Does Gluten Make Bread Chewy?

Baking is an exact science with definite procedures. Each ingredient used plays a vital role in defining the texture, flavor, and color of the final product. In the normal baking process, you can produce either a fluffy, airy, and nice-looking bread. Or, a flat, chewy loaf with rustic surfaces. It all depends on the gluten network.

Your loaf can become chewy under three conditions. One, where the flour used has high protein content. Two, where the fat used is not adequate or simply missing. And finally, where the amount of salt used is very high.

The texture, strength and the height of the resultant loaves are determined by their gluten content. During baking, gluten is formed when the flour is mixed with the liquids, moistened, and kneading.

You will realize that during the kneading process, the dough becomes stretchy. When ready, it forms an elastic band that can be pulled and spread to form a windowpane.

In the dough, there are some tiny pores.

The pores trap gases formed when the dough undergoes the proofing and baking process. With an ideal gluten network, the pores will efficiently hold the air and let the bread rise effectively. Through this, you will come up with excellent bread with good texture, taste, and shape. 

What happens when the gluten content is low?

Have you baked a bread that drops during cooling? If yes, then here is where you messed up. It can be that you used flour that is not rich in protein or you didn’t take your time to carefully bake the dough. When the dough is not mixed and kneaded well, the gluten network formed is not always strong enough to withstand the pressures in baking. As a result, the dough will not expand uniformly. 

This happens where the flour used is not rich enough in protein. With a poor gluten network, the bread will rise to the maximum size and collapse during cooling. A collapsed bread tends to have a chewy texture more so when exposed to the air. 

For an excellent bread, try using all-purpose flour or whole-grain flour. They are rich in protein and well known for outstanding gluten networks. 

What happens when the protein level is too high?

High gluten levels automatically lead to chewy bread. With flour that is high in protein, the network formed is always “over-strong” to allow for efficient rising and baking. It affects the structure of the resultant product. The best way to navigate your way through the two extremes is by balancing the water, yeast, and fat content in your recipe. 

Fat and chewiness in bread

Fat is also a vital ingredient in bread baking. It determines the feel, taste, shape, and the shelf-life of the baked good. It helps in moisture retention and prevents the bread from going stale from just the moment it is left to cool. 

Fat coats the strands of gluten formed during kneading. It acts as the tenderizer–making the resultant crumb and the crust fine-grained and soft. With an inadequate amount of fat, be sure of getting a flat and chewy bread with a shorter shelf life. 

On the other hand, with more fat, the bread will become denser and unhealthful. Oddly enough, it is always softer and does not collapse. 

The fat you choose determines the final color of your baked goods. Deep-colored fats result in more effects. Vegetable shorteners come with no effect. Meaning, you cannot use different types of fats interchangeably to achieve the same coloration.  Otherwise, the amount of fat to be used during baking is determined by the fat’s content. Liquid fats are 100% fatty while butter is a mixture of milk and water. 

Effects of salts on the gluten structure

The network of gluten is formed when water allows for the bonding of the gliadin and glutenin in the protein. By adding some salt in the dough, the resultant bread can become chewy.

The electrical charges in the salt prevent the electrically charged portions of the glutenin from repelling against each other. Consequently, the glutenin bond becomes closer hence resulting in a stronger gluten network.

You can make a chewy crumb out of your dough by adding ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt for every cup of protein flour used.

Too much yeast

When you use too much yeast, the dough rises too enthusiastically. As a result, it will start to fall immediately when the cooling process commences. The bread that over-rise form large bubbles.

As a result, the gluten network formed cannot be strong enough to keep the product in shape. Secondly, an over-raised dough undergoes a process of over-fermentation. You will know this through an alcoholic smell upon sniffing.

When baked, an over-fermented bread will rise but falls hence leading to a chewy feel in the mouth. 

High temperature

During baking, the dough should be given a good time for it to bake uniformly. AT higher temperature, the baking time is limited. Therefore, the outer surfaces of the bread will cook and brown faster than the center.

Going by what you see, you will get it out of the oven. However, immediately it starts to cool, it collapses since there is the doughy center that did not undergo the process of baking.  

Faster cooling of the bread immediately after withdrawal from an oven can also cause it to fall. Allow the bread to cool gently so that the starches can firm up. In a cold environment, the starches will take much longer to cool as compared to the shrinking air pockets. The result is a fallen bread. 

Conclusion

Chewiness in bread finds its route from stronger gluten development. You only need to adjust the mixing techniques and the amount of the ingredients used to come up with one.

Other than the amount of salt and fat, and the type of flour used, there are additional ways of enhancing chewiness in bread. You can try steam baking, not using sugar.

And, egg products in your recipe. If you are a lover of chewy bread, it is primal to store the bread correctly so that it can do not lose its moisture content and become stale.