Gluten-Free Basics: Gluten, the Market, and your Dessert
Gluten-free products are not as alien nowadays as they were ten, even five, years ago. You see it in supermarket, online stores and even food chains such as Subway. The reason is that it is found that more individuals need gluten-free food in their diets.
Many of these individuals are those suffering from Celiac Disease. This is a genetically-predisposed autoimmune disorder where the small intestines react to a protein called gluten. This protein is found in wheat, barley and rye. The reason why gluten is found in so many food products is that it acts as a binder and gives elasticity to certain foods like dough. However, for those with celiac, gluten causes an inflammatory reaction in the small intestines that leads to villous atrophy, a symptom that hinders proper absorption of nutrients. Those with celiac disease suffer from malnutrition when they remain untreated and also suffer from lactose intolerance, nausea, and decreased appetite to name a few.
Gluten-free foods also help those with wheat allergy—a food allergy that reacts to the numerous allergens found in wheat. But they are not the only ones who are consuming gluten-free foods. There are ongoing studies speculating that gluten-free diets are also effective treatment for other conditions such as autism, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, irritable bowel movement, etc.
Due to these special needs and the improvement of medical diagnoses of these conditions, the demand for gluten-free food has exponentially increased within the past decade, thus increasing the supply. With the boom of the Internet, gluten-free food companies found it much easier market their products and consumers are finding it easier to find the food they need. Presently, the US owns a little more than half of the global gluten-free food market with an estimated growth of $500 million by 2014.
In 2008, one of the largest food companies, General Mills, also created a line of gluten-free Chex cereals with then boosted the competition for gluten-free products with other large food manufacturers. Additionally, retailers became increasingly aggressive when it comes to marketing gluten-free food products by setting up gluten-free aisles and sections in supermarkets. A pioneer in this strategy is Whole Foods.
How does this growth in the gluten-free market affect your daily life? There are now more choices when it comes to food. Before, finding gluten-free products was a hassle because individuals had to go to specialty stores to find them but now, it’s easier to find them in chain supermarkets.
Especially for dessert lovers of all kinds, the necessity for a gluten-free diet is now less daunting because of the numerous recipes for gluten-free dessert nowadays. For bakers, there is also the presence of so many substitutes for baking staples such as flour. Betty Crocker™, a prominent brand when it comes to baked goods, offer gluten-free baking mixes, for example.
According to Silvana Nardone from Everyday with Rachel Ray, there are also other substitutes to flour such as almond flour (which is completely gluten-free), cocoa powder, and even cornmeal. Some gluten-free desserts are also notorious for having odd textures. To avoid that, it is helpful to use ingredients at room temperature such as eggs and butter. Beating mixtures for a longer amount of time and doubling the amount of vanilla extract and baking powder also helps with the texture and flavor of any gluten-free dessert. As for appearance, these desserts may lack color due to the different ingredients used. Baking desserts longer in lower temperatures allows them to come out more caramelized. Nardone also suggests pre-heating desserts with leavening agents over the stove top for additional height.
When it comes to chocolate, it’s gluten-free. However, many chocolates are not safe for those with celiac because some of the additives in chocolate are not gluten-free. Even though some chocolate products do not have gluten products in them, they might be processed in places that processed gluten products which can cross-contaminate into the chocolate. Although we at Sulpice Chocolat add ingredients to enhance our chocolate bars’ taste, those ingredient are gluten-free and out chocolates are crafted in machinery that was not used for products containing gluten. Not only are our chocolate bars gluten-free our dark chocolate bars are also vegan.