According to the Canadian Celiac Association, it’s estimated that 1 in 133 Canadians suffer from celiac disease — an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to have an inflammatory reaction to gluten, the protein in wheat and other grains. Individuals with celiac disease need to stick to a 100 percent gluten-free diet, or else risk malnutrition and intestinal damage. Others may choose to avoid gluten to ease intolerances and digestive complaints.
Preparing gluten-free recipes for celiacs — whether it’s for yourself or for family and friends — can be a daunting task. Some common questions that come up are:
Q. What flours and ingredients do I use?
Q. How can I bake a gluten-free dish without it tasting like cardboard?
Q. How do I get that nice ‘chewy’ texture without using wheat flour?
When developing gluten-free recipes, we ask ourselves the same questions, and we’ve come up with a slew of delicious recipes that will satisfy all savoury and sweet tooths. Of course, we also discovered a few tips, tricks and ‘a-ha’ moments along the way that we couldn’t wait to share with you:
1. The key to successful gluten-free baking is using a combination of flour and starches. Ingredient lists might look long, but once you have a pantry supply of flours, baking will be a cinch.
2. Because each flour/starch has a distinct taste and character, they are not interchangeable. Recipes should be followed to a tee to ensure a great end product.
4. Ground flax meal gives a “whole-wheat” texture, as in our multi-grain bread.
5. Ground almonds add moisture, flavour and texture, as in our crispy and chewy chocolate-chip cookies — my personal favourite!
6. Oats are considered gluten-free, however, because cross-contamination with gluten is common in traditional oat products, look for pure, uncontaminated, certified gluten-free oats.
7. Yellow-corn flour and cornmeal are both gluten-free. The difference is that yellow-corn flour has a much finer texture than cornmeal (almost like a starch). Use cornmeal in our thin-crust pizza dough recipe.
8. Buckwheat flour is high in fibre and available in light and dark varieties. Dark buckwheat is more mineral-rich and nutritious. Try it in our buckwheat pancakes.
9. Sorghum and teff flours add texture and flavour to our multi-grain bread.
10. Cornstarch and tapioca starch add a pleasant fluffy texture. But be cautious: too much starch can make baked goods hard and heavy.
11. Xanthan gum is a corn-based product that is used in gluten-free recipes to replicate the ‘chewy’ texture of wheat flour. It makes a remarkable difference in your baking, and a little bit goes a long way.
12. Sometimes you don’t have the time to run around town looking for flours and starches. Bob’s Red Mill is a popular brand that offers gluten-free all-purpose flour and is available across Canada. We found most of our gluten-free ingredients at Bulk Barn, but major supermarkets and many ethnic food stores also carry a variety of gluten-free flours.
Originally published August 2011. Updated May 2016.