Thursday, 19 September 2013

Gluten Free vs. Regular Sourdough.

When I looked into making gluten free sourdough bread I came across many sites claiming that regular sourdough bread is ok for celiacs and gluten intolerant people to eat. The explanation for this was the fermentation process breaks down gluten in sourdough breads made from wheat to levels that are safe for people with gluten intolerance to eat.

Investigating this further and found that a study performed by a group of researchers in Europe have discovered that "fully fermented" sourdough baked goods, made with a specialty wheat flour, did not have toxic effects on a small group of celiacs participating in the study. This wheat flour had been treated with lactobacilli, a "friendly" bacteria, and fungal proteases, a group of enzymes that break down (hydrolyze) the bonds that hold large protein molecules (gluten) together.

While the study was small, it did show that individuals with celiac disease who ate specially prepared sourdough wheat bread over the course of 60 days experienced no ill effects. The findings of this study and others like it are encouraging but larger studies are needed to confirm that specially treated wheat flour can be used to prepare safe baked goods for people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. For now fermented sourdough bread prepared with ordinary, grocery store wheat flour and baker's yeast should not be eaten by celiac's and the gluten intolerant.

Researchers at the Department of Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition in Ireland say, "The use of sourdough in gluten free baking may be the new frontier for improving the quality, safety and acceptability of gluten free bread." As explained in my last post, evidence is clear that sourdough is highly beneficial to gluten free health but the method of sourdough is also just as valuable towards the quality of gluten free bread.

Sourdough is the first fermentation used for baking purposes and it has been proven to be ideal for improving the texture, palatability, aroma, shelf life and nutritional value of wheat and rye breads. These effects have been extensively studied and well described for traditional baking, whereas little is known about the role of sourdough in gluten free baking. However, the microbiological and quality components of gluten free fermented products correspond in character with the microbiota of wheat/rye fermentation and suggest that the positive metabolic activities of the sourdough microbiota are still retained during fermentation of gluten free products. Thus, the use of sourdough in gluten free baking may be the new frontier for improving the quality, safety and acceptability of gluten free bread.

Confocal microscopy showing wheat and gluten free dough as well as sourdough

Making gluten-free sourdough bread is easy, once the principles and guidelines are understood. This type of baking is different from conventional gluten-free baking and is also different from conventional sourdough baking. There is a bit of a learning curve to this technique however many people have mastered it and are happily eating nutritious gluten-free sourdough bread.

With the sourdough technique and the right combining of gluten free flours, the all round quality of gluten free bread and nutrition can be achieved successfully. Until science establishes the safety of wheat-based sourdough for people with celiac disease, I think that long-fermented sourdough bread, made with gluten-free flours, represents the future of gluten-free bread for people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity by supplying enjoyment of eating top quality gluten free bread and aid in the healing of the digestive system.