With all the buzz about gluten-free foods, are you considering adding them to your product line? If so, you will want to read this Baking & Snack exclusive Q&A with Bryan Scherer, director of R&D, Penford Food Ingredient Co. The gluten-free category requires a much deeper approach than simply reformulating a conventional full-gluten product. He also has very cogent advice about practical matters such as the differences in dough makeup as well as processing characteristics.

Baking & Snack: The presence of gluten enables proper kneading, gas retention, finished texture and keeping quality. So, how does the formulator compensate for these functions without using gluten?

Brian Scherer: From a formulation standpoint, there is no single solution for replacing gluten in food products. Gluten has different functions in raw products such as bread dough vs. the finished baked product. This requires understanding how to combine different ingredients such as starch, gums, proteins and gluten-free flours such as the PenTech GF gluten-free technology to compensate for these functionalities. Often, this results in starting products that have very different handling characteristics and equipment requirements than the full-gluten version. For example, gluten-free bread dough may not look or handle anything like regular bread dough and can require alternative mixing, depositing and forming equipment.

Among Penford Food Ingredient’s products, which ones do you recommend for gluten-free baked foods? Why?

Penford creates customized gluten-free systems using PenTech GF technology. This technology can be comprised of tapioca starches such as PenPure 50, PenPure 55, PenPure 150, PenBind 1550 and PenPlus 2510, rice starches such as PenPure 37 and PenPure WR and potato starches such as PenPure 10 and PenCling 320. Each starch provides specific functionalities which can include viscosity, structure, moisture retention and elasticity.

What aspect of gluten-free formulating do users of your ingredients find the most difficult to navigate? Why?

The first challenge is realizing that gluten-free products are formulations rather than recipes. This means carefully controlling ingredient quantities and ratios and placing tighter process controls over operations such ingredient addition order, mixing conditions, proofing, etc.

The second challenge is that gluten-free products may have very different rheology, handling characteristics and equipment requirements than the full gluten version. There is often a tendency to want to “fix” a gluten-free dough that may appear too loose or runny but is typical when producing a high quality gluten-free bread.

The third major challenge is to avoid cross contamination of the product if you are trying to manufacture gluten-free products in a facility that normally handles wheat or other gluten ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration has just passed regulations specifying that gluten presence may not exceed 20 ppm for gluten-free products or manufacturing facilities.

What advice do you have for someone attempting their first gluten-free version of a baked food or snack already in their company’s product line?

First, consult a company like Penford Food Ingredients who is the market leader in gluten-free formulating to help identify ingredients and develop formulations. This can save a significant amount of development time and money whether the requirement is for optimization of an existing formulation or starting at “ground zero” with a new formulation.

The second thing is to realize that gluten-free products can be very different from their full-gluten counterparts in terms of raw product rheology, processing and equipment requirements and handling procedures.

The third piece of advice is to carefully assess whether your company can safely produce gluten-free products without the risk of cross confirmation. It is strongly advised that a third-party organization such as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) be consulted for facility auditing and certifications before attempting to manufacture gluten-free products.

To help move from bench to bakery, what do formulators need to know about processing gluten-free doughs made with your ingredients?

There is no single ingredient solution that can replace the multiple functions of gluten. Formulations and ingredient combinations must be specifically designed to meet the functional requirements of the product.

Gluten-free baked products are formulations and not recipes. Careful control of ingredient measurement, addition order, mixing and processing is more critical than for conventional baked goods.

Raw gluten-free products can have very different rheological characteristics than the full gluten counterpart. This can result in the need for alternative mixing, handling and processing equipment. You cannot assume that a gluten-free product will run on your current manufacturing line.

A technical assessment should be made up front whether gluten-free products can be manufactured safely in your facility without risk of gluten contamination. Review of the facility and protocols by an objective third party such as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is recommended before starting down the development path.