Don’t Gimme None o’ Dat Gluten

2011.May.18 Wednesday · 5 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“When did G-free get all…sexy?”

– Jennie Bragg, CNN

Nope, we’re not on any kind of mission, we haven’t changed our diets (at least not in relation to gluten), but, as the prevalence of people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and those who simply think that a gluten-free diet is healthier has increased, it’s become one of the more frequent requests that I get at Casa SaltShaker, both at dinners (which sometimes I’ll accommodate and sometimes not, it depends on the menu), and for classes. Now, many of our classes are fine as is – I’d say that 95% of our Asian cooking classes don’t involve anything that is a problem for someone avoiding gluten, and a good number of our vegetarian classes likewise.

But it’s the baked goods that have people salivating – try buying most g-f breads or pizzas or what-have-yous in the supermarket or dietetica, and you’re left with the feeling that we’re back in the ’60s with the early vegetarian and macrobiotic hordes who touted that if it wasn’t grey-brown, dried out and unpleasant to eat, you were doing something wrong. We set out to prove that image wrong. Oh, if someone’s committed to the idea that if you enjoy it it can’t be good for you and that a good amount of suffering is a boon for their eternal soul, I’m not going to have an impact. But, like good vegetarian cooking, there’s no reason one can’t enjoy themselves and have baked goodies too. So, I came up with a series of three classes that we’ve now repeated three times in less than a year and likely will more often. I may do some more tweaking on them, but here’s what we’ve currently been offering….

Class 1

An introduction to the concept of gluten free baking, what’s it all about, what is gluten anyway? It’s amazing how many people who’ve adopted a g-f lifestyle actually have no idea what the thing is they’re avoiding in the first place. People tend to divide into either savory or sweet camps, so the first two classes simply focus on one of the other. The person who first requested this has a sweet tooth, so that’s where we began.

Gluten Free financiers

First up, we made financiers, a classic French pastry made primarily with almond flour, but normally containing a bit of regular flour as well. Gooey richness of toasted almonds and browned butter – what more could you want?

Gluten Free Alfajores

Well, glad you asked. Here in Argentina you might just be missing out on the local staple of sweet snacking, alfajores. Not any longer…. We’ve made these with both dulce de leche and marmalade fillings. But, you say, that’s still not enough?

Gluten Free Pionono

Fine. We’ll whip up another local favorite, often reserved for holidays, the pionono – what we might in other parts of the world call a Swiss roll or Jelly roll. Here, a version filled with a chocolate mascarpone and covered in whipped cream with chocolate shavings, but we’ve also made it with dulce de leche and with jam.

Class 2

Turning to the savory side – bread and pizza are the things that I think many folks in this boat miss the most. They’re also the things that tend to taste the worst in commercial versions.

Gluten Free chipas and quinoa bread

Now, we have a lucky start here in Argentina, because everybody’s favorite cheesy bread is gluten-free to begin with – chipas are made with mandioca flour (cassava, yuca, tapioca). And lots of cheese. But we also make a savory, nutty tasting (no nuts, however) quinoa and brown rice bread that makes a great dinnertime loaf as well as toasting it up in the morning and drizzling it with honey.

Gluten Free pizza

And, the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Wheat Pizza – yes, we’ve even tested it out on people who didn’t know they were eating gluten-free pizza and every one of them loved the crust. We could market those. Hmmm….

Class 3

One of the problems with the first two classes, and they may come up for redesign, is that there’s not much of a lunch to sit down to – the first class is all sweets (so we’ve ordered out Chinese food on two of the sessions); and the second class really is just the pizza – fine on its own – and then folk take the breads home with them. But, it called out for us to be able to sit down and have lunch one day. And so, a third class was born. Besides, there’s more to learn, right? This class is all about working with rice flour in specific.

Gluten Free brioche

Raise your hand if you’re gluten-free and thought you’d never have the buttery, yeasty richness of a brioche, ever again in your life. We’ll put a stop to that. You can. Really. And it tastes right too.

Gluten Free pasta

Have you tried rice flour noodles from the supermarket? Do you really ever want to try them again? Do they offer fresh pappardelle with your choice of sauces? I didn’t think so. We can. And pretty much any other sort of ribbon-noodle you might want. Thin or thick, narrow or wide.

Gluten Free crepes/panqueques

And we can’t send you home without another classic, though with our own twist on it, panqueques, or crepes, filled with your choice of rellenos – here a dulce de leche with pecans, coconut and blueberries, but we’ve also made classic suzette style with orange marmalade and sizzling butter….

Maybe I’ll work on a Class 4 and come up with something totally different – anything else that falls into the “I really crave this and don’t think I’ll ever find a version that I can eat and enjoy again” world of the gluten-free?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Hilary Nitka May 18, 2011 at 12:29

I’m salivating just looking at this class. And how about the news story that Djokovik is winning tennis tournaments because he’s on a g-f diet? I am so looking forward to our dinner on May 28! Sounds like you’ve done a yeomans duty getting to know the gf diet world, and it is grealy appreciated!

dan May 18, 2011 at 15:16

Somehow or other I think that someone winning tennis tournaments “because of” a gluten free diet is an awfully big stretch, unless that person was gluten sensitive to begin with and was having physiological problems – which he was. Djokovik may eat a gluten free diet and is now in better health and therefore has removed something that was an impediment, but I think tennis training and practice are more likely the “cause”.

Liz May 29, 2011 at 14:19

I wish I was in BA to take this class particularly for baking. I am dependent on Pamela’s flour I lug back from Whole Foods. I am wheat/gluten-free since over a year now. At first, it was hard to forget about things like bagels and baguettes but I think I have become more healthy in that I eat only from the source (veggies, protein, quinoa, nuts, etc.). I was amazed recently in the US all the “gluten free” stuff that is really just processed crap. G-free is only healthy if you deep six all the processed stuff. Now if you have a recipe for wheat-free medialunas, I will be knocking on your door when I get to BA this Saturday. Cheers!

dan May 29, 2011 at 14:45

Hmmm… you’ve given me the idea to work on both medialunas and bagels… I wonder if I can come up with a reasonable approach to either or both? Something fun to work on…. So will we see you on this visit to BA?

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