Back in high school, I took a Food Science and Technology class. And one week we had the assignment of making “gluten balls”. What the heck are gluten balls? (This was a ways before I went gluten free) Well, that’s what we’re going to share with you today. Since I’ve had a LOT of homework and stuff has come up we haven’t been able to have very many sessions of Froggie’s Gluten Free Culinary School since it was first established, and of the few times we did do it, I haven’t had time to post them yet. Bear with me, they’re coming.
We happened to have some friends over, so I decided it would be the perfect time to show them too what gluten is. People talk about gluten and there are explinations all over the place about what gluten is and how it gives baked goods their normal shape and structure. But, so far, I haven’t yet found anyone who has showed what gluten looks like. So, come into our kitchen and join in with Froggie’s GF Culinary School for a little hands on lesson about gluten.
We began by taking some flour (aprox 1/2-3/4 cup) and some water and kneaded it together into a ball.
After that, we took it over to the sink and washed the starch out. This process took at least 5-10 minutes.
As time goes on, see how as the starch is getting washed out you’re seeing a stringy texture to it? That’s the gluten.
Still as more starch gets washed out, you’re left with the obvious stringiness and stretchiness of the gluten.
See above? That’s when most of the starch had been washed out. We’re left with mostly the protein gluten.
After that, we put it in a ball. See how small it got? With most of the starch washed out there’s a lot less volume. It’s less than half it’s original size… probably more like 2/3 it’s original size.
Here’s what it looked like after we baked it:
See the texture? Well, since you can’t reach your hand through the computer screen and feel it, we’ll just describe it.
When we first started, the ball of dough felt like normal dough. (note: I didn’t handle any of the stuff… I left that to Chef Flower and our friends. I handled the camera) After we started washing it out, it felt kind of like corn starch. However, by the end, it was more like just stringiness. After baking, they all tasted it. None of them liked it. It was totally bland, and like chewing gum… without any flavor. Back in HS, I remember it being totally tasteless, no matter what we tried putting on it. Butter, honey, spinach, anything. It was like eating the butter honey and/or spinach while chewing some kind of rubber.
When you bake gluten free, you don’t have any of that stretchiness that helps the baked goods keep their shape, and give the texture when they rise. The gluten is what helps to hold the stuff together. So, obviously, as you probably know, if you don’t use some kind of binder with gluten free flours, you’ll end up with dry and crumbly food. What can you do about this? Well, you can use eggs, also flax seeds and chia seeds work too. Some people use guar or xanathan gums, and there are other options out there too. So, go experiment! 🙂
~Chef Froggie & Chef Flower