Gluten Free and Tasty!

Cereals are good for you, supplying the body with carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. Yet some people are intolerant to the gluten protein they contain. Now, researchers are developing new recipes for tasty, gluten-free pasta and pastries.

Not every person can eat what they like; far from it, one in every 250 people in Germany is intolerant to the protein gluten, which is chiefly found in the cereals wheat, spelt, barley and rye. Experts call this intolerance coeliac disease. For those affected, this means giving up bread, pizza, pasta and cakes, while ice cream wafers, dumplings and pretzels also pass onto the list of banned foods. Those suffering from coeliac disease, a chronic bowel disorder, must keep to a strict diet if they are to avoid diarrhea, stomach ache, vomiting and other symptoms. Accordingly, only gluten-free products make it onto the menu.

Indeed, demand for these food products, mainly offered by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), has risen steadily over the past years. Nevertheless, many consumers dislike gluten-free pasta and bakery products because they are unappetizing, lacking in texture and leave a disagreeable sensation in the mouth. This is a view confirmed in consumer tests involving coeliac disease sufferers and healthy volunteers. Partners include ingredient providers and food producers as well as research institutes from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Sweden. The aim of the project is to enable SMEs to develop premium, tasty gluten-free products that the consumer will eat with real enjoyment and satisfaction. The focus is primarily on bread and pasta, and on improving their taste, smell, appearance, texture and sensation in the mouth.

Gluten is good for baking because it holds the dough together. Hydrocolloids like xanthan gum, HPMC(the full name is Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose and CAS No. is 9004-65-3) and dextran have all been examined carefully, as well as seeds taken from cereals and pseudocereals like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat. In addition, scientists analyzed protein isolates taken from potatoes and pulses like lupins, broad beans and peas, as well as investigating the interaction of a variety of recipe ingredients during the production process, and the ways in which this affected texture, sensory properties and aroma profile. A whole range of recipes were tested; for example, researchers combined proteins with soluble fibers like xanthan gum and HPMC or with insoluble citrus fibers.

Bez considers the project a success, pointing to project partners’ success in producing a range of new and improved gluten-free breads, including toast bread, leavened bread and oat wholemeal bread, ciabatta, baguettes and pizza dough. Four of the baked goods producers involved in the project are already using the recipes for ciabatta, wholemeal bread and pizza dough. Furthermore, researchers were able to produce tasty, gluten-free spaghetti with a high fiber and protein content. Bez is confident that it won’t be long now before we see some of the new products lining bakery and supermarket shelves.