A merry holiday season for most people includes indulging in baked goods and traditional recipes with all the trimmings. If you're on a gluten-free diet, though, enjoying holiday fare can be a bit more challenging. You can still eat brownies, stuffing and breakfast rolls, but you need to use caution and some common sense.
Christmas baking makes the house smell wonderful, and creating an assortment of pies, cookies, cakes and breads can be a delicious way to experience the abundance of the season. When you're baking without gluten, you can still create magic in the oven, but you'll have to make some changes to your recipes and routine.
Gluten is the protein complex in some flours, like wheat, rye and barley, which help hold the bubbles inside the batter to make baked recipes light and airy. The challenge in baking without gluten is finding other ingredients that will approximate the effects of gluten in a mixture. Additives like guar gum and xantham gum are often used with soy, corn, rice and potato flours to create a blend that can be used as a successful substitute for wheat flour.
Finding the right combination of ingredients is usually a process of discovery because no blend of flours and additives will taste exactly like wheat flour. Sometimes there are happy surprises in the search for the best no-gluten baking blend. Soy flour can be a delicious and nutty alternative when used as an ingredient in a no-gluten baking mix, and the results of using either a prepared blend or one you develop for yourself can be fun and rewarding. To get started, try a prepackaged no gluten baking mix and experiment. Once you find a mix you like, use it to modify your own recipes.
When the holiday decorations come out of the closet, thoughts turn to stuffing, giblet gravy and other savory favorites. Gluten-free adaptations of your favorite recipes can be easier than you think. The gluten-free section of your local market is growing all the time, and if you approach no-gluten holiday cooking as a challenge instead of a chore, great things can happen.
Instead of flour, use cornstarch as a thickener in stews, sauces and soups. When contemplating how to stuff the holiday fowl, cube your own spicy no-gluten bread instead of using the packaged crouton mixture you're used to. You can make breadcrumbs the same way.
Use Safe Practices
One of the biggest ongoing challenges of no-gluten cooking is in avoiding cross-contamination. Use safe practices when gluten products are also being used in the kitchen, and pay special attention to the packaged products you buy:
- Segregate no-gluten ingredients to avoid reaching for the wrong box or jar by mistake.
- Use separate utensils, bowls, cooking surfaces and cutting boards for no-gluten cooking.
- Read package labels carefully. Don't assume that a food is gluten-free unless it says so on the label. Even contamination by trace amounts of gluten from processing plants using wheat in some of their products can be dangerous for people suffering from celiac disease, so be an informed consumer.
Explore New Options
You can always start some no-gluten traditions, too. If you give them a try, no-gluten recipes may be an inspired choice. Making stuffing using rice or potatoes instead of bread as a base may turn out to be a delicious option you would never have considered otherwise. Some of the best regional dishes enjoyed around the world started out as ways to make the most of what was available. Gluten-free cooking may be an opportunity for you to start on a different culinary path and make some delicious and inspired discoveries.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Celiac Sprue Association. "Grains and Flours Glossary." Undated. 10/05/09.http://www.csaceliacs.org/gluten_grains.php
- Davidson, Alan. "The Oxford Companion to Food." Oxford University Press. 1999
- FDA. "Questions and Answers on the Gluten-Free Labeling Proposed Rule." 1/23/07. 10/7/09.http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/FoodAllergensLabeling/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm111487.htm
- Mayo Clinic. "How to Go Gluten Free." 1/30/08. 10/3/09.http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gluten-free-diet/DG00063
- Watson, F., M. Stone and M. Bunning. "Gluten-Free Baking." Colorado State University. 4/09. 10/8/09.http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09376.html