The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What are the uses for vital wheat gluten?

Marni's picture

What are the uses for vital wheat gluten?

I remember using it years ago for a particular recipe or two and have no recollection of which ones they were.  Today I was at a health food store I used to shop at back then and went a little crazy.  (A pound of maple sugar for $16!!!) Anyway, I bought a box of Arrowhead Mills vital wheat gluten thinking it might be good to have around.  Can I just stick it in the freezer like I do flour until I have a need for it?  Does anyone know basic guidelines for when and how it should be used?  I know the purpose for it- strengthening the dough and greater elasticity, I'm just not sure which breads would need it.  Right now I use KA all purpose because it's what's available, my breads seem fine, would the gluten change things much?  Thanks.


LindyD's picture

I've added a teaspoon or two to rye to improve the crumb.

I also totally screwed up once and mistakenly used it to build a biga. Twenty-four hours later I had a ball of silly putty on steriods that I could bounce off the walls.  I kept it for about a month just to play with and see if I could stretch it (I couldn't).

diathesis's picture

Useful for whole wheat and alt.flour breads (Kamut, Spelt, etc.) where gluten may be at a premium.  Mostly, though, I use this for seitan - vegetarian meat substitutes.

edh's picture

I just bought some too, as I've been using a lot of spelt which tastes great but can be a little hard to develop the gluten sufficiently.

On the advice of a thread here (sorry, can't remember which one!), I added 1 Tbsp per cup of flour when making Reinhart's Whole Grain Anadama, and boy did it ever spring!

In the same thread, I think, someone mentioned the possibility of an off taste from using too much wheat gluten, so I'd be careful in the amounts I'd add. Anadama has so much else going on in terms of flavor; molasses etc, that I didn't worry about it too much.


subfuscpersona's picture

Marni on May 22, 2008 wrote:
Right now I use KA all purpose because it's what's available, my breads seem fine, would the gluten change things much?
Since your breads are fine, it seems unnecessary to add vital wheat gluten flour to King Arthur all-purpose flour.

King Arthur all-purpose flour actually has a protein content of about 11.7%, which makes it more like other brands of bread flour (which normally have a protein content of about 12%) than other brands of all-purpose flour (which normally have a protein content in the 10%-11% range). I've used KA all-purpose interchangably with other brands of flour marketed as bread flour and found little difference in performance for bread or pizza. I would not, however, use KA all-purpose for quick breads, pastry or cookies since, for these kinds of baked goods, you want a flour that doesn't develop gluten as readily.

If you work a lot with whole grain flours, vital wheat gluten flour can be handy to have on hand. Think of it as a flour conditioner / improver, not as just another kind of flour. If you have "weak" flour that cannot develop gluten well, where the dough tends to poop out when subjected to long rising periods or does not produce any oven spring when baked, you can avoid a dense, heavy loaf by incorporating a *small* amount of gluten flour into your dry ingredients.

Like edh, I sometimes use a small amount of vital wheat gluten to boost the gluten content of lower gluten flours. Unlike edh, I only use about 1 TBS per pound (~ 3-1/2 cups) of "other" flour(s) - that works out to about 1 tsp per cup of flour.

I've also found that it is better to sift the gluten flour with the other flour(s) you're using for bread, rather than simply stirring it in. If it isn't evenly incorporated throughout your flour, you can get ropy strands of rubbery dough from the high gluten flour (that's the best way I can think of to describe it) when you're kneading that can be hard to distribute evenly throughout the dough.

Marni's picture

As usual, the members on this site are helpful and informative. Thank you! You all confirmed much of what I thought, but I'm always second guessing myself, so I like to be sure. LindyD- love the rubber ball! Diathesis- I have been wanting to make seitan for years. The box has a basic recipe, what do you use as a broth? edh- Thanks, I'll be careful not to use too much. I haven't made anadama bread in years, thanks for the idea. subfuscpersona- The higher protein content is why I'm using it- great price compared to other flours I can get here readily, which are bleached. Sifting! Good to know! Thanks. Marni

subfuscpersona's picture

Marni on May 22, 2008 wrote:
I bought a box of Arrowhead Mills vital wheat gluten thinking it might be good to have around. Can I just stick it in the freezer like I do flour until I have a need for it?
Like you, I store my vital wheat gluten flour in the freezer. On purchase, I put it in a zip-lock bag and in the freezer it goes.

It can take me as much as two years to use up one pound of gluten flour (I use it only for bread). While gluten flour does not contain the germ of the seed (which can lead to rancidity and an "off" taste in flour) I do prefer freezing it.

I don't honestly know whether freezing gluten flour is necessary. I can, however, assure you that long term storage in the freezer in no way degrades the gluten flour or makes it less potent.

Kbone's picture

  I'm vegan and like to make seitan from time to time when I feel like something with a meaty texture. Here's a recipe I use that is quite satisfying. Spiced like chicken or pork.

  If you don't have kelp on hand just skip it. I like to take the seitan cutlets that I make with this recipe and press some of the liquid out of them, then brush with olive oil and brown on a griddle. They make nice sandwiches that way. You can coat them with breadcrumbs too if you wish. Enjoy!

Pablo's picture

I have a T-shirt "Praise Seitan" with a 5-pointed star made out of forks.  I think it's hysterical, but, alas, no one else does.  Anyway...

I've been playing with trying to get a seitan recipe down to a very basic state from which to experiment.  Currently I do this:

mix 1/2 cup (85g) gluten with 1/4 cup (14g) nutritional yeast.  Add 7g olive oil and 100g water.  stir and knead.  Let stand for 1/2 hour.  Cut into pieces and pressure cook for 20 minutes in broth of choice.  Let the pressure slowly relieve on the pressure cooker. 

Once the gluten starts to firm up it becomes very difficult to incorporate any yeast or anything else.  That actually ends up creating interesting textures.  "It's all good" as they say.  One technique would be to add the nutritional yeast after the water and then do your best to incorporate it.

Simple and delicious.  From there you can add any sorts of spices to the mix or the broth.  Just the gluten and nutritional yeast together are delicious.