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Gluten

100% whole wheat bunEver since I discovered the world's fluffiest 100% whole wheat bread, white flour has seen little use in our house.  Every week or two, I'd put in an hour or so of effort and then serve up bread which was nutritious and delicious.  Until the inevitable day of reckoning came --- the day we ran out of gluten.

Gluten was discovered by 7th century Buddhist monks, who mixed flour with water and kneaded until they extracted the protein (gluten) from the starch.  Their goal was to use the gluten as a meat substitute, but other folks discovered that if you add the gluten back into some other flour when making bread, you increase the protein content of the bread and also increase the fluff by an order of magnitude.

bulk glutenOf course, you can't just pour gluten into your bread dough and expect to get the world's fluffiest bread.  You have to knead the dough obsessively as well.  As you knead the bread, the gluten forms long strands which later trap the carbon dioxide emitted by the yeast, holding in the fluff rather than letting it dissipate away.  The result is a whole wheat bread that even those raised on wonder bread will enjoy.  For best results, use about a quarter of a cup of gluten per loaf of bread (half a cup for a two loaf recipe.)

One last note on gluten --- don't bother trying to buy it in the baking aisle in a mainstream grocery store.  At the prices charged there, you might as well just buy the fancy artisanal bread a few aisle over.  Instead, search for gluten in bulk.  We got ours at a Mennonite store, but I've been told that Whole Foods may carry it at a decent price.  Once you find it, don't forget to honor those Buddhist monks who helped us discover that healthy bread can also be delicious --- maybe life isn't suffering after all.



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