Monday, December 7, 2009

Gluten-Free Day

Woohoo! Another class up and running :) This new one is called "Advance Baking Techniques" and is taught by Chef C. We will be learning about how to manipulate recipes and cater to those who have special dietary needs. So interesting, and so necessary!

Today was our designated "Gluten-Free" day. You can read more about celiac's disease here. Basically, about 1 in 133 Americans have this disease. They have either a wheat allergy or intolerance to all forms of wheat and there is no cure. The gluten-free diet is not a fad - it's a way of life. After learning about all the things that contain gluten (all forms of barley, rye, oats, and wheat), I concur that having this disease would be disheartening, frustrating and sad for someone who loves food. It is often more expensive for people to live gluten-free because the food (especially processed food) is much harder to find and more costly.

Also, even the smallest bit of gluten can make people really sick. It damages the vili inside the small intestine, causing it to become inflamed and results in a lot of gastric discomfort. Also, nutrients can't be absorbed when this happens.

When baking gluten-free, a lot of care has to be taken to make sure that the kitchen is clean and free of contaminants. This morning, we had to clean the entire bakeshop. Usually 48 hours is needed to let the dust settle. We had to disinfect the ovens and all countertops. All of our gluten-free equipment is kept in a separate pantry and all finished gluten-free products have their own freezer.

Once that was done, we all got going on our individual projects! Chef C wrote a book about gluten-free baking which is AWESOME! And he came up with five different blends of flour to use as substitutes in our recipes. These contain different amounts of flours like white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, powdered egg whites, guar gum, soy flour and whey powder. The blends differ in strength so that you can adapt them for what you need. (For example: a pie crust would need a low-protein flour because you want it to be soft and tender, same for a cake. For bread, it would need high-protein to create structure and strength)

My team got assigned pumpkin roll cake. Yum!! I think that people usually have the misconception that anything flourless is good for you. Not! I learned that most of the time, extra eggs or fat is added to compensate for the protein/structure lost from taking out the flour. People also may think that gluten-free food doesn't taste as good. In some cases, this is true. It's hard to create something exactly the same without the original intended ingredients. BUT there are a lot of gluten-free foods that are DELICIOUS (like this pumpkin roll!) and people with Celiac's are happy to have anything even close to regular food!

This cake was made using one of Chef C's flour blends. I was surprised at how it came out. I thought that since there was no gluten, we would need to whip the eggs a lot to incorporate air and compensate for the structure. Nope! The mixing took hardly any time at all (no gluten to develop) and it was aerated with baking powder. The filling is a buttery cream cheese filling. So good!

Some of the other products today included doughnuts, crackers, angel food cake, cinnamon buns, pasta, waffles and bread. I liked everything except the doughnuts (which I'm not a huge fan of anyway!)

Tomorrow we are learning about sugar substitutes. Another interesting day!

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