It’s simple: If you remove gluten from bakery formulas, you take away protein and diminish the nutritive value of the food. You also seriously interfere with volume, crumb texture, keeping quality and eye appeal. What’s a baker to do?

Bryan Scherer, director of R&D, Penford Food Ingredients, Centennial, CO, put a scientific spin on such problems, “Gluten-free baked goods present additional challenges because replacing gluten also means compensating for the multifunctional properties of the glutenin-gliaden complex at all stages of the baking process, from workability of the raw dough or batter all the way through to structure and texture of the finished good.”

Maintaining nutritive value is difficult, too. The quality of protein that replaces gluten in these products should be equal to or better than that of wheat. Proteins all differ in amino acid composition. Phanin Leksrisompong, PhD, technical services scientist, Davisco Foods International, Inc., Eden Prairie, MN, noted that the choice of whey protein isolate, with its high PDCAAS rating, ensures the presence of essential amino acids.

“Gluten-free products,” explained Cheryl Borders, manager, soy foods applications and edible beans technical service, ADM Research, Decatur, IL, “are typically made using refined flours and starches such as rice, tapioca, potato and corn. These ingredients are often lower in protein and fiber. Addition of nonwheat sources such as soy or edible bean powders can improve the nutritional profile of the finished gluten-free product.”

Structure and texture provided by uniquely elastic wheat gluten are difficult to duplicate. Gums and gum-starch blends are often used, according to Ms. Borders.

Eggs, especially egg whites, can provide the structural component of gluten-free formulations. Like other animal proteins, eggs are currently high in price because of the high cost of feed. In Europe, new humane cage regulations tightly limit egg availability and drive costs sky high. Terese O’Neill, key account manager, Arla Foods Ingredients, Basking Ridge, NJ, described the tailoring of whey proteins to replace eggs on a 1:1 basis.

Gluten-free foods originally were developed to serve the celiac, sprue and wheat-allergic communities. Although demand for these foods now comes from a more general population, formulators must still keep the allergen problem front-and-center when selecting ingredients. It’s true that all food allergens are proteins, but not all proteins are food allergens.

Still, Sam Wright IV, CEO, The Wright Group, Crowley, LA, cautioned, “Careful testing and documentation are required to circumvent the legality posed by misuse of an ingredient that may contain gluten.”

And then economics figure in. “Cost is always a factor in the formulation of gluten-free products because wheat flour is a comparatively inexpensive ingredient when compared with most of the ingredients used to replace it,” Mr. Scherer said.