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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Have Food Scientists Finally Found a Way to Make Gluten-free Bread Taste Good?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 08/19/2016 - Gwyneth Paltrow, Miley Cyrus and the clean-eating bloggers of Instagram have all helped propel gluten-free foods out of health-food stores and into the aisles of Whole Foods and Wal-Mart.

    Anyone who has ever tried a gluten-free bread or cake has likely found what sufferers of celiac disease have long known. They often don't taste very good. Gluten-free baked goods are often dry, crumbly and flat tasting.

    As long as there has been gluten-free bread, there has been mediocre gluten-free bread. This is not the fault of bakers. The problem is structural, chemical. Gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, triggers adverse immune reactions in people with celiac disease. But that same gluten also has uniquely elastic properties that make it perfect for mixing with water, kneading into dough, and baking into chewy delicious bread.

    Gluten is what makes our breads spongy, and chewy, and delicious. Cereals and grains like rice, sorghum, buckwheat, which are often milled into gluten-free flours, lack this important component.

    Now two inventive Italian food scientists, Virna Cerne and Ombretta Polenghi, are being lauded for their isolation of a protein called zein, that is found in corn. Under the right temperature, humidity, and pH, zein forms an elastic network similar to gluten.

    These days, says Cerne, "gluten-free products include a lot of fiber but the fiber cannot be really elastic." Added to different gluten-free flours like rice or corn flour, Cerne adds, isolated zein protein "solves the problem of no elasticity." That means that products using zein protein can be used to develop gluten-free products with many of the same chewy, flaky attributes as bread and baked goods made from wheat flour.

    Currently, products using isolated zein protein are still in the research and development phase, but food scientists hope the abundance of low-priced corn will allow the protein to be made cheaply, and thus give rise to more affordable gluten-free alternatives. Cerne and her co-inventor Polenghi, who both work with Italian-based food company Dr Schär, say that their research remains focused on people with serious medical reasons to avoid gluten.

    Stay tuned to see how Cerne and Polenghi's work develops and what food breakthroughs might result from their efforts.

    Read more at Quartz.com.


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    Yes, I agree with Jo Ann. Fortunately we do have a few gluten-free Companies that are also Non-GMO and organic. I look forward to trying zein containing products in the future if they are non-GMO.

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    Zein is basically gluten. This is really not a solution. Many doctors do not allow corn on a gluten free diet as it has been determined that zein affects the gut just like any other gluten.

    What we are all missing in gluten free bread is unfortunately, the gluten itself. Until someone can find a "gluten" that people don´t react to (probably impossible), good tasting, strong, flexible bread will not be available in the gluten free aisle at the store.

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    Guest Christian Treitler

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    Three recent finds of good non-GMO bread. (1) Fresh bread "Delicious Gluten Free" by Little Northern Bakehouse available at Sprouts. (2) Multi-grain bread mix "YesYouCan" available at EpicureanTemple.com. (3) Freshly baked house bread or sesame bread (to order) at Merkur supermarket in Austria. - Sorry about the last one but this is the best gluten free bread I ever tasted. It gets delivered frozen to the supermarket where they bake it for you in 30 minutes: great taste and crispy crust!

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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