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Some of the things I’ve heard spoken in my dining room, by seemingly normal people, have run the gamut from funny to downright offensive. A few examples, I’m not making these up, ask any chef friends you have and they will have heard the same, if not similar, one liners.
“Can I get that burger without the bun and some extra fries instead? I’m on Atkins”
“I’ll just have a coke. You think the chef would mind heating up this Big Mac for me?”
“What kind of water do you use to make ice?”
“Can I get that bottle of wine half off? I know how much it costs at the liquor store.”
“I’m allergic to shellfish so I’ll just have the scallops.”
And for the first time in the late 90’s I heard “Is there gluten in that?”
I had no idea why she cared, I really at that point had no idea period. I asked for the server for more information. “She says she is allergic to flour.” was the response. I’d heard of some odd allergies, shallots, garlic, onions, fish, shellfish, soy, nuts, but this was the first time I’d ever heard flour. I prepared her dish sans flour and went about my life. It wasn’t long before I had the same request. Gluten allergy, no flour and no processed foods. I did a little homework and found out that these individuals had Celiac disease.
Celiac disease was not life threatening as far as I could tell, but was capable of causing severe discomfort in those affected were they to consume products containing gluten. Over time it became a more common request. Today, menus have GF (Gluten-Free) sections, there are GF cookbooks and GF blogs, one of the better ones being elanaspantry.com. It has become a business within a business with an ever growing following, mainly because testing for gluten sensitivity has become increasingly easier. Even so, only 1 in 10 afflicted with Celiac disease is aware of it.
For chefs, GF cooking is relatively simple. Avoid flours and processed foods to compose your dishes. This is a much more difficult proposition for pastry chefs and bakers who live and die by the scale. As a chef, all I had to offer Celiacs was fresh fruit for desserts. I wanted to find something else. I purchased specialty flours and began working on something suitable for Celiacs to be able to have for dessert. I spent a week failing miserably. I bought pre-made mixes that, while attractive, tasted like beach sand. I gave up, I wasn’t a pastry chef so I was comfortable that I could do my part for Celiacs. I’ve done that for the last 8 years, went out of my way for the occasionally afflicted guests, it’s the least I could do while munching on Ciabbatta, pasta and chocolate chip cookie dough.
Earlier this year I met a man, Jared, who was making and selling his own GF dry mixes. I remember those mixes from the late 90’s and how horrid they were. I was skeptical but he seemed like a genuine enough guy so I had to try for myself. All I can say is, GF has come a long way. I made golden raspberry pancakes and these ancho-pecan brownies.
To be honest, the taste wasn’t the same, but it wasn’t that far off either. The original mixes I had tried were bitter, dry and had an odor of leather. Jared’s brownies were moist, chocolatey and far better than I would have imagined. If I had eaten them without knowing what they were, I may not have even noticed they were gluten free. I added 3 tsp. of ancho chile powder and a 1/2 cup of pecans to the recipe but followed the instructions otherwise.
The name of Jared’s company is Lillabee. You can find some info on his site for obtaining his mixes if you’re a local of Colorado, if not, maybe he’ll mail it to you.