So many people these days are going gluten-free. That is avoiding a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malt and triticale. I, myself, am closet gluten-free depending on what day it is, of course, and choose to use lower gluten grains, like Kamut, spelt and farro, the rest of the time. I’ve played around with the concept for over a year now and have come to the conclusion that I feel better without gluten in my diet. No, I do not have celiac disease and I have no intention of seeking a medical opinion. It’s just a personal observation that only I can feel. Have you tried eliminating gluten?
It can be a very intimidating and a quite controversial matter, particularly for those who have family member resistant to the idea. “Why do I need to be gluten-free? I’m not allergic to it.” That’s like saying “my head didn’t blow up when I ate a piece of bread, so why should I give it up?”. For some reason a gluten-free diet is perceived to be only for those with a confirmed allergy and anyone else must be crazy or extreme for giving it up. You can hardly blame people for believing that since any type of diet that eliminates something is suspect. Think low carb, low fat, and low calorie. And then the marketing geniuses take hold of the idea and, yeah, it’s easy to be skeptical. It’s funny, though, how people are perfectly willing to give up something like broccoli because it makes them “gassy”, but the thought of giving up a few types grains out of hundreds that are available for the same reason is almost unimaginable.
If you simply have a sensitivity to gluten, which most people do and I don’t care what you say, then it’s not going to kill you to eat it. That’s probably not the best justification for eating it, as it’s kind of like the lowest requirement for food — it doesn’t kill me, check. Full blown celiac disease, though, which is an auto-immune disorder triggered by gluten, actually causes the body’s immune system to destroy it’s own ability to absorb nutrients. That can be incredibly damaging. Many people go undiagnosed for years, because the symptoms can manifest is so many different ways. So can the symptoms of a mere sensitivity. The good news is a celiac diagnosis can usually be confirmed through blood testing. The bad news is sensitivities to gluten, which can still have a profound and negative effect on how people feel on a daily basis, probably cannot. Don’t get me wrong, there are different blood and stool tests out there and with enough persistence you may get your doctor to perform some of those. Just don’t rule out a diagnosis if all of your test results come back fine. The best way to find out if you are sensitive to gluten is through experimentation. Just eliminate it for at least 3 weeks and see how you feel. Oh, I can sense the panic. If you are suffering from any of the following conditions, though, isn’t worth a shot?
- Digestive issues (bloating, cramping, chronic diarreah or constipation or both)
- Frequent sinus, UT, or other infections
- Weak immune system
- Lack of energy
- Weight gain
The list actually goes on and on. That’s the thing. The symptoms are endless and are almost never traced back to gluten. You can have symptoms and never even know it. It becomes so normal that you don’t realize how bad you feel. Until you feel good.
So in the spirit of it being January, I resolve to do more gluten free recipes this year and am going to spend the next few posts talking more about it. I have some great new recipes to share and have some pretty good ones already in the archives. Today I have a Gluten-Free Oat Soda Bread that is in one word: amazing. This is totally a non-bread baker’s bread that can be done in one hour from start to finish. You’ll never suspect it to be gluten-free, either. The inspiration comes from Heidi at 101cookbooks.com. Her recipe posted last week for Oat Soda Bread is simple, rustic and is peasant food at it’s finest. Served piping hot along side a hearty stew or roast and slathered with butter. Oh. My. God.
I am using an all-purpose gluten-free mix that is readily available in most grocery stores. It’s comprised of a variety of ground beans, potatoes and starches that substitutes kind of well for gluten flours. It does take some playing around, though. And that can get expensive if you have too many failed attempts. I don’t want to scare you off. Just being honest. So be patient and set realistic goals. If you are setting out to recreate a crusty French baguette that is gluten-free then you might be disappointed. I seriously think this soda bread will work just fine. I’m even being somewhat bold and trying it for Communion tomorrow (heads up, Laura!). It looks crumbly, but the inside is actually chewy and cake-like — closer to “regular” bread than it may appear. It slices very well. If you must try Heidi’s version with oat and all-purpose wheat flour…I don’t blame you. I made it and it was to die for. Just know, though, the GF version I made today was “better” according to my GF-hating husband.
Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Oat Soda Bread
If you cannot tolerate xantham gum, you can leave it out. It’s traditionally recommended in GF baking to add xantham gum and/or guar gum to work as a binder in place of the gluten. It doesn’t necessarily need it, especially if you find it upsets your stomach or if you don’t have any on hand. There is an excellent explanation here from Gluten Free Girl. I also made this dairy-free, but feel free to use regular buttermilk. Forgo the lemon juice step in that case.
scant 2 cups (7 ounces) oat flour or 2 cups (10 ounces) rolled oats
2 1/4 cup (10 ounces) all purpose gluten-free flour (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
1 teaspoon xantham gum (optional, see headnote)
1 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cup plain almond milk (or dairy-free milk of choice)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flours, xantham gum, baking soda and sea salt in a large bowl. If you are not using oat flour, place your rolled oats in the bowl of a food processor. Turn on and process for 1-2 minutes or until the consistency is a fine powder.
Measure the milk into a separate cup and add the lemon juice. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so. Reserve about a tablespoon of the milk to brush before making. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the rest of the milk into the center. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Pan version: Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Spread the dough evenly into the pan.
Free-form version: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease. Dump the dough onto the prepared pan. Wet your hands so you can form the dough into a ball (the dough is sticky). Once it formed into an even bowl, flatten slightly. Using a sharp knife, run it down the middle for a deep cut, but do not cut it all the way through. Turn it 90 degrees and make another cut perpendicular to the first one.
Brush the top and sides of the dough with reserved tablespoon of milk. Optional: Sprinkle a variety of seeds on top (sesame, caraway, fennel, etc.)
Bake in the center rack for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, raise the rack up one notch and bake for an additional 20 minutes.