Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wheat-Free Discussion, Part 1

This is the first of two posts about wheat-free baking. I had intended to focus primarily on the aspect of baking techniques when using alternative flours. However, after a recent amazon review concerning ed&bv's wheat-free recipe designations, I have decided to give some basic wheat-free information first.

When I wrote TEV, I had people ask me for recipes that used other flours than wheat, which is how I began creating recipes with alternative flours for Vive and ed&bv. I discovered that there are many alternatives to wheat flours, but some are gluten-based while others are gluten-free.

Gluten-based flours and grain alternatives: kamut, spelt, oat, barley, and rye.

Non-gluten flours and grains include: rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, and starches including potato, tapioca, and arrowroot.

People that cannot tolerate wheat can often tolerate other gluten flours, including spelt and kamut, as well as barley, oats and rye. However, if gluten cannot be eaten, then only non-gluten flours and grains may be used in the diet. Spelt and kamut specifically are ancient 'relatives' to wheat, and so are sometimes referred to as containing wheat. But, many wheat-sensitive individuals can use spelt and kamut.

It is important for me to clarify this, because in this amazon review, my indication of "wheat-free" recipes has been deemed deadly, which troubles me. These recipes aren't labelled as gluten-free. Only wheat-free. Plus, not all of my wheat-free recipes only utilize spelt. Many use barley or oat flours as the replacement, which are still gluten-based flours. And, when I have made a recipe specifically gluten-free, it is designated as such.

It is terribly disturbing to read that my recipes could be 'deadly' if someone with Celiac disease were to make one of my recipes that used spelt flour because it is identified as 'wheat-free'. Spelt flour may be fine for an individual with a wheat sensitivity to use... but since it is not gluten-free, it is not suitable flour for someone with Celiac to consume. If a recipe is labelled as 'wheat-free', this is not the same as 'gluten-free'. Gluten-free IS wheat-free, but the reverse is not true.

I suspect, and hope, that anyone with food sensitivity or allergy issues is working with a physician to identify which foods are okay to consume. When discussing recipe-related nutritional issues with people, I always specify that people should talk with their physician and/or dietitian, since I am neither.

My next post about wheat-free baking will focus on some of the techniques needed to replace the common all-purpose, or whole-wheat flour, using gluten flours such as spelt, barley, kamut and oat, or non-gluten flours including rice, and millet. For now, it is important for me to clarify some of the basics about gluten and non-gluten flours and to encourage anyone with food allergies, regardless of the type, to educate yourself first with your physician and/or dietitian.

That's all from me until after Christmas. I'll be away for a couple of weeks to regroup, and to share in the festivities of the season with family.

Enjoy your Christmas and holidays...


DJ Karma said...

Hi, Dreena!
It's unfortunate that some people will not take responsibility for fully understanding their own bodies and conditions. This applies especially to people who prepare foods for loved ones who have extreme allergies. When I became aware that a member in my company was severely allergic to nuts, I always read labels to make sure that any processed products I served him contained no nuts or nut products (or was processed on equipment that had processed nuts). Equally, he always made sure to ask and read labels himself. We vegans all know that a product with whey contains an animal product, and won't consume it. Likewise, it is the responsibility of celiacs to know which ingredients they can and cannot eat! Accordingly, those people should definitely know the difference between wheat-free and gluten-free- especially if it means life or death! I'm very ashamed for people like this, who readily point the finger at someone besides the person in the mirror. Keep your head up- I'm sure most everyone of reason support you on this!

herbstsonne said...

Don't worry Dreena, I think most people who are celiacs known enough about the condition to read ingredients and make safe decisions about what to eat. :) And like you said, if something actually is gluten free (like the chocolate chip cookies in ED&BV!), it says it loud and clear.

I love love love your cookbooks, I use ED&BV! almost every day. Can't wait to read more on wheat-free baking, I've been trying to experiment with different flours and GF flours lately! :)

Surprised Suburban Wife said...

What a dumb review! Anyone with celiac disease should know what flours they can tolerate, since they would have had reactions to so many different flours and foods. The author of this review has reviewed several other books which all self-identify as "gluten free cook" on the cover...TOTALLY DIFFERENT than ED&BV which clearly states where individual recipes are gluten free.
Don't worry about this review...47 other reviews were all pretty awesome:)

Kara said...

