Gluten is the substance that gives dough its elasticity, strength, and makes the dough rise. Wheat has a high level of gluten. When baked goods are made with various types of non-gluten flour, wheat flour is often added so that the dough is able to rise effectively. Many types of flour milled from various grains, seeds, legumes, tubers, and nuts do not contain gluten.
Gluten forms only when liquid is added to flour causing a reaction of the insoluble proteins gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin has the consistency of syrup when it is combined with water and glutenin becomes very rubbery. The combination of the two is what gives dough its sticky and elastic qualities. The quantities of these proteins are highest in flour milled from wheat, but the level is also high in barley, rye, and triticale. Grains related to wheat, such as spelt and kamut®, also contain the proteins necessary to form gluten.
Breads and baked goods made solely with non-gluten flour have different characteristics than baked goods made with gluten flour. The texture is much more dense and crumbly because the dough made with gluten-free flour does not rise. Many people prefer the dense texture. Various types of baked goods made with gluten-free flour are also full of flavor and some have even better nutritional profiles than baked goods made with gluten flour.