By Christina Frazier
BACK WHEN I FIRST GOT SERIOUS ABOUT CUTTING GLUTEN OUT OF my diet, my number one priority — and biggest frustration — was finding a great bread recipe. I wasn’t just trying to check off a box on my path to subbing out gluten. I wanted to bake a crusty, sensuous bread with a come-hither aroma that takes over your kitchen. The first products I tried were uninspiring; I began to fear that gluten was the soul of bread, and without it, the only thing left were pale, flavorless ghosts based on the mealy bones of refined rice flour. The discovery that saved my gluten-free life was Luce’s artisanal bread mixes.
I can’t properly digest gluten, but it took me a long time to figure it out. Once, when I was at the beginning of a low carbohydrate diet experiment where I basically ate nothing but meat for a week, I noticed something really amazing. Ever since I’d graduated from college, my allergies had become worse every year. They started out as simply irritating, a runny nose in September and perhaps a week where post-nasal drip pitched my voice down into the P. J. Harvey registers. Eventually, though, I found myself with prescriptions for eye drops, nasal spray, ear drops for itchy ears, and Montelukast (Singulair). This pharmacopeia only took the edge off; for months out of each year I was miserable.
I started the all-meat diet on a Monday and by Thursday my allergies were gone. Vanished. Not even a nose twitch. I stopped taking my medicines. The week ended and my allergies were still in remission. Although I was leery of the hype that’s part of the gluten-free movement, I made the connection that gluten might be at the root of my newfound breathing abilities, and over the next weeks and months I mostly steered clear of breads, grains, and anything made with gluten-flour. My diet wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t have allergies and I felt much better all around. The debate over the value of gluten-free diets rages on, but now I’m a believer (Even though I never had the stomach and intestinal discomfort many gluten-intolerant people report, lab tests last year showed I had non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, a rare but apparently growing condition in the Western world).
Luckily for me I was on the right side of history. By this time, entire aisles in the grocery store were devoted to gluten-free products. I definitely missed bread, and this was always my priority on shopping trips, but as I said before, I kept striking out. Then I stumbled onto the Luce brand of artisanal bread mixes, and I immediately knew that bread was back on the table.
Charles Luce was struck with celiac disease in 2002, and like me, within days of going gluten-free he realized he was going to have to become a baker to enjoy decent bread on his new diet. Luce, who lived in New Jersey, had learned to bake as a child, and his dormant skills not only led to some great glutenfree baking for himself and his family, but a new business and line of bread mixes you can find all over the country.
Luce’s mix kits have everything you need to make a loaf of bread. Once you know which mixes you like best, you can buy them in bulk for about half the kit price. His line includes mixes for rye breads, pancakes, Italian breads, flatbreads, and an entire variety of baked items. I’ve tried nearly all the bread mixes. My favorites are Winter Spice, Italian Rustic and Bold Buckwheat. They are relatively low carb (which is important since many low-gluten products bump up the carbs to make up for the lack of gluten) and derived from a curious blend of uncommon flours, a difference I noticed right away from his competitors. The recipes are all vegan and require no milk or eggs. I’m not a big fan of the sourdough because it creates its sourness from vinegar instead of natural fermentation. It doesn’t quite work in my opinion, but I’m a terrible cook so maybe I didn’t make it right.
According to Luce, one of the tricks to create a golden crust is to bake the bread in a special parchment bag. This simulates the conditions of a brick oven and yields almost miraculous results. Beyond the instructions in the box, here are a few tricks I learned that will improve your loaf:
- Don’t skimp on the rise. You might have to let the bread rise longer than the instructions suggest to get good air pockets and avoid a dense loaf.
- I use the rise feature on my bread machine and transfer the dough to the parchment paper once it finishes. • Use three staples to shut the bag. This will allow for air flow.
- For KC area cooks, bake for an hour and twenty five minutes. Use your automatic timer and leave the load in the oven to cool after it’s done baking. Gluten-free breads rely on gums to bind the flours. If you don’t allow the loaf to cool slowly the gums will not set. You’ll wind up with a “gummy” loaf that’s hard to cut without collapsing the center.
Luce’s bread mixes are a great way to enjoy the comforting holiday tradition of warm, freshly baked bread, without nixing your hard-fought health gains.
For more information on Luce’s Gluten-Free Artisan Break Mix, visit http://www.lucegfbread. com.