Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dough Enhancers and Vital Wheat Gluten

I love making bread! It is so nice to be able to pull out a bread packet, mix it up and wa-lah! Bread in about 1 1/2 hours. There are many great bread recipes out there. My favorite recipe is on another post. Many of them call for "dough enhancers" (also called "dough conditioners") and "vital wheat gluten". So, what exactly are these? If you are new to making bread, the understanding of these is important!

Dough Enhancer or Dough Conditioner
This product improves the rise, taste, texture, color, crumb and shelf-life of whole grain breads. It contributes softness and lightness to breads. Although you can purchase ready made "dough enhancer", you can get the exact same results (I actually prefer the homemade ones!), at a fraction of the cost.

How to make your own dough enhancer:

It’s best to use all three of these enhancers when making whole wheat bread.

Gluten: Use 1/2 Tbsp. - 1 Tbsp. per cup of flour (this means before you measure a cup of flour, place the measured gluten in the bottom of your cup and then measure the flour as usual). Or, you can just add the gluten with all of the other dry ingredients. Gluten holds the air bubbles. It is a non-animal form of protein.

White Vinegar: Use the same amount of vinegar as the amount of yeast called for in the recipe (i.e., 1 tsp. yeast = 1 tsp. vinegar). Acid strengthens the bubbles. You can substitute lemon juice for the vinegar. I have used both, but generally use vinegar as it is so much cheaper.

Potato Flakes: Use 1/8 - 1/4 cup per loaf of bread you are making. Experiment to see what works best in your recipe. Do not substitute potato pearls for the flakes! They don’t dissolve as easily and add artificial flavoring to your breads. The starch in the potatoes adds an extra casing around the bubbles. The bran in the wheat is coarse and can pop or rupture the bubbles, so this helps maintain the fluffy texture of the bread.

Vital Wheat Gluten

Vital wheat gluten only does one thing. It helps improve the rise and texture of the bread. Vital wheat gluten occurs naturally in all wheat and wheat derived white flours. Some white flours have more or less than others. In a dry form, it is used to give the yeast a boost because it contains a high amount of gluten forming proteins. Use it in your heavier breads that rise slowly, such as whole grains, rye, or ones loaded with sugar, dried fruit and nuts. Generally, if you are using white bread flour you don’t need to add any gluten. However, all-purpose or whole-grain flours need vital wheat gluten.

As a general rule, use 1 tsp. per cup of all-purpose or 1 1/2 - 3 tsp. for every cup of whole grain or rye flours. Or 1 Tbsp. for each loaf of bread. Some recipes will differ in the amount of gluten to use.

Make sure that you store a year supply of vinegar, potato flakes and gluten. I buy vital wheat gluten at the health food store in the bulk section. It is quite inexpensive if purchased this way. I then put it in #10 cans.

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  1. How long does the dough enhancer keep after purchased and unopened?

    Do you store it in the refrigerator or shelf? Thanks, Nancy

  2. The dough enhancer that you buy prepackaged will easily last 1-2 years unopened. After opened, if stored on the shelf, you would need to use it up fairly quickly (within a few months). If you refrigerate it after opening, it will last much longer (6 months). Store bought dough enhancers contain include whey, soy lecithin, tofu powder, Citric Acid, sea salt, corn starch, Vitamin C, enriched wheat flour, and dry yeast. I actually prefer to use a combination of gluten (which has a shelf life the same as white flour), potato flakes and vinegar as dough enhancers. It is much, much cheaper, and does exactly the same thing. Last time I bought gluten at the health food store it was less than $1 per pound.

  3. If I use potato water (water that I boiled my potatoes in) for the water asked for in my bread recipe, would i still need to add the potato flakes to my recipe?
    thanks ;-)

  4. I have never tried that, but I would think you would still need to add the flakes. The reason being, the flakes help the bread stay moist longer which helps keep it from going stale. It also makes a more tender bread with a better structure and taste. The combination of the flakes, gluten and vinegar (or lemon juice) seems to give it just the right texture.

    Let us know how it goes if you try just using the water:)

  5. ok I've never made bread but I'm trying to get my food storage together. Do you do all 3 the flakes, the vinegar, and the gluten for each loaf of bread or do you just do one.


  6. Yes, I use all three. See the post under "bread packets" for a really good recipe. Good luck, and congratulations for getting your food storage together!!

  7. I tried your bread recipe today and it turned out great! I had to turn the heat down to 350, maybe because I am sea level, but otherwise I followed your instructions. Well, I used 3 cups of white flour and 2 1/2 cups of wheat flour (that I ground up yesterday!!) I have been looking for ways to use my potato flakes and powdered milk from my storage. Thank you so much! I love your whole web site.

  8. Anonymous asked: "Can you substitute corn starch for potato flakes?"

    Although I have never tried that, I can't think it would work well. Corn starch would change the density too much, not to mention a pasty taste. Stick with the potato flakes.

  9. Hi Katie,
    Is there a difference between the gluten you're using for your dough enhancer and vital wheat gluten? Your post makes it sound like they're two different things and that maybe we should add both. Thank you!

  10. Gluten is the same as vital wheat gluten. Sorry for any confusion!