Gluten-Free Cooking Goes Global

By Marsha Fottler –

May is National Celiac Awareness Month, a good time to learn more about this autoimmune disease and the gluten-free food revolution.

There are some three million people in the United States who have celiac sprue. They require a gluten-free diet. Until recently dining out was a nightmare for these people since gluten-free meals hardly existed and chefs weren’t knowledgeable about adaptive techniques. Cooking at home wasn’t any better because wheat-alternative products and ingredients were so limited. That’s all changing.

From haute cuisine palaces to casual-dining chains such Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Outback Steakhouse to neighborhood bakeries and pocket eateries, going gluten-free is going global. Today the gluten-free food market is a $2.6 billion industry and demand for gluten-free foods and products has grown at an average rate of 28 percent annually.

Part of this food revolution is happening in the cookbook world. New ones come out regularly that make cooking gluten-free at home enjoyable and creative. One book that I especially like is called 150 Best Gluten-Free Muffin Recipes by Camilla Saulsbury, (see recipes below). Along with easy-to make recipes for sweet and savory muffins and loaf breads, the author offers gluten-free cooking tips for measuring, storing, substituting and finding specialty ingredients you’ll need for gluten-free baking at home. Some of these ingredients are rice flour, amaranth flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, gluten-free baking powder, xanthan gum and others. Stock your pantry, follow the directions in this book and get ready for some good eating.

People with celiac sprue suffer from an inherited autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with food absorption. Symptoms include seizures, skin disorders, abdominal pain, anemia and malnutrition. Complications include miscarriage, cancer and osteoporosis. More women are affected than men. Blood tests and an intestinal biopsy can identify the disease. There are no drugs to treat celiac disease.

The “cure” is a life-long gluten-free diet. Why is gluten the villain?  Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grains including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape and giving it a chewy texture. But it’s virtually poison to people with celiac disease.

When wheat, rye and barley are eliminated from baking ingredients, what is substituted? Gluten-free bakers uses grains such millet and sorghum. Xanthan gum is the gluten substitute. It’s costly so prices of gluten-free baked goods are usually higher than those made with gluten.

It’s not just people with a gluten intolerance who are opting to eliminate gluten from their diet. Many people believe a gluten-free diet helps lessen arthritis pain and parents of children with autism have reported good results when they switch their children to a totally gluten-free diet. Many people with skin allergies also opt for gluten-free.

King Arthur Flour produces a collection of gluten-free mixes including bread, pizza crust, cookie and brownie, muffin and pancake mixes and one for chocolate cake. The company also makes gluten-free flour for scratch baking. Idaho Outpost makes a line of gluten-free soup mixes.

Hanover, the popular snack maker whose pretzels have been a favorite since 1909, now makes a line of gluten-free pretzel sticks, mini pretzels, veggie chips, white cheddar cheese chips and sea salt chips. Conte offers a line of gluten-free pastas and pizzas.  Coconut Bliss produces a gluten-free collection of ice cream products and Hero Nutritionals has a full line of gluten-free vitamins.

If you’re traveling this summer, check out which a comprehensive listing of gluten-free menus offered by national and regional chains so that vacationers can pick their restaurant stops before they hit the road. Also, parents of children with celiac disease have organized blog sites and are sharing lifestyle choices and recipes for birthday parties, school lunches and other social situations that make the disease manageable and make their children’s social lives happy. (


Roasted Pepper Feta Muffins

(Makes 12)

2 cups brown rice flour blend *

4 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon xanthan gum

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 egg

1 cup milk

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

¾ cup chopped drained roasted red bell peppers, patted dry

¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

In a large bowl, whisk together flour blend, baking powder, oregano, salt, xanthan gum and pepper. In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk egg. Whisk in milk and butter until well blended. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well blended. Gently fold in roasted peppers and cheese. Divide batter equally among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake in a 375-degree preheated oven for 18-25 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to the rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

*Brown rice flour blend for 3 cups of flour: 2 cups finely ground brown rice flour, ? cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca starch. Whisk all together in a bowl and use as directed in recipes. Store any leftover blend in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 months or in the freezer for up to one year. Let warm to room temperature before using.


Sour Cream Peach Muffins

(Makes 12)

1 ½ cups brown rice flour blend*

½ cup almond flour

1 tablespoon gluten-free baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon xanthan gum

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

¼ cup vegetable oil

¾ teaspoon almond extract

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup milk

1 cup diced fresh or frozen (thawed) peaches

In a large bowl, whisk together flour blend, almond flour, baking powder, salt, xanthan gum and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, egg, oil and almond extract until well blended. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir  until well blended. Gently fold in peaches. Divide batter equally among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool i pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool.

(150 Best Gluten-Free Muffin Recipes, by Camilla V. Saulsbury. Robert Rose, $19.95)

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