I'm confused about oats. I have a friend with Celiac's who eats oats, and some Bob's Red Mill oats are labeled gluten-free. I thought the main concern with oats is that they are often grown in fields near wheat and there was a cross-contamination concern. Does anyone have more information on this?

Anonymous said...

Gluten free and wheat-free are not the same. Any "individual who educates people about Celiac disease and the gluten free diet" should know this basic knowledge.
Your cook books have saved my palate and changed my life. Each and every dish is easy to shop for, simple to make and delicious to eat. Never in my life have I felt so good as I do now eating and cooking from your books.
Never mind the nay-sayers, let your years of experience, knowledge and joy of cooking triumph of a poorly judged review.
You are changing lives for the better, Dreena, one delicious and life-saving recipe at a time. Bring on the recipes!

Michelle.S said...

Dreena, that review is just nonsense. I doubt anyone who eats gluten free wouldn't find your book very clear on which recipes they can eat and which need adaptation. As you know, I eat gluten free and I basically only use your cookbooks. The recipes are so healthy, you hardly rely on wheat for any of them (it is so easy to substitute rice flour and a little tapioca starch in all your baking, thanks for the advice you have given me about that over email!)... on the other hand, i have never used any gluten free cookbook that crosses my path. The recipes are unhealthy or filled with dairy.

Kara, some Celiacs can tolerate certain oats: two good brands are McCann's Irish Oats or Only Oats. They are not processed with wheat at all. However, I think some people who eat gluten free even avoid those. I tolerate them okay in moderation.

Melody Polakow said...

Dreena.. that review is ridiculous.

As a food professional who has catered to people with sensitivities, I am appalled at the lack of responsibilities some people take with their health. It is NOT your responsibility to take care of an allergic persons health. It is THEIR responsibility.

I am hopeful that the majority of CELIAC patients have been educated enough to know that Spelt or Barley are not OK. Wheat Free labeling and Gluten Free are two entirely different things.

I have dealt with this sort of thing in restaurants with people. We had a man who was "deathly" allergic to cashews who had a reaction to a Raw Slaw I made (which listed CASHEWS on the ingredients).. He came back and ordered a Vegan Creamy Broccoli Soup (that I made that also listed cashews) and had another reaction.. and then had a total temper tantrum in the dining room about how he almost died our food.. (which showed me he did not have a DEADLY reaction at all.. because he would have an Epi pen and would not have been able to shout because his throat would have swelled shut!)..

I do feel for people with allergies/sensitivities (I am one!).. BUT personal responsibility HAS to be taken. Period. You did not write a Gluten Free cookbook and include spelt. It is apples and oranges for that reviewer to speak like you labeled your recipes gluten free.

Stephanie Anne said...

Oats/oat flour are naturally gluten-free but sometimes they get contaminated with gluten. My dad is very allergic to gluten (he scored a 4 on his allergy test, which is the highest number) but does not have a problem with oats. I'm pretty sure that some brands are even certified gluten-free.

And that review is ridiculous. You are not claiming your recipes are gluten-free, you are labeling them as wheat-free, which they are!

By the way, I made my dad the gluten-free homestyle chocolate chip cookies from edbv and now they're one of his favorite gluten-free cookies (he is a cookie freak so that is quite a compliment!).

Utopian Kitchen said...

I wouldn't say oats are "gluten-based," but at times, gluten-contaminated. Too bad that someone would write a negative review instead of realizing their own ignorance.

Michelle said...

as a mom to a kid with celiac (newly diagnosed and all!) i can tell you how they pound it in to your head over, and over and over! and make you write it down.. and send you home with print outs and everything about what is ok and what is not ok.

a celiac should have no problem using your books. a celiac should truly know that wheat free does not mean gluten free.

heck, even i understood the difference before this whole celiac thing came crashing into our world.

we love you dreena! we love your recipes! don't let one bad review get you down, k? i wouldn't be half the cook i am today without your lovely books!

aTxVegn said...

Dreena, I'm sorry that review got posted. I agree that people (including me) with gluten sensitivity should understand the difference between wheat free and gluten free AND take responsibility for what they eat! Your recipes are very clearly labeled.

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Anonymous said...

Now spelt is considered a wheat. (which technically it is) so if you make a product that is for sale to the public and it was formerly labeled wheat free, you are breaking the labeling laws! I had a bakery which made a line of spelt products and had to take that off my advetising but I think it confused more people who wanted spelt than people who are celiac!! I find that most customers who are celiac ask about every little detail.

maybepigscanfly said...

