The Fresh Loaf

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gluten formation, time and temperature

dlassiter's picture

gluten formation, time and temperature

As we all know, gluten is formed as proteins in bread are combined in water. So it's best to let the dough "rest" for a while to let that happen. Being a little impatient, I choose to warm my dough to speed up the rising. In doing so, I am minimizing the resting. My question is to what extent warming the dough ALSO speeds up gluten formation, such that the time it takes for my dough to rise is linked to the time it takes for gluten to form. Chemical processes usually speed up with temperature, so I'd like to believe this is the case. That is, I'd rather not keep my dough cool in order to slow rising, just to allow time for gluten to form. Can someone comment on this?

mariana's picture


Your answers might be in patents for gluten production, after all, they strive to maximize the output, to produce the max amount of gluten in the shortest time possible to extract it from wheat flour to produce seitan and dried vital wheat gluten.

Earlier European methods designed for moderately strong and weak European wheats determined that 20C (or lower) and one hour resting time after mixing flour with water into a rather stiff dough give the best results, i.e. the largest amount of gluten formed without making production too costly. That means you can wait longer, for two to three hours, for quite a bit more gluten to form, but it is not worth it. Time is money.

Modern methods designed for super strong high protein North American bread wheats  stick with water at 40-50C mixed with wheat flour at 60-100% hydration and resting time of about 10-20 min. By that time, IF your flour is NA bread flour, the max amt (or almost max) of gluten will form. 

  • wheat flour is mixed with fresh water or process water in an amoun. of 0.6 - 1 part of water to 1 part of wheat flour. The precise amount of water depends upon the quality of wheat flour.
  • [0012]A water temperature of 40-50°C has been found to promote the hydration of gluten and to reduce the retention time i.e. the time, typically in the range 10 to 20 minutes for which the dough is allowed to stand, after mixing, in order to develop it fully by hydration of the gluten. The prepared dough is kept in a holding tank for the retention time, the length of which depends upon the dough water temperature and the wheat (flour) quality.
  • Source:

Both methods are based on research and patented, so it is up to you to test what works best for the flour you bake with: the slow cold and stiff method or the warm soft and brief method to obtain the most gluten from your flour before you decide that it is enough for your purposes. Too much gluten is not necessarily the best outcome in baking. In some breads, gluten formation is inhibited as much as possible.

I once tested one Canadian pastry flour and it gave me 12% gluten formed after 20min rest at 20C which is appropriate for cake and pastry applications but full 36% gluten formed after 24hrs refrigerated! (Such level of gluten is typical of the best bread flours!)

In bread dough, fermentation does not interfere with gluten formation, so do not worry. Fermentation stretches out the existing gluten, i.e. it develops gluten, and it happens simultaneously with gluten formation which takes from minutes to hours even days to reach its max value depending on flour.

If you'd "rather not keep your dough cool in order to slow rising, just to allow time for gluten to form", then use strong North American bread flours and very warm water. BUT you cannot knead a very warm bread dough after resting time, you would have to chill it first. If your method is a no-knead or S&F method, then it's ok to start with very warm dough to speed up gluten formation.

Also, this topic was researched by bread machines manufacturers. They usually start with cold medium soft dough ( ice cold water and room temperature strong bread flour) and knead it for 20-40min until 

1) max amount of gluten is formed and fully developed by kneading

2) the bread dough reaches 32-33C for optimum fermentation speed.


dlassiter's picture

Thank you. That helps a lot. Yes, time is money, and also inconvenience. I usually let my warm dough rise for 45 minutes or so, and then shape into loaves, wherein it takes another half-hour to rise. It sounds like with high-protein bread flour, just 20 minutes will do the trick at 40-50C. I really don't see a lot of value in letting cool dough sit for several hours just to let gluten form.