Why Gluten Changed the World

Laura K. Thompson Dr, Furman University


This laboratory is one in a series that I use in Biology 401: Applied Plant Science. This course is designed for students who have had at least one introductory Biology course, either for a major or a non-major. The goal in the course is to give the student an appreciation for the importance of plants to human society. Each laboratory session is designed to give the student an appreciation for how plants contribute to society and an experience in original processing of plants for their use. In this laboratory session we look at the importance of gluten in bread making. Students bake bread in bread machines with bread flour, all purpose flour, and cake flour. Each of these flours has a different gluten content with bread flour having the greatest amount and cake flour having the least. Measurements are taken on the volume and weight of each bread loaf in order to calculate the density of the breads. This allows the students to not only visually see the difference in the loaves to the raising of the bread by the yeast, but it also gives them data to support their observations. Since this laboratory session complements the lecture portion that deals with grains, we also make different grain products such as corn tortillas, flour tortillas, and corn bread. At the end of the class all breads are eaten, usually with the apple butter that they made the preceding week in the History of Canning Laboratory session. During some of the wait time during this laboratory session the students watch a video on wheat that was made by the History Detectives program.