Saturday, December 7, 2013

So Sorry But The Wheat Has To Go

 Learning Gluten Free

My first introduction to gluten free bread was disappointing.  The first loaf of gluten free bread I bought in the grocery store was expensive.  The bread had no flavor and was so dry.  And everyday it got drier.  So I decided I to go without gluten free products.  That meant not eating anything that had any form of wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye and triticale.  I did not anticipate that wheat would be in most all processed foods because the mentioned forms of gluten can be made into modified food starches in processed foods. Wheat is used to bind ingredients in hotdogs and sausage.  Wheat hides in many products.  Learning to read labels has become so important and will always be important.  The FDA has recently required labels to include wheat if it is in a product on made on a line with other wheat, nuts, soy, milk, and eggs. (Did I miss anything?)

I began reading and reading about why it was important to go gluten free.  Going gluten free gradually reduced the awful stomach pains until there was no pain -- unless, I ran into it accidentlly.  Being gluten free for awhile causes the body to react even worse and last longer when it comes in contact with gluten.  I went though my cabinets and pantry and removed all gluten products and donated it to the food bank. The donation included all the pasta and pasta mixes, canned soups, packaged cake mixes, rye and wheat flour, bread flour, whole wheat flour, pancake and waffle mixes, Bisquick and anything that had a label with wheat.  I had Bob's Red Mill soup and bean mixes that were so good but had some form of wheat in them. (Bob 's Red Mill also makes many gluten free products).  I am so glad that someone could enjoy them.  Whole Foods and Lowes Food has many gluten free flours and other gluten free products but some of the more tasty and exotic flours, such as amaranth and teff are hard to find; I order those on Amazon.

I found that milling the flours myself from seeds, groats, and rolled oats helps with the expense of the gluten free flours.  When I first decided to get a mill, I read on line and looked at review after review to decide the best mill to get for me.  I decided that the Blendtec mill was my best choice.  I read that most mills puffed flour in the milling process.  The first milling I completed did send a very thin coat of fine flour several feet around the mill.  So now, I plan the days to mill and mill on the deck.  It is a small mess to clean up, but well worth the time to me.  The mill will pay for itself in a few months.

Now it was time to get in touch with my baking skills and see if I could make my meals gluten free. There was no flour in the house.  I found a long list of flours that I could use.  The acceptable gluten free flours include sorghum flour, bean flour, millet flour, chai flour,  quinoa flour, soy flour, white rice flour, brown rice flour, corn starch, potato starch, arrowroot starch, corn flour (not the same as cornmeal), tapioca flour, amaranth flour, buckwheat (which is not wheat), and teff.  This is not the end of the list.  There are more, such as almond meal and flax meal.  These flours and meals have no gluten and that is a good thing but causes problems with baking.  The gluten holds the shape of the dough as it rises.  So the gluten free dough needs something to hold it together and help hold the carbon dioxide as it rises.  Wheat helps bind the ingredents in a dough.  The gluten free doughs need binders, substances that hold the ingredients together.  The substances that can be used to hold the dough as the yeast makes the dough rise is guam gum and xanthum gum.  Some bakers use just one of the gums while some bakers us a mixture of the two.  Eggs, egg replacers, plain gelatin, chai seeds, flax meal, and other substances are also used to help in binding the flours and starches together.  To help the the dough rise better, there are dough enhancers (which include an acid such as vinegar or ascorbic acid).

Because the textures of the doughs are listed as being gritty, very gritty, starchy, and fluffy, they are mixed together to help improve the texture.  Most flour mixtures used to bake yeast bread, quick breads, cakes, and pastries include a percentage mixture of the flours, meals, and starches to inprove the baking texture.  Some of the flours are inexpensive and some are expensive.  It is important when buying the ingredients that there is no cross-contamination with gluten and non-gluten in the milling process.  And of course, that makes the ingredients more expensive because the millers have to have special buildings for gluten free milling or there has to be special cleaning of equipment when milling gluten free products.  For example, to make sure that oats are gluten free, the oats are purchased from farmers that dedicate their fields only to oat; there is no contamination with wheat grains in the fields.  Then, the oats are processed in gluten free buildings.  This is what makes gluten free more expensive!

I do eat homemade gluten free bread products every day for three main reasons.  Most all flour products cause a rise in blood sugar for diabetics, especially those products made with rice flours.  Two, making gluten free products is not cheap.  The third reason is the time factor in making the gluten free products. Homemade gluten free products do not have a long shelf life because there are no preservatives, which can also be good for the body.  Completely going without, I found, is not necessary. It is disappointing to have to eat hamburgers all the time without a bun.  Sometimes, it is nice to have a warm blueberry muffin for breakfast and delightful to have cheese and crackers as a snack.  So, the expense, time and sugar/carb control causes me to be frugal in eating the gluten free products.  I try to remember the joy in in being frugal is that it is easier to control body weight.

I am learning everyday how to live gluten free.  It is not something I cherish but it has made me feel better.  Even though the gluten free products are certainly not the perfect specimens I learned to bake in home economics classes in college, I am learning to accept the difference -  gluten free will never look, nor taste the same as wheat products.  Gluten free has its own physical and chemical characteristics and properties.  One has to deal with that and move on, making the best product possible with those characteristics and properties.  That is my challenge!

No comments:

Post a Comment