Giò Mauro, owner of Monzu and Old School Pizzeria in Las Vegas, transforms grains into more easily-digestible forms
Nothing could be simpler than wheat and water. Once made into bread, this tasty, air-infused loaf has been at the core of life—providing energy and nutritional benefits in many cultures worldwide for centuries. And not surprisingly, bread hasn’t caused much in the way of digestive woes—until recently. Could it be gluten?
Sweeping generalizations have made gluten culpable for increasing waistlines to general malaise (feeling of discomfort) and gastrointestinal distress (digestive problems), but according to Giò Mauro, owner of Monzu and Old School Pizzeria in Las Vegas, gluten is not entirely responsible for the sensitives “rising” in people’s stomachs.
Giò Mauro’s Gluten Theory
“Gluten has been vilified as the archenemy of humanity,” says Mauro, “But it couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve been consuming gluten for 30,000 years.”
Found in wheat, barley, and rye products, Mauro describes gluten as the intertwining of two vegetable proteins that form a “netting.” They are responsible for trapping the gasses needed to rise the bread, thereby creating the lovely holes we all look for in good quality bread.
No one knows why gluten sensitivities, which affect 6% of the population, according to Cleveland Clinic, are on the rise. This is different from Celiac Disease, a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where gluten ingestion damages the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 3 million people in the U.S., according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But celiac disease researchers and plant geneticists have some theories why gluten sensitivities are increasing, one of which is the fast fermentation used at industrial bakeries. That’s what Mauro is thinking, too.
And to add more “bloat” to the gluten conversation, there are the gluten-free converts: people who self-diagnose and refer to gluten for a wide range of medical conditions—not just gastrointestinal distress. So what is a baker to do when this mindset persists today?
Thankfully, there are bakers like Mauro who make bread the old-fashioned way.
“The only thing that has changed is how we actually make bread,” says Mauro. One strain of yeast has been packaged, and it has become our go-to, and we’ve forced the bread to rise quicker.”
Fast-rising bread is harder to digest. Quick bread production prevents gluten proteins from taking the necessary time to break down as they would in bread made by traditional methods, where fermentation takes place over 18 to 25 hours or more. Celiac experts also theorize that it’s possible that after years of eating highly processed bread, our guts are rejecting it.
History of Bread-making
How did this start? The first standardized commercial yeast was introduced in the U.S. in 1868 by an enterprising brewer from Austria-Hungary by Charles Fleischmann, and his brother Maximilian. Later they developed and patented commercial instant yeast that promised a “rapid rise.” At first, this was useful during WWII to make bread on the battlefield.
Later, it was introduced into the retail market and is now the form of yeast that became standard in homes. While it was developed for its consistency and fast-rising times, it didn’t do much for taste or digestibility.
What Make’s Giò’s Dough Different
But bakers like Mauro insist on slow fermentation and the use of multiple wild yeast strains. His dough contains approximately 20. The use of indigenous yeast—yeasts that exist and occur naturally in our immediate surroundings produces compounds that give bread its unique flavors and aromas. Commercial yeast, by contrast, is a single strain of yeast which was isolated because it proved to be an excellent rising agent. There is no yeast diversity in commercial yeast, and without any dedicated fermentation process, flavor that results has considerably less depth.
Furthermore, with the critical step called dough maturation—preferably overnight—a crucial modification of the gluten takes place that unlocks nutrients and transforms grains into more easily-digestible forms.
Mauro’s dough is made with their proprietary mother and crafted over five days. The mother hails from a lineage of yeast strands from a 300-year-old month dough he acquired from tiny Italian island of Ischia, and an indigenous Las Vegas mother yielding native strands, which he started from apricots from a local farm.
“The Ischia strains give the bread nutty and buttery flavors, while the Las Vegas yeasts are more sour,” says Mauro. “Combining the two gives it a great balance.”
After dough maturation, there is cold fermentation. A slower fermentation at lower temperatures provides more flavor, and more structure.
“You know the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare”? We want to just ‘turtle’ that thing,” he says about taking the bread-making process slowly.
Could the benefits of quality grains, natural yeasts, slow fermentation and maturation potentially bring gluten-sensitive consumers back to bread?
After decades of bland, virtually indistinguishable white sliced factory loaves, our taste buds are seeking the flavors and textures in real bread—one with complexity and slowly leavened with natural cultures that offer digestive and nutritious benefits. For some gluten-sensitive stomachs and bread lovers, especially those who avoid gluten for unclear reasons, it’s time to give bread a break again.