Monday, December 25, 2006

Gluten-free flours:Gluten-free substitutes for wheat include tapioca

Today I used Tapioca flour to coat an oven bag for our turkey. Tapioca is a gluten-free starch derived from dried cassava tuber or root. The cassava plant is a woody tropical shrub cultivated primarily in Brazil, Thailand, Nigeria, Zaire, and Indonesia. It is also known as yucca or manioc.

Tapioca flour is an excellent substitute for gluten containing wheat flour in cooking when a light texture is needed, for example in pancakes and waffles. Tapioca flour can be used to thicken foods such as puddings (tapioca pudding), sauces or gravies. In baking it can provide a bit more stickiness lacking in gluten-free baking.

The cassava tuber contains about 30% starch but very little protein. The tuber can be prepared like a potato but similarly should not be eaten raw. Toxic cyanogenic glucosides in raw cassava tubers are rendered non-toxic with cooking.

The origin of the word tapioca comes from the Tupi-Guarani language of Brazil, the largest producer of Cassava. From tipi, meaning residue, and ok, meaning to squeeze out, we get tapioca. This is traditionally the roots are grated then squeezed or pressed to remove the sap. The residue is then further dried. Dried roots can be milled into flour that is gluten-free.

Bob’s Red Mill pure tapioca flour or all-purpose gluten free baking flour made from tapioca, garbanzo, potato, sorghum and fava flour, both work well for cooking. Bob’s Red Mill stone grinds gluten-free flours in a dedicated facility that is free from wheat and other gluten containing grains. The production line is separate from other lines and they batch test regularly using an ELISA gluten testing process that detects any gluten down to 20 parts per million. They report they are also dairy and casein free.

For one of two smaller turkeys we roasted, I applied high heat safflower oil to coat the surface prior to inserting in an oven bag coated with 1 tablespoon of tapioca flour. To the other, for those in the family who are not casein sensitive, melted organic salted butter was used to baste the surface before cooking in a separate oven.

Though maintaining a gluten-free diet can be a challenge that is necessary for those with celiac disease, it can be done and should be considered for many others who are gluten sensitive. Alternative flours exist for baking and the benefits of gluten-free lifestyle can be life changing for many individuals. For more information be sure to subscribe to this blog to receive regular updates from the Food Doc, the food allergy and food intolerance expert doctor. You may find some of Bob's Red Mill gluten-free products at the Food Doc amazon affililiate store or by visiting their website directly.

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