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Gluten has many effects on bread doughs, as explained in this beautiful answer. I think the main effects for bread doughs are the first three mentioned there:

  1. Provide elasticity, presumably because of the network of links it creates in the dough;

  2. Trap and retain gas, again with the network of crosslinks;

  3. Absorb moisture.

As the answer linked to above explains, hydrocolloids such as xanthan or guar gum can mimic the effect of 2. to a certain extent by forming a very thin gel. I was wondering which ingredients take over which specific function of gluten.

More specifically: is it possible to indicate specific ingredients that take over some of the other functions? Are there other classes of ingredients that take over the function of trapping gas bubbles - maybe other proteins? And are there other functions that hydrocolloids have in gluten-free bread mixes?

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Excellent question, I hope someone knows the answer! I know that the (very tasty) gluten free pancake mix I use is just rice flour and modified rice starch, I assume the modification makes the polysaccharides longer or more "webby". –  w00t Apr 25 '12 at 20:42

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To summarize the points of Aaronut's answer and provide a framework for answering:

'Gluten is responsible for elasticity of dough, which is perceived as chewiness','The "rising" in baked goods is essentially just stretching of the gluten network', 'Gluten is also exceptionally good at both absorbing and retaining moisture'

'When baking without gluten, you will have to be very precise about all of your measurements', as gluten is more forgiving due to its slow-acting nature

  • Yep.
  • In gluten-free baking one must substitute precision for not precision. Over kneading can be fatal especially in recipes with flax and chia.

'Its coagulation action is actually very similar to that of egg whites... gluten is basically doing the same thing inside of whatever you're baking'

  • Gluten allows you to replicates the function of eggs in some use cases.
  • Flax and chia eggs as well as Ener-G egg replacer are common vegan replacements to eggs, but as this question is simply about gluten-free baking the answer is to just use an egg; some recipes call for one, some don't. However, there is no likely use case where the functionality of an egg being replicated by gluten would preclude using an egg.

'Finally, it provides nutritive protein when eaten. Wheat gluten is about 75% protein':

  • Yep.
  • Get protein somewhere else. There are 2 grams of protein in a slice of white bread, have an ounce of black beans.

'In short: Gluten does a lot of things. Keep in mind when doing gluten-free baking that a lot of the substitutes only replicate one or two of the effects.':

  • The combination of multiple agents is generally necessary to provide the same functions. If you look at this methodology for high-rising gluten-free dough from King Arthur's, you'll see that the bread flour alone contains a super-fine flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. The recipe calls for xanthum gum and an egg in addition to the tapioca and potato starches. There you already have four ingredients doing the work of the gluten.
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