What is Gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins found combined with starch in the endosperm of some cereal grains. In particular, the Wheat, Rye, and Barley grains. Gluten comprises approximately 80% of the proteins found in these grains. The gluten in the grains gives the dough made from those grains their elasticity, allow for leavening (rising), and the chewiness in some baked goods. Gluten that has been extracted from the grains is commonly used as a thickening agent in many foods, particularly vegetarian dishes where a protein supplement is needed.
Why Gluten Free?
In some people, an intolerance or sensitivity to Gluten exists. The most common of the Gluten in tolerances is Celiac Disease. Celiac affects an estimated 1 in 133. For many with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, the only treatment is the complete removal of gluten from the diet, and in some cases, from the persons immediate environment as well. Gluten intolerance is hard to diagnose and in many cases is diagnosed by removing gluten from the diet and observing the results. If the results are favorable, then the permanent removal from the diet is often recommended.
Others remove gluten from their diet as part of a diet called the “Gluten Free Diet.” While these people generally do not have an intolerance to gluten, they receive a positive effect from the removal of processed flours that are common in many breads as well as a reduction of carbohydrate intake.
With Halloween less than a week away, you’ve likely started thinking about all the candy your kids are going to get and how to sneak some of the gluten free halloween candy out of their pile and into yours. What you also are starting to think about is the tasty desserts that will abound after dinner, and how you’ll make them gluten free.
Our friends over at Udi’s Gluten Free (and really, any Celiac sufferer’s friend) were thinking the same thing. So they sent us over a little care package of gluten free goodies to see what we’d come up with for great tasting desserts. Unfortunately, the stuff was just too tasty and none of the items lasted long enough to become desserts, but we had some great ideas anyways!
The treats in our Udi’s Halloween Treats package
As you can see on the right, we got pretty spoiled with good stuff. There’s a loaf of Udi’s Cinnamon Raisin bread, a box of Udi’s Chocolate Chia Muffin Tops, a bag of Udi’s Vanilla Granola, a box of Udi’s Snicker Doodle cookies, and a box of Udi’s Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites.
Some of our favorite ideas were to make a nice bread pudding out of the bread. Cinnamon and raisins are staples in bread pudding, so that was the first idea that popped into my head. Udi’s has a nice recipe for a Maple Raisin Bread Pudding on their site. It’s not commonly thought of as a dessert, but I think you could make some very good french toast dipping sticks with these. A nice dusting of powdered sugar, and some syrup or sweet whipped cream to dip them in.
Udi’s granola is a pretty versatile staple in our house. We use it all the time mixed into a cup of yogurt, but I think it would make an excellent topping for a fruit crumble. A little brown sugar, melted butter, and some Udi’s granola sprinkled liberally over your favorite crumble recipe. Yum. A simpler use might be just putting it directly onto ice cream or frozen yogurt.
The dark chocolate brownie bites are a pretty tasty dessert by themselves, but I really want to try them warmed up at the bottom of a bowl of ice cream with some fudge drizzled over the top. They’re just the right size for making the popular cake pops with as well.
Snicker Doodle cookies are a pretty universal treat. They’re good as is, but they can be used in all kinds of desserts. Crumbled, they make a great crust for a cheesecake, or pumpkin pie. They go well with ice cream and are one of the key ingredients, along with the Chocolate Chia muffin tops, in Udi’s recipe for Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Chocolate Whoopie Sandwiches. Which brings us to the muffin tops. As I just mentioned, they lend themselves really well to whoopie pie sandwiches. Frosted orange, they become pumpkins.
With the abundance of gluten free products on the market now, eating gluten free isn’t the bland wasteland that it used to be. Companies like Udi’s are pioneers in making gluten free food that tastes as good, or better, than it’s wheat based brethren. Whatever your plans for Halloween, make it a safe one. Not only on the streets, but in the kitchen as well.
A recent study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tested 15 different cultivars of Quinoa for both gluten and for any immune system response to the Quinoa in Celiac patients. The results:
Fifteen quinoa cultivars were tested: 4 cultivars had quantifiable concentrations of celiac-toxic epitopes, but they were below the maximum permitted for a gluten-free food. Cultivars Ayacuchana and Pasankalla stimulated T cell lines at levels similar to those for gliadin and caused secretion of cytokines from cultured biopsy samples at levels comparable with those for gliadin.
What does that mean? Well, really not much. 4 of the cultivars had testable levels of gluten, meaning their test had results. However, all of those that returned those results were below the 20ppm which is used as an acceptable level of gluten to be called gluten free. Further, of the 4 that had testable levels of gluten, only two of them caused any sort of reaction at all in the patients.
They conclude by saying that more testing needs to be done.
Obviously, I don’t think the results of this study are anything to panic about. Of the 15 cultivars tested, all had below 20ppm results. I’m not sure if there’s a way to avoid the 2 cultivars that cause some reaction. As the NFCA noted in their article (here) on the same study, it serves as a good reminder to check the labels of anything that you’re planning on eating to make sure that the ingredients are gluten free, and have had as few chances of cross-contamination as possible.