I am frequently asked about dough enhancers and why I use certain ingredients in my recipes. This section teaches you a lot about gluten-free baking and which dough enhancers to use when, and in which recipes. Some contain dairy and others are dairy-free. Majority are soy-free.
Which dough enhancer(s) you use is primarily based on which flours and binders (such as xanthan gum and guar gum) you use. A good example of this is when you are using corn flour or cornstarch in dough that contains dairy and xanthan gum, if you add in pectin or agar-agar, the liquids will be absorbed more easily.
When creating a rice-based dough, and most other gluten-free bread, you will need an emulsifier (such as guar gum or lecithin) to combine liquid with oil. However, this lowers the elasticity and density of the dough. Therefore, you’ll create a dough that is closer to a batter. It still works quite well in gluten free bread baking.
It’s all extremely scientific, but the tips I list below are easy to understand.
Learn more about gluten-free baking in my upcoming cookbook, Carla’s Best 125 Gluten-Free Recipes, published and copyrighted Wilkins Publishers LLC.
Manufacturing Baked Goods
For those interested in manufacturing baked goods, I read that if you beat/mix dough, using any flour, long enough you will not need to add commercial enzymes. Enzymes just speed up that process. Though, in manufacturing, speed usually affects costs. In today’s society, I find that though the cost of goods may be higher, most would prefer a more natural product than one filled with chemically processed enzymes.
Gluten Free Dough Enhancers
There are several commercial gluten free dough enhancers on the market. Most include soy lecithin and several other ingredients, some listed below. Authentic Foods makes one which contains: lecithin, ascorbic acid, tapioca, and ginger. They do not list what type of lecithin they use, but you’ll learn more about lecithin below. As a gluten free bakers, you may already use tapioca, potato, and cornstarch in your recipes, the ingredient of tapioca in a dough enhancer is not needed.
Agar-agar may be used as a vegan and dairy-free substitute for eggs when mixed with warm water and allowed to gel. It helps improve moisture and texture. You can also use this to replace xanthan gum; however you’ll need to increase your mixing time. It will also result in a less elastic dough.
Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C
Instead of using apple cider vinegar or vinegar, you may use ascorbic acid, which is powdered vitamin C (not buffered). You can purchase ascorbic acid powder, use Vitamin C from capsules, or grind your own in a coffee grinder. Use 1/8 teaspoon per loaf to increase yeast action, taste, and improve texture. It is also used as a preservative.
Bean flours add structure and texture to gluten free bread. They also help in rising. Varieties include garbanzo (chickpea), soy, fava, and garfava flour (which is a blend of garbanzo, fava, and Romano beans).
As with all milk, buttermilk aids in browning, texture and flavor. It also helps speed up the action of yeast, immediately and quickly. You can make buttermilk by adding 2 teaspoons vinegar to 1 cup milk (dairy or dairy-free) and allowing it sit for about 5 – 15 minutes, or until it thickens (sours). If your recipe already calls for vinegar, use that vinegar in the milk. Do not add additional vinegar. If you are not looking for buttermilk flavor, you can add about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to offset the taste, though this will cause your batter to thicken and bubble up a bit.
Eggs improve the dough’s texture, increases the rise, and also adds color.
Egg yolk naturally contains lecithin. However, lecithin usually works with gluten to lighten dough. Therefore, since you don’t bake with gluten, using lecithin will not help lighten the dough that much. It will, however, create more of a crumb in bread and extend the shelf-life/act as a preservative.
Egg whites do not contain lecithin but do help with texture and a little bit with leavening. Egg white powder (albumen powder) is a possible replacement. However, I find that it does not help leaven dough as well as fresh egg white.
Garlic is also used when you wish to roll dough, and it adds flavor. I like to use it in pizza dough or flatbread. It also extends shelf-life.
Gelatin helps with moisture and texture. I rarely use gelatin, as tapioca and egg white do that job for us.
One of the other ingredients in a dough enhancer is often ginger. Ginger gives the yeast a boost immediately and continues to give it a boost during baking. Using a couple of healthy pinches doesn’t change the taste of your bread. Use ground ginger, not fresh.
Lecithin is usually made from either egg yolk or soy. (I avoid soy because it affects your estrogen levels.) (UPDATE: Sunflower lecithin may be a good way to go. See my Gluten Free Multi-Grain Bread Recipe.) Lecithin helps combine liquids and oils (binder), and also adds shelf-life to bread. It even helps the dough rise. I read on one website that lecithin works well with gluten. Since we do not bake with gluten, I can only conclude that the protein itself is aiding the dough. Protein aids gluten free baked goods as well.
If you want to roll or shape the dough, add milk, dry milk, or yogurt. It helps with browning, too. Milk also makes gluten free bread richer in taste and gives it more moisture.
Oils and Fats
Fats keep the dough moist, provide a chewier texture, and add flavor.
Pectin can be used to replace fat or to add moisture. You can also use this to replace xanthan gum; however you’ll need to increase your mixing time. It will also result in a less elastic dough.
Flours naturally contain sugar, but when yeast uses all of the sugar from the flours, it needs additional sugar to perform its action. However, you do not need to use refined white sugar. I have used agave nectar syrup, evaporated cane sugar, and honey successfully.
Tofu powder is made from soybeans, (which as stated earlier, I do not recommend). However, if you consume soy, tofu powder or dry soy milk powder can be used as a non-dairy substitute for powdered milk, though it does not aid in browning, it adds structure and texture.
Vinegar contributes the same characters as ascorbic acid/Vitamin C. Apple cider vinegar contains a higher acidity level compared to white vinegar, which is why you see it used in so many gluten free recipes.
Whey is made from milk; however, whey isolates have the fat and lactose removed, leaving mostly protein. NOW brand states “contains no gluten”, but contains soy lecithin. I have read others having success with this product. I can only assume it is due to the soy lecithin and high protein levels.
Dough Enhancers to Avoid
Some dough enhancer ingredients contain gluten. Avoid such enhancers as vital wheat gluten and malt powder.
You may also be interested in learning about other dough enhancers: