Published Monday, January 05, 2009
Having a loved one or dinner guest who has Celiac's disease (gluten intolerance) can be a chore. But it's even harder to be that Celiac sufferer, who has to quiz the cook on most every food item and even some of the beverages, and who has to pass on so many delicious creations.
All but unheard of a few decades ago, current data indicates about one in 200 Americans lack the enzymes necessary to digest gluten. Symptoms range from mild nuisance to debilitating pain, as well as skin rashes. In the early days, the diagnosis came mainly from holistic health care providers, but today Celiac's disease is diagnosed by the mainstream medical world, too. While research is underway, there is no cure. The only thing a Celiac sufferer can do is avoid the gluten of wheat, barley or rye, and its many permutations that make it so ubiquitous in the American diet.
For those most acutely afflicted, basic nourishment can be a challenge, to say the least. For them, getting through the day without accidentally eating or drinking something containing gluten can feel like a permanent part-time job.
Gluten-free baking is extra work, and has a reputation of producing mediocre results. There are a lot of unimpressive gluten-free recipes in circulation, and a relative few fabulous ones. Not only is the gluten in wheat flour amazingly versatile, it is uniquely versatile. None of the gluten-free flours -- white rice, brown rice, soy, corn, tapioca, fava bean, potato starch -- rise in a way that completely replicates the light, springy, tasty gluten-structure of wheat. To compensate, Celiac baked goods often call for a teaspoon or two of xanthan gum or guar gum, to mimic the elasticity of wheat gluten. Thus, gluten-free baking requires some uncommon ingredients to be in the pantry. Looking on the positive side, gluten-free bread recipes have the convenience of being batter breads, requiring no kneading. All are no-knead, since no gluten development is needed.
The "Holy Grail" of gluten-free baking is the simplest fresh white bread. Many long-term Celiac sufferers have almost forgotten the taste of white bread, it's been so long. Think about what you'd have to give up along with bread: sandwiches, dinner rolls, salad croutons, stuffing. Your burgers are forever bun-less.
Delight your loved one or guest with sandwiches made on fresh, warm gluten-free white bread. One terrific white bread recipe comes from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy by Bette Hagman (Holt Paperbacks, Copyright 2000). Bette Hagman was a legend in the world of gluten-free cooking. She was diagnosed with Celiac's disease when she was 50 and devoted the rest of her life (35 years) to gluten-free cooking.
This recipe includes extra steps to make Melba Toast, an ideal base for many festive appetizers.
Note: Without a true gluten-structure to raise the bread tall, slices of home-baked gluten-free breads often end-up rectangular instead of square, similar to the shape of a half-slice of bread cut horizontally. So, a gluten free sandwich may not be a full-sized sandwich. But when a gluten-free bread can capture the taste and texture of what most Americans enjoy, an odd-shaped slice is a small price to pay for a delighted Celiac sufferer. It is important to let gluten-free breads cool completely before slicing. Slicing gluten-free bread before it has cooled could cause the loaf to collapse. However, after the initial cooling, it's fine to toast or otherwise heat the breads again.
Cornstarch Bread (Gluten-free White Bread) & Melba Toast
Makes Two Small Loaves
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes
2-1/2 cups Argo or Kingsford's corn starch
1/3 cup potato starch flour
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
1 large egg white
2 envelopes Fleischmann's RapidRise yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
3 tablespoons finely ground pecans or walnuts
2 cups hot water (about 120°)
2-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Directions: In the bowl of your mixer, combine the corn starch, potato starch flour, sweet rice flour (if used), egg white, yeast, sugar, xanthan gum, and ground pecans or walnuts. Whisk to mix. Add the water (mixed with the egg white if using fresh egg) and beat vigorously about 2 minutes on medium if using a heavy-duty mixer, 3 to 4 minutes on High with a hand-held mixer. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. The dough will be very thin. While waiting, spray two 4-1/4" X 8-1/4-inch loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Preheat oven to 450°.
Add the vegetable oil and salt, beating until smooth and well mixed. Pour batter into the prepared pans and let rise, covered, about 20 minutes, until the batter is just level with the top of the pan.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cover with a towel and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn out to cool. This bread is so soft it cannot be sliced until cooled to room temperature. If you don't eat it all on the first day, store in the freezer or make the following Melba toast recipe.
Melba toast: When the loaf is cooled, cut the crusts from all sides of loaf, slice the bread thin, cut slices to desired size. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 200° to 225° until dry and very light brown (about 1 hour). Cool and store in an airtight container. Keeps well for 1 month.
Note: If you want a rice-free bread, eliminate the rice flour and reduce the water by 2 tablespoons. The flavor may be varied by using, in place of the ground pecans, 1 teaspoon dill, 1/3 cup dried apple fiber (available in health food stores), or other kinds of nuts.