For a person like me, who has been baking most of her life, learning to bake gluten-free has been an interesting adventure. As far as I know, I am not affected by gluten, but it seems every week I am finding that more and more of my friends/clients are either gluten-intolerant or have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Initially, that presented a dilemma for me, because I still wanted to create lovely food for my friends and clients. And I can… but I just needed to learn how to do that without using my old “mainstay”, namely wheat.
The hardest part of this process was discovering that wheat is hidden in so many different foods. This meant that I had to read ingredient labels very carefully. Some of the ingredients that likely contain wheat are obvious – bread crumbs, pasta, couscous, tabouli, hydrolyzed wheat protein. Then there are the foods that you might not suspect contain wheat – malt vinegar, soy sauce, beer, brewer’s yeast, and even Red Vines licorice! Who knew? Well, most gluten-free consumers do… because they have learned to read labels and to look up the ingredients that might not be easily identifiable such as Dinkle, Chilton, edible starch, kamut, and Farro.
My neighbor, Deb, has been gluten-free for a while now and she has been a great source of information for me. She has also been happy to taste the gluten-free dishes that I come up with and will offer suggestions of other dishes that I might want to try. Sometimes she is at an event that I have catered, and she is the one “selling” my goods because she knows which ones are “safe” to eat. It seems that many times the guests who have issues with gluten are surprised that someone made an effort to provide food for them. I just know that if some of my guests can’t eat any of my offerings, then I haven’t really “catered” to them.
Yesterday I helped a friend with an event and made about 10 dozen gluten-free peanut butter cookies for the dessert table. As we were arranging the platters of sweets two guests thanked me for making something that was gluten-free. It was such a simple thing to do… and I was glad to be able to provide something that everyone could eat.
Recently my friend’s son was diagnosed with celiac disease and in an effort to show him support, my friend has decided to eliminate gluten from his diet as well. How sweet is that? It reminds me of the story from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. Shauna, the gluten-free girl, has celiac. Shauna met and then married Danny, a chef. Soon after, Danny decided to make his restaurant gluten-free so that he could create a place where his wife could eat anything on the menu. Isn’t that amazing?
Tomorrow is my friend’s birthday, and so tonight I made him a chocolate cream pie that is safe for his son to eat. The crust is made with those same peanut butter cookies – crushed in the Cuisinart, mixed with a tiny bit of butter, pressed into a pie tin and baked for 10 minutes. This recipe for chocolate pie filling usually calls for flour, but I simply substituted cornstarch and that’s all that I had to do to make his pie gluten-free. It was the least I could do for a friend.
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”
~ Cesar Chavez
For a list of foods containing gluten, go to this website, www.celiac.com , and search for the forbidden food list. It was created by a man named Scott Adams who was diagnosed with celiac nearly twenty years ago. He created this list so that others wouldn’t suffer needlessly.