The Ins and Outs of Gluten Free Living

You probably know someone who is on a gluten free diet, whether because they have a condition known as Celiacs, or they are just on the gluten free bandwagon. Whatever the reason, it’s become clear from looking at grocery store shelves that gluten free living is not something that’s going away anytime soon.

For those that don’t know, to be gluten free means that you don’t eat foods that contain gluten, a protein that is found in wheat products. This includes bread, pasta, and anything else made with wheat flour. If this sounds bad, it gets worse. Gluten is also found in a lot of processed foods under names that we don’t recognize, so if you have a strong sensitivity to it, you have to be extra vigilant while shopping, otherwise you might cause an attack without realizing it.

Because being gluten free has soared in popularity for many reasons, there have been lots of products popping up on shelves lately that are gluten free. There has also been some controversy over whether a gluten free diet is actually healthier than it’s wheat filled counterpart. While it’s not necessarily clear what causes sensitivity to gluten, there are some things you should know before deciding to cut the wheat out of your diet:

Those diagnosed with Celiacs, or gluten intolerance, can’t eat even a tiny grain of wheat without having an attack, which can include stomach cramping or diarrhea. If you haven’t been diagnosed but think you might have gluten sensitivity, you can try cutting it out of your diet to see if you feel better. This works for a lot of people.

Some products, such as oats, are technically gluten free, but are packaged at factories with other products that do contain gluten. Therefore you must buy specially labeled packages to insure you aren’t exposed.

While there are gluten free versions of virtually every product, from bread to cookies to pastas, they are usually made with a blend of flours to replicate the same taste and texture of the regular versions and vary greatly in quality. Almost all are more expensive.

When trying to bake your own gluten free bread and such, you can’t just substitute wheat flour for some other gluten free flour such as rice flour, unless you want to end up with a brick. Most products have a certain mix of flours and other additives that help achieve a good product.

A lot of people go gluten free for health reasons, and that’s fine, but remember, calories count, and things such as butter, sugar and eggs are all high in calories even though they may be gluten free.

If you or someone you know lives a gluten free lifestyle, the following recipe is a great for those times when you want a good artisan bread.

This recipe for Gluten-Free Walnut Rosemary Bread makes a savory, crusty and aromatic loaf of walnut-studded, rosemary flecked bread. The loaf is baked in a pre-heated enamel Dutch oven or lidded ceramic bowl. The results are a beautifully crusted, fragrant loaf of gluten-free bread, perfect for sandwiches or toast.

Gluten Free Rosemary Walnut Bread
Adapted from glutenfreecooking.com

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix (I Used Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix In This Recipe)
1 cup Arrowroot Starch
1 cup Tapioca Starch
1 cup White Rice Flour
1/4 cup Buttermilk Powder
2 tsp Guar Gum
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 tsp Salt
5 tsp Instant Dry Yeast Granules
3 Room Temperature Eggs
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 5 tablespoons to use in pan
1 Tbsp Honey
1- 1 _ cups Lukewarm Water
4 Tbsp Fresh, chopped rosemary
1/2 cup Chopped Walnuts

Place dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well blended.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs with a fork. Add vinegar, olive oil, honey and 1 cup water and stir to blend.

Mix at low speed, slowly adding liquid to dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. If the dough is too stiff add water, a little at a time, until a thick, shaggy dough forms.

Add walnuts and rosemary and mix just until evenly distributed.

Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula and cover bowl with a tea towel. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 2-quart enameled Dutch oven or ceramic oven proof casserole dish with a lid. Place the pan or bowl, without the lid on, in the oven and allow to preheat while the bread dough is resting.

Carefully scrape the bread dough in the hot pan. Dip a spatula in water and use to smooth the top of the dough. Brush 2 tablespoons of olive oil evenly over the top.

Cover with lid and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until an instant thermometer, inserted into the middle of the bread reads 205 degrees.

Remove bread from pan and let cool before cutting.

Tips:

If the dough seems too thick, add more warm water, _ cup at a time until dough is the consistency of thick biscuit dough. Gluten free flours absorb water differently- if you substitute other Gf flours in this recipe, you may need to adjust the amount of water used.

Gluten free bread doesn’t keep well. Eat this bread fresh out of the oven, or allow to cool completely and freeze. To reheat- wrap bread in parchment paper and warm in a 300 degree oven for 15-20. minutes.

Serve bread with a garlic or balsamic vinaigrette dressing dipping sauce, or just a bowl of fruity, extra virgin olive oil.

What are your thoughts about going gluten free?

Reminder: Always make sure your work surfaces, utensils, pans and tools are free of gluten. Always read product labels. Manufacturers can change product formulations without notice. When in doubt, do not buy or use a product before contacting the manufacturer for verification that the product is free of gluten.

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