Preparing real bread, pastry, and pasta without gluten can be challenging, even or especially, if we are familiar with working with gluten. There seems to be nothing to make the dough work. So, we feel the need to add to the dough. All sorts of interesting additives have been proposed and used. These are known as gums, or thickeners or binders. All are recognized as food additives, so in some sense, they are ‘food safe’, however many have issues that make them unhelpful, or even unsafe for some people. Many of these additives are found in all sorts of processed foods to improve the texture or to bulk out the food. In bread some seem to work well, others not so; but the greatest challenge is to decide:

  1. what is the dough to be used for?
  2. is an additive really required?
  3. which additive is going to work best with the dough?
  4. how much additive is required?

Before we spend time trying to answer those questions there is another set of questions to address:

  1. what sort of dough do I want to make?
  2. what is the dough to be used for?
  3. am I trying to replicate a dough that contains gluten?
  4. what texture, aroma, and flavour am I aiming for in the final product?
  5. what have I learned about the flour: how does it behave under different conditions, what are its characteristic textures when milled and mixed with different liquids, what happens as it ferments with a related starter culture, or with different starter cultures?
  6. how will the flour and other ingredients, including any additive, affect the texture, aroma, and flavour of the final product?

Of course, it is possible to throw ingredients together and get a result. If we want to work with our ingredients to produce the best possible result we need to spend time learning from each ingredient.