Wheat provides functionality in baked foods, which is why replacing it in formulations is so difficult.

“All gluten-free systems are challenging because the baker must try to attain similar properties to wheat-based counterparts while finding alternate preparation routes to get there,” said Daniel Marciani, bakery research manager, Glanbia Nutritionals. “We generally look to improve things like breads with oxidizing agents and enzyme combinations to improve volume and tolerance through processing. With tortillas, it helps to relax the dough for improved extensibility.”

Gluten-free tortilla doughs tend to have poor rollability. They bake up with large blisters and get hard or brittle quickly, leading to a very short shelf life.

“Gums including xanthan gum, guar gum, cellulose gum, konjac gum and others can help control dough viscosity, modify texture, prevent staling and improve freeze/thaw stability,” said Erin Nese, senior technologist, commercial innovation acceleration, Ingredion Inc.

Gluten-free sandwich bread is one of the most challenging baked products because it relies heavily on gluten for structure and textural development. The first step is to replace the viscoelastic network.

“When considering what ingredients to use in gluten-free bakery applications, it is important to understand how wheat flour functions in these products,” said Lisa Young, food and nutrition research and development manager, Scoular. “Gluten gives structure and elasticity simultaneously to bread through its protein network. It also provides volume by trapping gas bubbles created during fermentation of the dough.”

These properties are critical in creating the texture of bread. When bakers remove gluten, they risk a loaf that is dense and has an erratic crumb structure, further weakening the strength of the loaf and eating experience.

“Bakers look to a variety of different ingredients, including modified and native starches, flours, hydrocolloids, and plant and animal proteins,” Mr. Marciani said. “Properly balancing the starches, proteins and hydrocolloids is essential.”

Aaron Reed, senior food technologist, Cargill, echoed that bread is the hardest product to replicate when developing a gluten-free product. To help maintain loaf form, he suggested using setting ingredients, such as egg whites or other proteins, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose or methylcellulose.

Scoular’s functional chickpea flour has foaming, gelling and emulsification properties that provide structure and increase the volume of gluten-free bread while maintaining a consistent crumb structure.

“The unique process the chickpeas go through results in more available proteins in the flour,” Ms. Young said. “These proteins provide extra stability for the dough at low temperatures, thereby reducing the usage of hydrocolloids. Furthermore, the starches in the flour have been designed to gel at a similar temperature to wheat starch.”

Gluten-free flatbreads have their own issues. For starters, they often have a powdery finish compared to traditional flatbreads. Paula LaBine, marketing director, milling and baking solutions, ADM, suggested combining tapioca starch and sorghum flour for crispier flatbreads. Sorghum enhances the chewy texture in numerous applications without affecting taste, contributing to an array of sweet and savory multigrain products.

“White sorghum flour is light in color and has a sweet, nutty flavor that is desired in cookies and pastries as well as breads, cereals and crackers,” Ms. LaBine said. “Plus, we can toast white sorghum to more closely mimic the taste of wheat flour.”

Amr Shaheed, technical service manager, food applications, Innophos, said that gluten-free pizza dough presents significant textural challenges. This may be why many of the gluten-free crusts in the marketplace don’t even try to replicate a gluten-free dough. Instead, they give the crust a unique spin, such as a cauliflower crust.

“When gluten is removed, the dough no longer has the same elastic texture to it for shaping,” Mr. Shaheed said. “Gluten proteins help to elasticize dough to provide texture and structure while also enabling the product to trap carbon dioxide that comes from yeast. Eliminating gluten from a recipe can leave formulators with dough that is much runnier than traditional pizza dough.”

One option is an instant starch, including waxy rice.

“Instant waxy rice starch will improve dough workability in pizza dough,” said Steven Gumeny, product manager, rice ingredients and functional proteins, Beneo North America. “These instant starches swell as soon as they are mixed with wet ingredients, which improves the dough handling in gluten-free products. In addition, instant waxy rice starch can reduce breakage in hard baked goods. For frozen products, waxy rice starch also has excellent freeze-thaw stability.”

Innophos combines phosphates with rice flour and other alternative flours to improve volume and texture. These leavening solutions regulate the amount of carbon dioxide that releases during the baking process.

“Our sodium acid pyrophosphate and calcium acid pyrophosphate/monocalcium phosphate solutions can yield 30% more volume than traditional flour-based control recipes when added to gluten-free alternative flour formulations,” Mr. Shaheed said. “You need to have different rates of reaction to make sure the product isn’t too dense. These solutions help provide a balanced carbon dioxide release to offer a comparable volume to traditional gluten-based products.”

Gluten-free crackers and baked snacks can be overly dense or too hard. This may cause excessive breakage.

“These issues can be resolved using various combinations of gluten-free flours and adjusting water and leavening usage levels,” said Kathy Lewis, principal scientist, Ardent Mills.

Ardent Mills offers a wide range of gluten-free flours, including quinoa, sorghum, chickpea, brown rice, millet and buckwheat. Its portfolio also includes gluten-free flour blends and a versatile gluten-free one-to-one all-purpose flour blend. 

Ms. Nese added that in sheeted snacks, lack of gluten may result in tearing or stickiness during sheeting, uneven blistering and breakage. Textural challenges include, dryness, hardness and unwanted mouth-coating.

Ingredion offers texturizing systems that resemble gluten products. Some of these ingredients are considered drop-in replacements for wheat flour.

“When used in sheeted, gluten-free snacks, starch texturizers can help dial in on texture to achieve different texture targets, such as hard, crunchy, light and airy,” Ms. Nese said.

On the sweeter side, gluten-free cakes can be more dense and less fluffy. Gluten-free cookies might not be as soft and chewy as conventional ones.

“Textural challenges when formulating gluten-free cookies include grittiness and dry mouthfeel,” Ms. Lewis said. “Texture can be optimized by using flours that are very fine in granulation and adding additional fat or liquid ingredients for improved mouthfeel.”

When it comes to taste, texture can be just as important as flavor. When removing gluten, textural issues will require a robust toolbox of ingredient solutions that are specific to each bakery application’s challenge. 

This article is an excerpt from the December 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Texture, click here.