Gluten

I’m not saying I’m gluten-sensitive. I just know that when I eat things like pizza, bread, pasta, or the like, I suffer. And gluten-free alternatives are disgusting. But I’ve figured out how to make the breads I love, such as pancakes, waffles, and muffins, without pain. Here’s my recipe.

Stacked Rocks

First, briefly, what I experience and my current thinking:

  • If I eat pizza or similar for supper, I feel like I’ve got a brick in my abdomen for 24-36 hours. I bloat and cramp, and I get a horrible dull ache in my pelvic bowl.
  • I also feel tired, irritable, and unfocused. It took me years to realize this always happened after eating gluteny things. I know other people sometimes have inexplicable fatigue and malaise too.
  • At the advice of an allergist, I tried various elimination diets, such as complete dairy avoidance for several months. (Very hard to do.) It didn’t help.
  • I know lots of people with actual celiac disease and I’m not one. I can eat small amounts of glutenish stuff (say, half a slice of bread, or some crackers) without noticing much.
  • I know lots of people who start right in with “scientifically speaking, the incidence of celiac disease is…” whenever anyone talks about gluten, ‘splaining the hell out of people like me in irrelevant, unhelpful ways without stopping to think.
  • I know a lot of people like me feel dismissed without being heard. I know some of us have been told their condition is psychosomatic (i.e. we can fix our problem by going to a shrink). I know we’re not insane.
  • I know the incidence of actual celiac disease is dramatically higher in the United States than it used to be.
  • I know the wheat we eat in the United States barely resembles what we grew 100 years ago. I know people who came from Europe to the United States and found that they digest bread here very differently than they’re used to.
  • I know there’s a lot of controversy about gluten. I know there are theories about things called FODMAPs and various types of proteins. I know recent research continues to uncover more ways that non-celiac people really do get legitimately sick from wheat in particular, including “amylase-trypsin inhibitors, or ATIs.”

Most gluten-free bread substitutes are inedible and should be taken off the market. Here’s a simple, gluten-free recipe I’ve developed that works for me. (Apologies to people who don’t use Imperial units).

  • 1 cup each of almond flour, rice flour, and quick-cooking table rolled oats, the latter ground into flour in a spinning-blade grinder.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1-2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • ¼ tsp vanilla

Directions:

  • Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together.
  • Add the egg yolks and oil to the bowl, and stir in milk gradually until the mixture is still thick and doughy, depending on the intended usage.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Using one of the beaters, stir them slowly into the batter by hand, until just blended.

Now you can bake or cook as you please. The keys are to get the thickness right for the desired purpose, and to avoid mixing all the air out of the egg whites when blending them into the batter. Unlike gluten-based breads, which gain their structure from the gluten, the air trapped into the egg whites provides the structure and loft. I typically want the batter to be a little stiffer than you’d expect. For pancakes, for example, stiff enough that I need to gently jiggle the pan or griddle to encourage them to spread out a little more.

If you have leftover batter, it’s better to cook it immediately and save the cooked food for later, rather than saving the batter to cook later. The egg whites will not hold the air well for longer than an hour or so.

I’ve found the recipe is very versatile. For example:

  • For pancakes, see above.
  • You can add ingredients freely, such as blueberries, chocolate chips, pumpkin-and-ginger, etc.
  • You can add spices freely: cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin pie spice blend, etc. If you add it to the dry mix, it’s easier to blend well.
  • For waffles, add about twice as much oil.
  • For banana bread, puree bananas with the milk in a blender before mixing into the batter, and make it about the same thickness. Be aware it’ll rise quite a bit. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • For muffins, see notes for banana bread.
  • For pumpkin bread, you can mix pumpkin pie spices and cooked pumpkin right into the batter.

If you don’t have the types of flour I specified, the mix isn’t critical to get right; various other grains and materials seem to work okay too (coconut flour, amaranth flour) although they change the taste, texture, and appearance in ways I don’t always like.


I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.


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