“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 is holding one on 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) 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. (For a link to our story on Mountain Meadows’ nut-, soy- and gluten-free peanut-butter-type spread, NoNuts Golden Peabutter, click on this story at edmontonjournal.com/taste.) 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.
Special to the Journal
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 gum (a thickening agent, available at most grocery stores)
◗ Salt and pepper
For the filling:
◗ Cold mashed potatoes (made from about 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 (about 1/4 the amount of potatoes)
◗ Bacon, cooked and chopped fine (about half the amount of 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 about 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. For the filling, mix all ingredients together. Fill each dough circle with a tablespoon of filling. Fold into a semicircle and pinch edges closed using the tines of a fork. Meanwhile, 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.
Interested in an in-person perogy-making lesson? Cheryl Arkison, a Calgary food and quilting blogger, is teaching a workshop on Saturday, Jan. 29 in Edmonton. For more information or to sign up, go to acanadianfoodie.com.
GF Patisserie Gluten-free Fish and Chips
◗ 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 (Go to edmontonjournal.com/taste for a list of stores)
◗ 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 until golden brown.