Ditching gluten, either for health or life-style reasons, is one hard row to hoe. The alternatives look so much like their wheat-filled counterparts, but the taste and flavour, more often than not, disappoint. But, now thanks to two Italian scientists, the days of strangely flavourless bread and hard-to-chew pasta look like they might be well and truly coming to an end.
Two nutritional scientists, Virna Cerne and Ombretta Polengi, have found a cheaper way of isolating a protein in called corn called zein, and adding this protein to gluten-free flours.
The result produces a similar ‘elasticity’ to gluten. It’s this ‘elasticity’ or gluten’s ability to form an ‘elastic network’ when dough is kneaded that gives bread, pasta and pastry that soft, doughy quality.
“Gluten-free products contain a lot of fibre,” said Dr Cerne,” and the fibre cannot really be elastic.” The research shows that isolating and adding the protein zein to different gluten-free flours like rice or corn flour solves the problem of no elasticity.
While the discovery of zein isn’t new, and is already used in a range of manufacturing processes, the problem was that it was incredibly expensive to produce.
The duo landed on an isolation method that allows them to extract zein cheaply using a simple method requiring corn flour, water and alcohol. Their technique means that one day zein-based products could be made even more affordable than wheat ones in the future.
So, for the gluten-free everywhere, the good news is tasty gluten-free products might well be closer to hand – and mouth.
While perfect pasta and bouncy bread might not be on the supermarket shelves just yet, tasty alternatives like sweet potato toast makes for a great bread alternative.
And the gluten and carb free taste sensations don’t stop there either. Try this recipe here for cloud bread that is so simple and extremely delicious.