Working on a gluten-free product? Consider the hydrocolloid properties of non-wheat flours. Many have unique water-holding properties, according to Colleen Zammer, director of product marketing, Bay State Milling Co., Quincy, MA. A variety of seeds can help with nutrition and texture, too. She also talks about managing expectations and processing considerations.

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?

Colleen Zammer: To help compensate for the void of gluten, a formulator typically uses functional ingredients such as starches, hydrocolloids, functional proteins, and gluten-free grains or seeds. Each of these ingredients has functionality in the various stages of baking … some are more useful to aid in water absorption and formation of a dough and others are more useful in structure, strength, and gas retention.

Among Bay State Milling’s products, which ones do you recommend for gluten-free baked foods? Why?

Bay State Milling offers a variety of certified gluten-free seeds and grains that we have found to be very advantageous in boosting functionality, flavor, and texture of gluten-free baked products. Sorghum, millet, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat flours can offer water holding ability, whole grain nutrition, and unique flavors. Sesame, poppy, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds offer unique textures and nutrition, while seeds like chia and flax not only offer omegas, fiber, and protein, but can actually help boost functionality with their natural hydrocolloidal properties. Our sensory team has found that various blends of gluten-free grains and seeds can produce a well-rounded flavor profile that offers the gluten-free consumer variety.

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

Gluten-free formulations can present challenges throughout manufacturing from mixing to baking, as well as finished product texture and shelf life. Gluten-free formulas usually require blends of functional ingredients for product performance; Gluten-free “dough” is often more like a viscous batter; baking conditions usually require lower temperature and longer time; shelf life is often shorter; and texture, nutrition and flavor are sometimes lacking. These all require different approaches to formulating, handling, baking, storage and distribution to manage.

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?

It is all about expectations. Understanding that gluten-free formulas are usually complex systems, and what may work in one application, may not work in another application, and honing in on the right blend of functional ingredients, gluten-free grains, and seeds to mimic the properties of gluten for each specific application is key. In addition, formulate with the mindset that you are creating a new product that will never be a match to a gluten-containing counterpart. However, by using your knowledge of functional ingredients and utilizing your vendors as resources, it is possible to create very good 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?

Water absorption, mixing times/speeds, dough handling, bake time/temperature, and finished product texture, flavor, and shelf life are all normally different when moving to gluten-free manufacturing. Making sure your equipment can handle these differences, or finding a suitable co-packer is critical, and utilizing vendors for existing starting formulas can save time.