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We don't need no stinking gluten!

Outside the Breadbox

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It seems like people everywhere are getting very picky about their diets these days. It used to be that people avoided a food because they didn't like it, or didn't order shellfish because they were allergic. If they had a bad reaction to something, they would say it "didn't agree with them." That's such a delicate euphemism for symptoms ranging from heartburn to hives to diarrhea.

With people today going low-carb, no carb, high protein, no dairy, nothing that's not organic, no meat, no commercially processed meat, free-range poultry or nothing at all, it's hard to keep track. People with food allergies seem to be taking a back seat to people with particular (bordering on fussy) diets. That's a shame, because the allergies are a much more serious reason for watching what you eat.

Take celiac disease, for instance. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, an elastic protein found in wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats. Yeah, so? Well, it isn't so simple as getting an upset stomach. People with celiac disease can become malnourished no matter how much they eat, and can develop a host of other problems relating to inability to absorb calcium or folic acid.

There's no easy way to determine if you might have celiac disease. The list of symptoms ranges from abdominal bloating and pain to irritability and fatigue. There are blood tests your doctor can perform, but on average, in the United States it takes 11 years to be diagnosed with celiac disease.

By now you're wondering why the soapbox spiel about celiac disease in a food column. Think, for a moment, about all the things that someone with celiac disease can't eat: bread, pasta, and any product that uses wheat, barley, rye or oat products as a thickening agent. You have to become a pretty astute label reader to avoid gluten. And worst of all, for kids especially, no baked goods. No simple pb&j sandwiches. No cookies.

Fortunately for those of us in the Springs, Pam and Rick Hasty, who faced this challenge when their daughter was young, have brought their expertise to a commercial venture. Outside the Breadbox is a gluten-free bakery set in a quaint Victorian house on Colorado Avenue. And the products will appeal to everyone, not just those with celiac disease.

Most of the breads here are made with rice flour. Some are Garfava, made with a combination of garbanzo bean and fava bean flours. Some include gluten-free whole grains, like amaranth, brown rice, millet, quinoa and teff. The Hastys are also experimenting with Montina, which is a new flour based on an old grain. The seeds of Indian wheat grass, native to the western United States and Canada and drought-resistant, are being marketed out of Montana (thus the Montina name) as a new gluten-free option.

What kind of selection does Outside the Breadbox have? Sandwich bread, dinner rolls, cinnamon bread with or without raisins, and hamburger and hot dog buns. But they also have Italian Herb focaccia bread; blackberry, blueberry and bran muffins; cookies (chocolate chip, Snickerdoodle and gingersnap); cakes; and seasonal fruit cobblers.

How do they taste? Delicious. The texture is different than gluten-based breads, and the texture is finer and slightly more crumbly. The Rice Garfava sandwich bread passed the "pb&j, take on a picnic, and pass around to your friends" test. The cinnamon bread has just the right amount of sweetness, makes a great peanut butter sandwich, makes yummy toast, and works great for French toast. The Montina dinner rolls have a slightly earthier flavor than the rice breads, and are darker in color, but are wonderful simply spread with butter or for sopping up soups or sauces. The blackberry muffins disappeared almost instantly at our house. We tried the hamburger buns with whole grains, and if you're buying for children, this is the one place I would be cautious. The whole grains tend to stand out, and if your kids don't like seeds or tiny crunchy bits, then get regular buns. I thought they were just the bee's knees, but my kids were a trifle more suspicious.

Outside the Breadbox opened on June 1, and production is expanding weekly. You can order any items you want, and pick up your custom-baked order the following day between 1 and 5 p.m. You can also buy Outside the Breadbox items at Manitou Natural Foods, Sammy's Organics, Back To the Basics and Camice's Natural Foods (where they have doubled their order every week for the last month). According to Rick Hasty, they hope to have products in Vitamin Cottage, Whole Foods, and Wild Oats soon.

If you want more information on Outside the Breadbox, you can check out their Web site at www.outsidethebreadbox.com. For more information on celiac disease disease, you can contact the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Celiac Sprue Association (whose pamphlets provided factual information for this article) at 572-0548 or http://geocities.com/ppccsa/.

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