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Gluten-free Cooking, Baking 101

If you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, changing your diet can be difficult. Find out more about what to look for on a package and how to prepare your favorite dishes without the gluten.
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"Gluten free" is a phrase we see all over the grocery store shelves these days as well as specialty food stores and in restaurants of all kinds. Business owners are now going the extra mile to offer more gluten-free menu items to ensure diners don't miss out on their favorite foods.

But what about the food you prepare at home? Namely, baked goods. How do you know what to shop for to avoid ingesting gluten without sacrificing the flavors and textures you love?

About Gluten Intolerance
Gluten is actually pretty similar to what it sounds like -- a glue-like, sticky protein found in grain. Gluten is what makes bread so "doughy" and what gives cake its springy texture. Naturally, most of us like gluten because of the texture it provides, but not all of us can safely eat it. In these individuals, gluten can cause an autoimmune reaction, like celiac disease or a food sensitivity.

No one knows precisely why people form food sensitivities or why the immune system malfunctions and misreads gluten as a toxic invader, but we're learning more about it and just how prevalent this condition is. When the digestive tract of gluten-intolerant people happens to encounter gluten, it causes the villi to become rigid and cease to function properly. The villi look like tiny fingers lining the intestines, absorbing nutrients from the food we consume.

This causes a host of health problems that can range from bloating and stomach pain to malnutrition that develops into worse health problems over time. This is why avoiding gluten, even the smallest amount, is of utmost importance.

This is easier said than done. Gluten is found in wheat and many grains, which care common ingredients in lots of foods, mainly premade foods, like bread or pasta, or other packaged foods.

Baking Without Gluten
Gluten-free baking isn't all that different from regular baking because it still uses a lot of the same processes. However, the ingredients are quite different as well as the time that it takes to make something like classic bread dough.

The ingredients available to the gluten-free baker do have different properties and needs. Let's first look at what gets removed from the gluten-free baker's arsenal and then see what they can use to produce healthy foods.

Gluten-free baking means using no wheat flour or any other kind containing gluten. It also means looking at any premade ingredients, like dyes, sprinkles and even dried fruit to make sure no gluten has been added.

Great Substitutes
There are several gluten-free flour substitutes and baking mixes that can help you create delicious treats like delicate biscuits or chewy loaves of bread, using flours created from rice or beans. However, these substitute flours don't typically rise like traditional flour, so leavening agents like xanthan gum are usually added to help dough rise and create that delectable texture.

A food sensitivity or more severe case, like celiac, no longer has to mean missing out on the baked goods you love. Shop our selection of gluten-free products at eVitamins and enjoy!

 

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