Oh Dreena, you're my favorite cook ever. I basically only have and use your cookbooks. You are the best, because you truly care about the people you write your books for and you are accessible. You've been such a help for me and I know you've been such a help for so many people. So screw stupid reviews. I ditto everything that has been said from these commenters and I think that those few bad reviews are just plain stupid. Dreena you are the best!

herbstsonne said...

BTW, I wanted to mention that I brought ED&BV! to my mom's house for Thanksgiving (made the chocolate pumpkin pie, which everyone raved about), and I've been going through withdrawals for the last month! :D

laci said...

Hi Dreena!
I am a big fan of your books/work and I'm so excited for the holidays- I tried your chocolate chip cookie recipe from vlv but using oat flour instead of ap, adgave nectar instead of maple surup and 2tbs cinnamon applesuace in place of half the oil... it made 8 lagre-ish cookies... that were wonderful! My omni- family begged for more, but I wanted to freeze a few for the last two school days before christmas break! Thanks! P.S. Any holiday dinner recipe rocomendations?

Anonymous said...

Kara, oats themselves do not contain gluten. Folks with celiac should stay away from oats that are not labeled Gluten Free though because of the high risk of contamination. Bobs Red Mill does make gluten free oats, I have yet to find a gluten free oat flour, many GF bakers just pulse GF oats in a food processor (or use a flour mill).

Dreena, I do think most people with food allergies and sensitivities are aware of their limitations. Where confusion often occurs is when someone else tries to make food for a person with food allergies assuming things are safe that are not. This is where warnings come in handy, but it seems like your recipes are all well labled :)
You should feel proud that you are including options for people with all types of dietary restrictions

Anonymous said...

oh boy.. gluten free and wheat free are soooo totally different! ug...! i love your books!!!!!!!

Dreena said...

To all of you that commented...

Thank you. Your esperiences with allergy-related issues is helpful, and I truly appreciate all of your caring thoughts, stories, and insights. It is very meaningful and touching to read your warm words of support. You are kind and considerate people! :)

So, I send you a ((hug)), and think you all deserve a rich, decadent treat (chocoate, pie, ice cream, cookies, anyone?)... I'd deliver them myself if I could!

(p.s. to Laci, I've posted about our Christmas menu before, so I'll give you the link to check out - most of the recipes are from TEV:
Last year, I subbed the tofu recipe with my olive-oregano wine tofu that's on the site. You can find the recipe in this post, along with some other suggestions that woud be great for Christmas:
Hope that's not too late for you... enjoy!)

Merry Christmas everyone, and thank you again. :)

Urban Vegan said...

Informative, as always Dreena. We should all eat less wheat, even if we're not allergic.

Happy, happy holidays to you and your family!

Sophie said...

I love your blog! I just started one of my own:

I would love if you could add me to your blogroll or support me in some other way.

Thanks :)

Michelle said...

dreena, my friend gave me a magazine this christmas called Living Without.. it is gluten free, dairy free, etc. anyways, this current issue has a great article on non-gluten grains/flours, giving info on each one and some tips on use, and also a nutritional break down of all of them at the end. did you know that you can get WINE flour?! never heard of that, but it sounds delicious, lol!

anyways, you may want to take a peek if you see it on news stands. it's not veg though.

Eating Consciously said...

I'm glad you brought this up. I'm getting kinda tired of all these self-diagnosed maniacs going around having their wheat fits! I study nutrition at a medical school and I will tell you that the amount of people that are actually diagnosed with a gluten or wheat allergy is so incredibly small, it's not even funny. At the cafe I work at, my skin crawls every time someone comes in and says "Oh, by the way, I'm gluten free." Argh!!!! I find it really hard to believe that since all this talk about wheat has been going on that everyone is suddenly coming down with a gluten intolerance. Give me a break! Get off the internet and see a qualified professional!! Sorry, just had to get that off my chest ;)

Robyn the Slug said...

Don't worry too much about the crazy comments. (For starters, deadly is at best, a gross exaggeration). I'm not even celiac, I just cooked celiac safe food for a partner for over a year and I know the difference.

In other news, there are a few small producers who grow oats in non contaminated fields and process in gluten free plants, the goal being to produce oat products without gluten for celiac sufferers. I can't recall the names since this was several years ago, but I heard good things about them.

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