The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Vital Wheat Gluten?

a_warming_trend's picture

Vital Wheat Gluten?

When I was first investigating baking with a much higher percentage of whole grains, I was drawn to the idea that vital wheat gluten could improve both ovenspring and texture. 

But then I read this article, and some other skeptical sources:

The article basically argues that vital wheat gluten is a byproduct of the hyper-industrial bread manufacturing processes that began in the mid-twentieth century -- which lead to the widespread acceptance of bread that was super-fast-fermented not easily digestible for humans. Pretty unsettling. What do you guys think of vital wheat gluten?


Isand66's picture

I have never used it, nor do I think it is necessary.  Some people on this site do like to add it to whole grain breads and are happy with the results.  I guess it is a matter of preference.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a long time ago but with the melamine scare stopped playing with it.  Found other solutions.

I don't use it, don't need it, there are a number of ways to make whole grain breads without it.  There is nothing appetising about a tasteless ball of gluten.  Make one and play with it and make up your own mind.  

richkaimd's picture

I add 1/3rd cup VWG to my bread flour mixture, ultimately totaling 2 lbs, for my recipe (from Hamelman's Bread) for bagels when I cannot get high gluten flour.  I do this following the suggestions from other bagel recipes as a way to come closer to the protein content of high gluten flour.  It makes for the level of chewiness I prefer.  Or maybe I'm fooling myself?  I have made this recipe with only bread flour (4gm) without the VWG and sense no difference in taste, only that the chew isn't quite as good.  Is there a reliable instrument to measure chewiness?

sandytroy's picture

Great article... thanks so much for sharing..

subfuscpersona's picture

I used to keep some VWG in the freezer and used it as a (small!) addition to whole grain breads. However, my experience is that, as I worked with a specific whole grain recipe, I learned to develop the gluten in the flour without needing VWG as an additive.

Make the same recipe again and again, gradually reducing the VWG called for at each bake. Paying attention to the dough taught me that experience and technique largely renders the addition of VWG unnecessaary.

dabrownman's picture

is completely natural, easy to make yourself, contains only the stuff in natural whole grain wheat - no melamine.  Vegans use it to make seitan, a vegan meat substitute, and vegans claim they won'teat anything that is in any way bad for you.  The link below tells you how to make VWG but claims you can't make the flour at home which is total nonsense as much as saying you can grind grain into flour at home.  All you have to do after following the steps is to chop it into small pieces with food processor, dry it in a dehydrator and then grind in a coffee grinder.

I don't make or use it as much as I used too but I have used it in all kinds of whole grain breads, bagels and pizza dough with really good results.  If you have cheap Gold Medal,  Pillsbury (or LaFama in my case at 30 cents a pound),  11% AP flour and you want to make a decent loaf of bread at 12% protein then all you have to do is add 13 g of VWG to 400 g of flour make up the difference.  If you want high gluten bread flour then another 15 g gets you there easy.  That's enough and I guarantee you no one can tell the difference in a blind taste test.   Lets face it, not everyone can afford $1 a pound KA flour to make decent bread or want to spend that much even if they can afford it.

Some folks just ant to use what the grain they grind gives them to use and I do the same thing.  The main reason I use less VWG today is that I grind and sprout so much of my own grain and I have no idea how much gluten and protein is in it even if i wanted to doctor it up.  

One thing I have learned is that 11.5% to 12% is about all the protein you need to make bread and more than that is overkill for me.  The French have been making perfectly fine baguettes for hundreds of years using the cheapest 10.5 % protein flour - even though it could be considered the Wonder Bread of France and nothing like the bread I want to eat that has way more whole grains, protein and gluten in it..

I mix KAF bread flour and LaFama AP all the time to get the 12%  flour I like best for bread and to get the crumb I want,  I don't see much of any difference in taking  Gold Medal or Pillsbury  AP flour adding adding a bit of VWG to get the protein up to 12% to make bread rather than cookies of cakes.

As  libertarian when it comes to all things bread and most other things, there is a place for VWG.  All things in moderation is a fine rule of thumb most always.

a_warming_trend's picture

I want to continue investigating the origins and impact of VWG, but I was right to assume that asking TFL would be a good first step. dabrownman, thank you for your careful explanation. I actually thought to myself as I read that article, "Isn't seitan literally just a big ball of gluten...and isn't it a central protein source in a range of Asian cuisines?"

One thing I never imagined when I started baking bread was the extent to which it might seem like a cultural statement to do so...this isn't the most welcoming point in history for grains generally and bread specifically (at least here in the U.S.).

I will say that I have done informal experiments with friends who consider themselves to be gluten-intolerant, and every one who has tried my long-fermented sourdough has been able to eat it comfortably. I'm pretty much fascinated with the science of sourdough nutrition. 

Anyway, thanks again to all for the comments thus far. I welcome as many more thoughts and opinions as exist on this forum!

charbono's picture

This study shows that added gluten doesn't do much to increase loaf volume without egg yolk (lecithin).


The two improvers work synergistically.