It is time to talk about the elephant in the room. Gluten.

Within the last few years, everyone has gotten into the new fad of being gluten-free, which is great if you want to try a gluten-free diet.

Be open about it, but please refrain from telling a restaurant you have a gluten allergy. It is actually a very dangerous, potentially life-threatening thing.

So, what exactly is this evil thing we call gluten and why is it so bad for us? Well, it is actually two types of proteins called glutenin and gliadin, which are found in wheat and barley. It is the “glue” that holds the wheat together, which is why the more you work your dough, the stronger the “glue” gets.

People who have Celiac disease cannot break this protein network down and their bodies unleash an awful autoimmune response that can very easily be life-threatening. Some hidden places you will find gluten are the glue on stamps, many lip balms, candy and even make-up.

It can be tough to find options available around the holidays for these special people in our lives. Let's surprise them and let them know how much we love them this year.

What are some things to think about when cooking for gluten free friends? Clean your area thoroughly! Cross contamination can be a very dangerous thing with any type of allergy. Try not to use old cast irons used to bake regular breads since they may have residue left over. 

What are some substitutions we can make? The easiest substitution is making cornbread muffins instead of yeast rolls. Use chickpea flour or almond flour instead of regular wheat flour. Though, remember, they are not equivalents, so you will have to do a little research on how to make substitute with these flours.

There are tons of gluten-free recipes, from cakes, breads and soups. There has also been an extreme advancement in gluten-free options in stores now. Companies like Annie’s Gluten Free has options in just about any type of cooking, from mac and cheese to cinnamon rolls. And it's actually really tasty.

In recipes for pies or filled pastries, many times you'll only need to change the actual crust. Just change the dough; you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel to make something gluten-free.

Here I have given you a couple staples that are good to have in a gluten-free arsenal. Happy holidays everyone!

After graduating from Auburn High School, Lee Eddins went to the Culinary Institute of New Orleans. He has worked for fine dining establishments in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Ukraine

 

Gluten-Free AP Flour

 

2 cups of white or brown rice flour

1 cup of tapioca flour

1 cup of potato flour

2 tablespoons of xanthan gum

 

   This is for a regular type flour. For a cake, I would substitute half of the rice flour for white sorghum flour and remove the xanthan gum all together. Also, I would substitute half of the potato flour for almond simply because I like the flavor in cake.

   To make the flour, simply mix all ingredients well and sift. It is best to re-sift this flour and mix every time you use it because it may not stay combined. Store in an airtight, dry environment.

 

Gluten-Free Dinner Roll

 

4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour

2 tsp yeast

2 tsp salt

¼ cup sugar

2 cups milk

2 large eggs  

6 tbsp butter plus more for buttering the pan and brushing on top

 

   This will look and feel like a moist cookie dough batter — the correct texture. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small sauce pot, heat milk, sugar and 6 tbs of butter until just warm, about 110 degrees. Do not overheat! Add yeast and let stand while you put together the other ingredients.

   In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Crack eggs into small bowl and lightly beat. Add yeast mixture and eggs to flour mixture and fold until well-incorporated. With a large spoon or medium ice cream scooper, scoop the dough into a buttered baking pan. Makes about 15 rolls.

   Melt some butter and brush the top of each. Place plastic wrap over rolls and let proof for about 90 minutes or until doubled in size. It is best to do this in a warm environment. Bake in a preheated oven for 16-20 minutes (the internal temperature should be 200 degrees).

 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

2 ½ cups all-purpose gluten-free flour

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

2 ounces cream cheese, room temp

¾ cups unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

   In a mixer, cream sugar, butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Start on low and work your way up to high. Cream until light and fluffy (about 3 or 4 minutes). Sift your flour onto a piece of parchment paper. When the sugar mixture is light and fluffy, add about a third of your flour in slowly. Add the whole egg. Add in another third of your flour mixture slowly. Add in the egg yolk. Add in remaining flour, and chocolate chips.

   Spoon finished dough onto a lined baking sheet. Then, chill them. This is a necessity! They will spread out and not bake properly if you do not chill them. Four hours is a good amount of time for the chilling process. Bake in a Preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 11 minutes; they will be beginning to brown around the edges. Do not over bake.

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