Friday, January 8, 2010

Wheat Free Cooking

While I have no need to live a wheat-free lifestyle, I know plenty of people who do. And as an avid baker, and pasta lover, and cookie fiend, I was curious whether wheat-free alternatives were palatable or not. I attended an event at the author's home, where she holds small cooking classes. There, I sampled her pasta, cookies, pizza, and other foods.

Later, I tried making the bread recipe from the book. As you can see, it looks like a standard loaf of white bread. And the greatest praise came from my husband's comment. "I don't get it. What's the big deal about this bread, again." In other words, there was nothing weird about it that he felt a need to comment about. To him, it was regular bread.

The wheat-free alternatives Mary Capone created are actually quite good. But still, I'd glad that I don't have a wheat problem, because working without wheat makes many dishes a more complicated, and some of the ingredients are a little obscure. When I last spoke with her, Mary said she was considering marketing some of her mixes, to make it easier for people to recreate her recipes. I have no doubt she'll get that project off the ground. She's passionate about making the wheat-free lifestyle a tasty one.

The following article was first published in the December, 2008 edition of the Left Hand Valley Courier.

Local Gourmet Pens Cookbook

Mary Capone, AKA “The Wheat-Free Gourmet,” a Gunbarrel resident with a sensitivity to gluten, has turned her problem into a passion. Rather than giving up bread, cakes, cookies and pastas, Capone started experimenting with other ingredients to enable her to eat familiar foods without experiencing the adverse affects.

First, Capone decided to try selling her baked goods and holding classes. Then she realized that there was a greater market for what she knew, and decided to write a cookbook to spread her knowledge.

The result was “The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook – Classic Cuisine from the Italian Countryside.” In this book, Capone shares her love for Italian cooking and her interesting ways of getting around the gluten problem that many people face.

Gluten, the protein found in wheat (and other products) is what gives bread the ability to hold onto the bubbles that make it rise, and it’s what makes pizza dough stretchy. However, people who are sensitive to gluten must avoid products made with wheat, barley and rye, among other things, so cooking becomes much more complicated.

Many people who suffer from gluten sensitivities opt to simply cut all those foods from their diets, which limits food options. Many others also need to avoid dairy products as well, which adds yet another challenge.

With Capone’s cookbook in hand, these people can bake their bread and eat it, too. All of the recipes are completely gluten-free, and many are dairy-free or offer dairy-free alternatives.

But questions remain. Are they results good? Could a person who didn’t have to avoid gluten be happy with these recipes?

Some of the gluten sensitive people I know have said that bread is one of the products they miss the most, and that commercially available products aren’t very good. As a die-hard bread baker (and gluten eater) I decided that the gluten-free bread would be a perfect test of this book.

The first challenge was finding all of the ingredients. Since wheat flour isn’t allowed, I needed brown rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum and potato starch for the recipe. It took visits to two stores to assemble these ingredients, but it at least they were stocked locally.

The mixing and kneading process was nothing like my usual breadmaking. I had to abandon what I knew about flour and gluten, and rely on what the recipe said. When I put the finished dough into a pan, I had little hope that it would pass the husband test, but at that point, I was committed to finishing the experiment.

Oddly enough, the end product looked suspiciously like a loaf of bread. Stranger yet, it tasted enough like bread that my husband didn’t think there was anything unusual about it at all. It wasn’t the most spectacular loaf of bread that ever came out of my kitchen, but it was undeniably bread, and not some sad substitute.

If Capone can come up with a formula for making bread, there’s no doubt her other recipes will yield good results. And although I didn’t make them myself, I tried her pasta, pizza, and cookies, and all of them were quite tasty.

While these recipes are a bit more complicated – because of the need to mix different ingredients to adequately substitute for what wheat flour and gluten can do – they aren’t too difficult. And no doubt well worth it for anyone who needs to avoid eating gluten and who misses the ability to eat these common foods.

“The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook” is available at Cayenne Kitchen, 530 Kimbark St. in Longmont and online at You can contact Mary Capone at