Gluten is a protein that is produced when we add water to the wheat kernel, most often by grinding it into flour and hydrating it for baking. It’s dormant in the flour until it gets wet. Gluten is silently lurking in many grains, not just wheat.
To understand the reputed evils of gluten, you’ve got to know a little bit about the kernel itself. A wheat berry (as it’s called) contains three main parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Think of it like an apple. The bran is the fibrous outer coating or “skin” that protects its precious contents. The endosperm is the sweet, starchy interior that makes up most of the berry. The germ is like the apple seeds: tiny but containing all the living elements needed to grow a new plant.
When you buy whole wheat flour, it’s the whole berry ground up. When you buy white flour, it’s just the endosperm. The bran and germ have been removed. Do your kids eat all the flesh out of the apple and leave the skins on their plate? So do we when we buy white flour.
The good news is, the bran and the germ aid in digestion of the flour. The bad news is, as a culture we have spoken with our purchasing power and we have overwhelming shouted: “WE LOVE WHITE FLOUR AND THE PUFFY FLUFFY STUFF IT MAKES.” Naturally, the flour industry listened, and the resulting milling process creates a flavorless, nutritionless white powder (endosperm), that we are consuming en masse. No wonder, when eaten entirely out of context and in huge quantities over a lifetime, many people are experiencing digestive discomfort!
Both scientific and anecdotal sources report that individuals with “gluten intolerance” can consume products made with whole grains, or better yet, with flours made from wheat varieties that existed long before industrialized flour production did--ground fresh in a stone mill. And with techniques like slow fermentation that pre-digest the flour for you. That’s what we do at Abby Jane.
We don’t believe that gluten is evil, but that commodity flour may very well be.