A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten which is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
Gluten is the general name for proteins found in wheat, including wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® Khorasan wheat, and einkorn, as well as rye, barley and triticale.
Glutens are what give baked goods like bread its unique elastic and adhesive properties which help the dough rise, keep its shape, and produce a chewy texture. Unfortunately for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, eating it causes harmful effects in their bodies.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune condition in which gluten triggers immune system activity that damages the lining of the small intestine. Over time this damage prevents the absorption of nutrients from food.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity causes some signs and symptoms associated with celiac disease — including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, “foggy brain,” rash or headache — though there is no damage to the tissues of the small intestine.
In other cases, gluten ataxia, also an auto-immune disorder, affects specific nerve tissues and causes problems with muscle control and voluntary muscle movement.
As a rule, traditional pre-packaged wheat-based products such as pasta, bread, crackers, sweets, pizza, and other baked goods are not gluten-free. And the club chef needs to be aware that other food products have gluten in them, too, even though you wouldn’t associate wheat as an ingredient in those items. Examples include soy sauce, teriyaki, hoisin, broth, salad dressings and marinades, candy, roasted nuts, flavored chips, and beer.
With wheat in almost all baked goods and even in some unsuspecting places, what options do club chefs and pastry chefs have to help their gluten-free members enjoy their menu?
The easiest way to avoid gluten in recipes is to prepare unprocessed, single-ingredient, and simply paired foods. The following ingredients are naturally gluten-free and can be labeled as such on menus for your customers:
- Lean, unprocessed meats, poultry, and fish (except battered or coated meats).
- Dairy: Plain dairy products, milk, plain yogurt, cheeses, and non-dairy soy. (Flavored dairy products may have added ingredients that contain gluten, so refer to the food labels.)
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Grains, starches: Quinoa, rice, buckwheat, beans, tapioca, sorghum, corn, cornmeal, hominy, millet, amaranth, arrowroot, teff, and oats (if labeled gluten-free).
- Arrowroot, potato flour, rice flour, corn flour, chickpea flour, soy flour, almond meal/flour, coconut flour, and tapioca flour.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Vegetable spreads and oils.
- Herbs and spices.
- Beverages (except for beer and flavored drinks, unless labeled gluten-free).
With the prevalence of the farm to table movement and whole food cooking, it’s likely the majority of dishes on your club’s menu are already naturally gluten-free, but it is a responsible club kitchen that double checks.