6 Vital Wheat Gluten vs. Dough Enhancer

Update: Many readers have asked me if it is REALLY necessary to add vital wheat gluten in my bread recipes. No, it is not. It is a preference that I have. Make it both ways, with and without the gluten, and you can be the judge!

What is vital wheat gluten? Basically it is wheat flour with most of the starch taken out. It is a natural protein derived from wheat that is very concentrated. Just 1-2 Tablespoons added to your bread recipes will give you:
  • additional protein
  • gives strength to yeast to work well when raising
  • extends the shelf life of your bread
  • traps the gases given off by the yeast, enabling the dough to raise higher
  • provides elasticity, strength, added texture
  • helps retain moisture in bread
  • helps prevent crumbling
This is what I believe gives me the soft, light 'wonderbread like' texture to my whole wheat breads and extends the shelf life to at least 4-5 days before it gets moldy.

I buy Grandma's Country 27 oz. vital wheat gluten at Macey's for $5.99 and keep it in the refrigerator; it lasts me a whole year, making bread weekly. Store it in the freezer if you make bread less often, as it will go rancid. You can find it as Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, although it is more expensive. Look for vital wheat gluten at a Bosch kitchen store, where they sell it by the pound and you can get what you need. The best deal on this was $2.99 (27 oz) at the Blue Chip Group factory in SLC (the place that makes Morning Moo). Unopened, these have a shelf life of 6 years.

Dough enhancer has the following ingredients:

Whey (a dairy protein), soy lecithin, tofu powder, citric acid, dry yeast, sea salt, spice blend, corn starch, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), natural flavor

After looking at the dough enhancer ingredients, I thought, "Why add additional ingredients? Why am I adding additional yeast? What the heck is 'natural flavor'?

I was introduced to vital wheat gluten and dough enhancer at a bread class. I have tried both, and I favor the wheat gluten. I have tried recipes with and without dough enhancer and have not noticed any difference.

10/2011 update:
I was given a sample of dough enhancer to try.  I tested it on my whole wheat bread, made one batch with the enhancer and one without.  The one with the dough enhancer rose to double 8 minutes faster and developed a large, uneven cell structure in the bread.  Both slices were equally soft and tender.  The slice with the dough enhancer did not develop any mold, while my slice began to develop mold on day 8.  My bread never lasts beyond 2-3 days, as it gets gobbled up!
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