Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baking Gluten Free

Are you new the the gluten free world? Have you found that it seems a bit tricky? Gluten free items are popping up everywhere but they may not be as healthy as you think. If you are looking for a gluten free item, you should first look for the GF symbol, or a wheat stalk with a line across it that says  " gluten free". Wheat free is not the same as gluten free.  Wheat free  means any other grain has been used. For instance, barley, rye or any combination of grains. But it is not exactly gluten free by any means. And it could also be made in a manufacturing plant where wheat products are also gliding on the same equipment.
As gluten intolerance and Celiac disease have become more common, people are looking to alter their eating choices, and the food business is now booming with gluten free items. In fact, it is the fastest growing food market at this time! However, just because something is gluten free doesn't automatically make it healthy.

Some of the national brands that have come into the market in this field are: Betty Crocker, Chex, and Bisquick, just to name a few brands that I see at my regular grocery market. You will  find more options and brands that are exclusive to health markets but so far, most grocery stores are fairly limited. While they are better then their gluten cousins, they are also void of nutritional value in many cases making sugar the first ingredient!  As someone who eats out several times a week, I realize that I am not the healthiest eater 100%  of the time. I admit that I have a sweet tooth and like a goodie now and then. Going gluten free is rather daunting when you love your sweets and treats. Therefore, label reading is essential. For example, while a label may say " gluten free", it is still prudent to read the nutritional value of the product you and your family will be consuming.  Though I have been gluten free for years, I still read the ingredients and I am always amazed at how many of these "foods" or mixes use sugar as their main ingredient! For instance, I looked at all of the boxes of Betty Crocker cake, cookie and brownie boxes for their ingredients. Only one listed the flour they used ( rice) as a first ingredient, the other 3 were all listing sugar as their main ingredient! Then they have flour ( usually rice or, and potato) salt, xanthum gum, baking soda! I am not knocking the fact that mainstream companies have come into the gluten free market, however. I actually feel the opposite and would buy these if I was in a hurry to put something together spur of the moment or was out of my flour mixes and such. And it is great that they have ideas and other recipes you can use to make other dessert choices with these flours. I just know that charging me $5.00 for a cup of sugar and a cup of rice flour seems a bit high , especially if there is no nutritional value in it

For those of you who like to bake from scratch, this can easily be a healthier option. Some of the flours I like to use the most are  chickpea and  coconut flour and while they aren't even real grains they are wonderful sources of fiber and nutrition. Mixing at least three flours together is usually best for flavor or texture in your baking, but you can be more creative then these boxed mixes and you can certainly control the amount of sugar. Trying to keep things simple when you first start this, then go to a natural health food store so you can read those ingredients and find the most healthy ingredients. Some great flours are often not used because of their expense but you may find some at a health food store for probably a dollar or more than these national brands. Then  as you learn how to cook gluten free you can add some other nutritional flours to your recipes and make them much cheaper. If your looking for where to start with a recipe, the internet is loaded with great bloggers and women who have become gluten free for and are share amazing recipes.If you can think it, you can find it! Even crackers and hot crossed buns are possible to make gluten free.

Here is a great flour mix for a pie crust ( or muffins)
1 cup Sorghum flour *Iron and protein rich
1 cup Amaranth  *Excellent protein, high in fiber and lysine ( an amino acid rare in any other grain) lowest
  in glycemic value and perfect for diabetics.
3/4 cup of cornstarch (or tapioca, my preference)
1 tsp xanthun gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
 You can use this mix as the base for a pie crust or muffin  that you like and add the sweetener ( and quantity) that you prefer.
There are a lot of great options  for those who are gluten free. Gluten free can be easy and healthy!

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