have limited working time,” Mr. Casper observed. “These doughs stiffen quickly, but the bubbles are not as stable as when gluten is present. You’ll see uneven air pockets, created during depositing. Another problem is collapse during proofing or baking.”

Cookie bakers have it somewhat easier. Mr. Casper noted that such doughs can run on standard processing lines without too much trouble. Cakes and muffins act similarly.