So what does this mean?

Several readers have asked: given the fundamental character differences between the gluten found in North American wheat and the gluten found in European wheat, are alternative formulations possible? Is there any way to compensate for the differences between the two using readily available ingredients?

I’ve been mulling over that very thing. Certainly the functional differences between American and Euro flours are less pronounced in flours that either a.) don’t have much gluten to begin with, such as pastry flour, or b.) are high in gluten but also have high proportions of gluten-undermining bran and germ in them, such as whole wheat flour. For much of what’s in the middle, i.e. the whiter, gluten-rich flours, the French T55’s and T65’s for instance, bread bakers are staring across something of a chasm of plastic-vs.-elastic functionality.

Which is a serious problem for those who don’t have Sysco accounts. Two pounds of French T55 runs about $25 on Amazon, and T65 can’t be found at all. However one other possibility occurred to me as I was researching last week’s posts. One book I found on agricultural trends mentioned that ever since the 1970’s, when countries like Italy began to shift their emphasis from corn production to wheat production, markets have seen a glut of European wheat protein.

Ding! Could European wheat protein, in the form of, say, vital wheat gluten, be used to formulate a rough equivalent to European flour? Who can say? I don’t have any European vital wheat gluten lying around, and to be frank don’t really know how I’d get any, but if I were to launch an investigation into this, I’d probably start with a fairly low gluten American flour, maybe a Southern flour like White Lily for example, and spike it with some Euro gluten — then see what sort of baguette I could make with it. Crazier things have worked, have they not?

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