What Is Gluten, Why Does It Matter to Baking, and Where Does It Lurk?

By Jean McFadden Layton, Linda Larsen

Part of Gluten-Free Baking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Gluten is a molecule unique to certain plants, and it is a key component of traditional baking. Gluten consists of two smaller proteins called glutenin and gliadin. When mixed with water, these two proteins combine to form gluten. Gluten is a stretchy substance that holds carbon dioxide in baked goods and gives these goods their texture and structure. Gluten is found in these products:

  • Barley

  • Bulgur

  • Durum

  • Einkorn (a wild wheat species)

  • Hand lotion

  • Kamut (an ancient relative of wheat)

  • Paste glue

  • Play-Doh

  • Prescription medicines

  • Rye

  • Semolina

  • Spelt (an ancient species of wheat)

  • Triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye)

  • Wheat

  • Wheat pasta