Oops! 5 Gluten-Free Goofs... and How to Avoid Them
Our food editor has solutions to five common special-diet missteps.
If you’re new to the gluten-free life, chances are you’ve had some dietary mishaps. You’re not alone. Gluten gaffes are common, especially in the early throes of going gluten-free.
Here we list five common goofs, along with solutions. We hope that being forewarned helps you navigate your diet a bit more easily and keeps you from getting “glutened.”
• OOPS! STICKY DOUGH: If you’re baking gluten-free for the first time, get ready for some goopy dough. Forming gluten-free dough (like pie crust and cut-out cookies) with your bare hands is difficult, if not impossible. Touch it and you may never get it off, much less get it into the oven.
Solution: There are three ways to deal with sticky dough. 1) Spray plastic wrap with vegetable oil and handle the dough through the plastic wrap. 2) Dust parchment paper or your kitchen counter with rice flour and sprinkle the top of the dough with more. Then roll or press the dough, adding more flour as necessary. Caution: Too much rice flour will change the texture of your recipe. 3) Wet your fingertips with olive oil and work the dough this way. This is a good technique for making pizza crust and focaccia.
• OOPS! DINER'S DISASTER: The restaurant staff serves your gluten-free bread in the same basket as conventional bread. Then they pick the croutons off your salad and re-serve it to you. All the while, your waiter keeps telling you it’s safe.
• OOPS! THE HOMEMADE GIFT: A well-meaning colleague makes a gluten-free birthday cake and presents it to you in front of everyone at work. What a thoughtful gesture! But cross-contamination from her kitchen (unintentional or not) can give you a good helping of gluten. How do you say, “no, thank you” without hurting feelings or sounding ungrateful?
Solution: Be wary when someone wants to feed you. Very graciously thank your friend and get busy sharing slices around the office. In the birthday bustle, no one will notice you’re not sampling. Use your best judgment: Later may be the time to share with your friend how crumbs can make you sick and how you use a clean area of your kitchen to bake your food because your kids like to wave their crackers over the counter. Then, gratefully, thank her again.
• OOPS! LOOSE WITH LABELS: You’re in a hurry. You’re super-hungry. You’ve eaten this brand before (maybe it’s your favorite) and you’re certain you know what’s in it. Whatever the situation, you don’t check the ingredient list or you pick up the gluten-filled version by mistake—and you get glutened.
Solution: Read labels carefully. Every time. Manufacturers can (and do) change their ingredients. And some gluten-free foods are packaged in containers similar to their gluten-filled cousins so it’s easy to make mistakes. Slow down and read the ingredient list. While you’re at it, check the package for a gluten-free label. Your health is worth it.
• OOPS! CRISIS OF CONVERSION: An unrelenting bread craving prompts you to attempt your first gluten-free yeast loaf from scratch. You think, how hard can it be? So you convert your regular bread recipe by replacing the wheat flour with a gluten-free blend ... and you end up with a loaf of doorstop.
Solution: All is not lost. Yes, gluten-free yeast bread behaves differently than gluten-filled dough but it is not hard to master. You just need to use a few different ingredients and learn some simple tips. You’ll be appreciating the beauty of flour blends, xanthan gum and your heavy-duty mixer (especially the paddle attachment) in no time.