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Gluten-free goes mainstream

By Jennifer Crosby, edmontonjournal.com January 3, 2011 Be the first to post a comment
“Would you like fries with that?” For the growing number of people being diagnosed with celiac disease, the answer likely has to be “No.”

Celiac disease causes the small intestine to be damaged by the protein gluten. Sufferers are unable to absorb many nutrients. Trouble is, gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. A diagnosis comes with a long list of foods now forbidden: obvious ones like cakes and breads, as well as those not immediately apparent, like deli meats and fries.

“If there is anything else on the menu that’s deep-fried, don’t even think about the french fries,” says Calgarian Bette Howie. Even if the fries themselves aren’t flour-coated, they’re usually crisped in the same fryer as other flour-coated items, and are easily contaminated.

A 2001 diagnosis of celiac disease hasn’t stopped Howie from eating in restaurants, but it does dictate extra effort. She usually calls ahead to make sure a restaurant can accommodate her gluten-free diet, and on arrival, she asks to speak with a manager.

Gluten-free eating has been an ongoing lesson for Victoria Edlinger, 47. In high school, before she was diagnosed with celiac, she had planned to become either a baker or an interior designer. Good thing she selected the latter: “If I would’ve chosen to go to pastry school, I would’ve been in trouble.”

Luckily for sweet-toothed celiacs, Edlinger switched back to baking two and a half years ago. She and daughter Lauren run Cochrane’s GF Patisserie (122 3rd Ave W., Cochrane, 403-990-9565), where they aim to make gluten-free goods that taste like the real deal, using flours made from rice, corn or beans.

“My philosophy has been if I want beans, I’ll eat beans,” Edlinger says. “I want my cupcake to taste like a cupcake.”

Flavour and texture are two of the biggest challenges for gluten-free cooks.

Both Edlinger and Howie say they’ve learned to cook with a mix of gluten-free flours, saying, “If you just use rice flour, you can taste the grittiness.”

In the spring, Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group in Edmonton is offering a cooking class geared to gluten-free diets. Calgary’s Love2Eat Nutritional Consulting (love2eat.ca) is holding one Jan. 26.

Catering manager Chris Hrynyk says with some sauces, flour can be replaced with patience. “We’ll do a cream reduction,” or “a reduced wine sauce and finish it with a bit of butter.”

Edlinger echoes the sentiment: “If you’re patient and reduce, it takes longer but the end result is actually better.”

Cooking gluten-free may mean a bigger grocery bill, but it can also provide an opportunity to tap into Alberta specialty products.

Mountain Meadows Food Processing (780-961-2470), for example, grinds flour from a proprietary strain of brown peas grown in northern Alberta. “It’s a mild-tasting pea, so the flour tastes nutty, more than tasting like peas,” says Caryll Carruthers, president and co-owner of company, based in Legal.

Streamlining was the name of the game for Nicola and Alan Irving of Irvings Farm Fresh sausages, based in Round Hill (780-672-2787).

“We were making everything twice,” says Nicola — sausages produced once with a gluten-based binder, and again with a gluten-free one.

So in 2007, just a year after launching, the company went gluten-free. Customers with celiac disease are thrilled and those without don’t appear to notice.

“They know our sausages are meaty and very lean,” Nicola says. “The fact they’re gluten-free is a bonus.”

An increasing number of people are going gluten-free for reasons other than celiac disease, among them a unproven link to autism. Still others have elected to eat gluten-free simply because it makes them feel better.

Interest in gluten-free eating has skyrocketed — GF Patisserie’s first franchise opened recently in
Newfoundland and Edlinger has put the Cochrane location up for sale, to give her more time to focus on franchising.

For those on the hunt for the elusive, gluten-free French fry, Howie points to Calgary’s NOtaBLE the Restaurant (4611 Bowness Rd NW, Calgary, 403-288-4372), where executive assistant Laura Noble confirms the fries are cut in-house from real potatoes, uncoated, and “the only thing that go in the fryer.”

For gluten-free foodies, that kind of reassurance is key.

Jennifer Crosby is an avid eater, a restaurant enthusiast and a mediocre cook. Follow her on Twitter @JenCrosby.

GF Patisserie Gluten-free Perogies

Recipe links on the GF Patisserie website redirect to a blog by Victoria Edlinger’s husband Peter, who calls himself The Celiac Husband. GF Patisserie Flour Mix is available in Edmonton at Ben’s Meats & Deli (15726 Stony Plain Rd., 780-489-1424) and at the bakery in Cochrane.
Serves 4, plus leftovers.

For the dough:
2 large eggs
1-3/4 cups (425 mL) GF Patisserie Flour Mix, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon (15 mL) sour cream
1/2 cup (125 mL) water, more as needed
3 teaspoons (15 mL) xanthan
Salt and pepper

For the filling:
3 medium starchy potatoes
2 tablespoons (25 mL) unsalted butter; more as needed
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Freshly grated cheese
Bacon, cooked and measured according to taste (The Celiac Husband recommends about half the weight of the potatoes)

To make the dough, beat the eggs. In a large bowl, combine the flour, eggs, sour cream, water and xanthan. If dough is sticky, add more flour. Roll out dough, cut into circles.

For the filling, simply mix all ingredients together. (Follow these step-by-step instructions for filling perogies on the Canadian Living website.)

While you fill the perogies with bacon and potato filling, put 5 quarts (4.75 litres) water on to boil. Drop the perogies in batches into the boiling water, stirring occasionally. When they float to the top, cook for another minute. Fish them out and put them in a bowl. Sauté in butter, add salt and pepper.

Cheryl Arkison, a Calgary food and quilting blogger, is teaching a perogy-making workshop on Saturday, Jan. 29, in Edmonton, as part of a new series of classes and culinary tours offered by Valerie Rodgers Lugonja and Maria Iacabelli. Go to A Canadian Foodie for more information or to sign up.

GF Patisserie Gluten-free Fish and Chips

Serves 4
3/4 cup (175 mL) GF Patisserie flour mix, plus more for dredging
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 mL) xanthan
2 tablespoons (25 mL) apple vinegar
1 egg
1 cup (250 mL) gluten-free beer
cod, about 200 grams per person
canola oil, for frying
Mix first seven ingredients until smooth. Dredge the fish in flour, then dip in batter. Heat about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of oil to 375 F (170 C). Slide fish into hot oil and wait until golden brown.

Have you got a gluten-free tip to share? Add your comments here, or e-mail tastealberta@edmontonjournal.com.
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