Updated: May 9, 2019
Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the recipes.
The most common example of a gluten foam is dough. And guess what gives it its distinct texture...PROTEINS! Namely, gluten which is found in wheat flour. Gluten is formed when enzymes in the flour react with other proteins when water is added. Gluten is sticky, and as you mix or knead dough, it forms sheets. As you incorporate air, bubbles form in these sheets. Adding yeast or other leavening agents adds gas, i.e. more bubbles. Baking the foam causes the proteins to denature, turning the dough into a soft, lovely loaf of bread. The gluten sheets hold the shape of the bubbles, causing your bread to be nice and airy.
Over the past few years, you may have noticed an increase in gluten allergies. Some think it's just helicopter parents, and some believe that it's just an excuse people use to eat gluten-free. But in actuality, there has been an increase. There has been an increase in non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Some of these reasons include:
The increase Westernization of other diets. For example, the increased use of wheat-based foods in the Mediterranean diet, and the slow replacement of rice by wheat in many countries.
The development of new types of wheat with a higher amount of cytotoxic gluten peptides, due to the increased use of pesticides in industrial farming. More info can be found here.
The higher content of gluten in bread and bakery products. Commercial breads use more gluten to shorten the fermentation time to increase quantity in production.
But did you know you can use gluten for more than just bread? According to Bake Info, gluten can be used for several different purposes:
It can help batters stick to foods better, like when frying foods, especially in commercial frozen foods. Dusting gluten powder (like Bob's Red Mill's Vital Wheat Gluten) before adding the batter helps the batter to stick better than using an egg. This also helps the food to retain moisture. The result is moist on the inside, and crispy on the outside.
When making pasta, most recipes call for semolina. However, if you add gluten the pasta dough will become more stable, i.e. chewier. You can do this by adding gluten powder, or by kneading the dough longer to create more gluten sheets.
Gluten is also used in processed and artificial meats, as a binding and enriching ingredient. One example is imitation meat. When the gluten is cooked, it becomes tough and gives the texture of real meat.
Here are some recipes that use gluten foams:
Serious Eats' The Workhorse Loaf Simple Crusty White Bread
Epicurious's Homemade Pasta
Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls