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Baking up a Whole-Grain Rice Bread

By Erin Peabody
December 27, 2004

Whole-grain foods are often touted for their health benefits. But for people with wheat allergies—or those whose bodies cannot tolerate certain proteins in wheat, rye and barley—trying to get ample servings of whole grains in the diet is a real challenge.

Now, an Agricultural Research Service food technologist has developed a whole-grain rice bread mix made for home bread machines. Not only does the new rice bread qualify as whole grain, providing the high-in-fiber bran fraction of the grain, it also boasts a texture comparable to that of whole-wheat bread.

The product is especially valuable to the roughly two million Americans with celiac disease, according to Ranjit Kadan, a food technologist at the ARS Food Processing and Sensory Quality Research Unit in New Orleans. These individuals must avoid grain products made from wheat, rye and barley because they contain the protein called gluten.

Developing a gluten-free, whole-grain bread that not only is tasty but also has the right texture is a tough task, since gluten proteins offer a kind of resiliency that's essential for making breads and other baked goods. But Kadan experimented until he found the best rice cultivar and flour particle size for the whole-grain bread.

For decades, rice has been considered one of the most easily digested grains. In his home country of India, according to Kadan, rice has been traditionally fed to those with chronic diet-related illnesses because of its hypoallergenicity.

According to members of the Louisiana Celiac Sprue Association, the whole-grain rice bread is superior to commercial rice breads currently on the market. Plus it lacks other potentially allergenic ingredients like milk and eggs.

Research is still ongoing to find the optimal bread machine conditions for kneading and baking the whole-grain bread dough.

Kadan is currently seeking a commercial partner to help advance his technology. But given the current interest in the product, the whole-grain rice bread mix could be available as soon as next year.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.