Gluten-Free Bread of Life
Holy Communion wafers for gluten-free parishioners
Catholic tradition holds that the bread used in the Eucharist be made with wheat. The church’s Canon Law actually spells out this requirement. Thus, if people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity wanted to partake of the host, they were left without a place at the table.
That changed early in this millennium when the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration developed a “low-gluten” host made with wheat starch. It had a notably reduced gluten content but remained faithful to the church’s Liturgical Rules. Later, Gluten Free Hosts created a wafer made with wheat starch with a gluten content under 20 ppm, meeting FDA’s gluten-free labeling standard. These Eucharist wafers can be blessed or consecrated by a church officiant or priest for use during the Eucharist. Note these products aren’t options for those with wheat allergy.
The Lord’s Supper
Protestant denominations aren’t saddled with a similar wheat requirement for their Holy Communion.
I used to help my church by periodically baking loaves of gluten-free bread for the Lord’s Supper. That meant that when I was the bread baker, everyone at the service partook of gluten-free bread. (Lucky them!) A few years ago, my church asked if I could come up with gluten-free wafers for the Sunday service. So I created this recipe, which produces enough wafers for a mid-size congregation.
Whether purchased or homemade, whether “low-gluten” or gluten-free, all Communion and Eucharist wafers should be handled separately to prevent cross-contamination. A good way to do this is to place the gluten-free host inside a clean pyx (a metal ceremonial box) and keep it completely separate from the wheat host.
If you’re Catholic and have gluten issues, ask your church to provide safe, officially sanctioned wafers for you and other gluten-free parishioners (see “Altar Bread”). If you’re Protestant, your church can buy ready-made wafers made without gluten. Alternatively, try making this easy recipe and offer these gluten-free wafers to your congregation for the benefit of all.
MAKES ABOUT 150 GLUTEN-FREE WAFERS
These gluten-free wafers have a long shelf life. Refrigerate them in a sealed container for several weeks. For longer storage, keep them in the freezer.
MAKES 4 CUPS
To make very fine rice flour, process regular rice flour in a food processor, blender or clean coffee grinder until
1 cup cornstarch, tapioca starch or arrowroot powder
1 cup potato starch, tapioca starch or arrowroot powder
1 cup very fine white rice flour, sorghum flour or buckwheat flour
½ cup corn flour, millet flour, sorghum flour or brown rice flour
½ cup tapioca starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
4 teaspoons xanthan gum or guar gum
1. Whisk ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined.
2. Refrigerate in a large zip-top bag or a sealed container until used.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Free for All Cooking: 150 Easy Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Recipes the Whole Family Can Enjoy by Jules E. Dowler Shepard. Available from Da Capo Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group ©2010. Jules’ readymade flour blend is available at gfjules.com.