Gluten-Free Forever

Five years ago I learned the in-depth details of celiac disease, the body’s inability to metabolize wheat gluten. I thought it was a relatively new discovery, but the malady was recorded in ancient Greece. I still wonder how it develops and where it is going. After all, “bread” has meant food, the staff of life, for longer than recorded Western history, for as far back as early man crushed grain into meal and baked flat unleavened cakes on hot stones.

What’s happening to us and to our wheat? Have we genetically modified our grains until they are less digestible? Have we tangled our ourselves with too much stress and too many additives until we’ve compromised our natural systems? Have we become incompatible with certain foods? It’s a mystery, but we know that some people simply cannot tolerate wheat gluten and many others can eat only small amounts. Let’s look at what the celiac can have, rather than lament the loss of bread, cereals, pasta, crackers and cakes as we’ve known them.

There’s a long list of nutritious gluten-free grains ground into flour and readily available. We have brown and white rice flours, corn starch and corn meal, buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, bean flours and tapioca starch, to name a few. Granted, none of these flours develop elasticity when combined with liquid. However, we have the magic of xanthan gum, fermented from glucose, or guar gum ground from cucumber-like seeds. Both these gums, used in minute quantities, cause gluten-free flour to develop a thickening stretch. It’s bread of a different flavor and a different look, but when it’s crisped in the oven or sliced and toasted, the celiac again can enjoy bread.

Gluten-Free Buns

Make up flour mix: 5 tablespoons each white sorghum flour, brown rice flour, cornmeal; 4 tablespoons each tapioca starch and corn starch; 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

Measure 6 oz. flour mix (approx 1 ½ cups)

2/3 cup lukewarm water

tiny pinch powdered ginger

2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast (l packet)

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons dry milk powder

¾ teaspoon xanthan gum

1 egg white (or 2 tablespoons beaten egg)

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

Soften dry yeast in lukewarm water adding a pinch of ginger.

Combine the flour mix, salt, sugar dry milk, xanthan gum and make a well in the center.

To the yeasted water add egg, vinegar and oil. Pour the liquid into the flour and beat well 4–5 minutes on and off by hand or 3 minutes in stand mixer.

Butter 6 large muffin pans and dust with cornmeal. Divide batter among pans, filling each ½ full. Sprinkle top with cornmeal. Allow dough to rise until reaches top of pan (at least an hour). Brush lightly with egg wash (beaten egg) and bake in a preheated 425º oven for 15–20 minutes or until nicely browned. Makes 6 2-oz. buns

Note: This recipe first developed for use as a gluten-free altar bread breaks easily and does not crumble when dipped in wine.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at


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