Bread Chemistry

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

This section seeks to explain how ‘bread represents the culinary domestication of grain, an achievement that made it possible to extract pleasure as well as nourishment from the hard, bland seeds’ (McGee, 1984).

Any cereal flour consists mainly of starch and proteins. wheat flour contains five groups of proteins, classed as albumin, globulin, proteoses, glutenin, and gliadin. When flour is wetted, the first three, being soluble, disperse, leaving glutenin and gliadin. It is these, which wheat has in greater quantity than any other cereal, which form gluten. Kneading the dough draws out the glutenin, whose long, thin, chainlike molecules form strands, while the shorter molecules of gliadin create bridges between them. As the network of strands develops, it absorbs water, resulting in that familiar change in the texture of dough from a shaggy mass of short chains and imperfectly absorbed liquid, through a certain stickiness, to a smooth, plastic, and elastic substance. rye flour, which contains little gluten and some natural gums, remains sticky and makes a denser loaf. barley has very little gluten indeed.