Searching For Ambrosia: Going Gluten Free Means Going Back To SchoolSep 10th, 2013 | By Admin | Category: Editorials
Everywhere you look today you can see gluten free; there are products on grocery store shelves and in freezer cases, options at restaurants are becoming more common and typing in “gluten free” on the Internet will give you thousands of sites to choose from. Going gluten free has almost become trendy. Luckily, for those who have suffered with gluten issues, all this information now available has given them confirmation of their problems and a diagnosis could finally be given to their symptoms. I first became interested in gluten free when one of my dogs was diagnosed several years back with an autoimmune disease. He was developing tumors, dropping weight (partially due to what seemed a lack of appetite) and losing so much hair that I thought he might have contracted mange. At this point, I was preparing myself for his death, as was anyone else who saw him. The veterinarian was very helpful and researched autoimmune diseases for me and prescribed medications designed specifically to treat them. After several weeks, I noticed no apparent change in Radar and so began doing research on my own. I always look to diet first since I believe food is the first line of defense against any disease. I stopped giving the meds and put him on a “cancer diet,” one without any carbs because I learned that cancer cells feed on carbohydrates, and with tumors present, cancer was an option in my mind. Radar’s diet became a vegetable mix with supplements and fresh meat, with absolutely no commercial dog food. His appetite returned, along with his weight and his beautiful hair finally came back. Today, Radar is still with me and shows no signs of his previous diagnosis. Today I recognize that it may have been the lack of gluten in Radar’s diet that helped in healing him. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, not a food allergy that some think it is. I also now have friends diagnosed with this disease and began looking at gluten free baking. I was surprised to see that most of the recipes had a laundry list of ingredients unfamiliar to me. With grocery list in hand, I hit the health food store in Tallahassee and found all but two of the items I had written down. The next day I pulled all the ingredients out, opened my laptop and prepared myself for a night of learning and baking. To my frustration, the two ingredients I wasn’t able to find were the ingredients used most in baking. While my friend will have to wait on her baked goods, I did learn a lot that night. The largest lesson learned was that almost everything I know about baking does not apply when going gluten free. Gluten free flours can be heavy (buckwheat, millet and legume), medium weight (sorghum, oat and brown rice) or light (white rice flour). They are often mixed so the baked good isn’t too heavy or too light, which in gluten free can mean “gummy.” You also have to add starches, such as arrowroot, potato or tapioca, to replace the lack of gluten that functions to bind the ingredients together and to tenderize and lighten the dough. Xanthan gum or guar gum is also added to give dough the stretch and viscosity to prevent the baked food from being crumbly or dry. Extra leavening helps with the lightness, as does extra fats, to the end product. While I did come away with a much greater understanding of gluten free products and how to use them in baking, I didn’t have a finished product, which means no recipe to share with you. So I will call today’s column, Part 1 in this gluten free journey and next week, I will share my results with you. It’s time to play. If you would like to share your experiences with gluten free products or have a recipe that is gluten free, please send it to email@example.com, and I’ll include it in Part 2.