kosher kitchen

Gluten-free by necessity or choice? Tasty deserts!


Celiac disease is a common autoimmune disease that affects the ability to digest gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The issue is the chemical, gliadin, to which patients form an intolerance. People with Celiac who eat these products get sick with symptoms ranging from severe intestinal pain and suffering to symptoms so mild that many don’t recognize a problem until something more serious crops up.

The only way to deal with Celiac disease is to avoid gluten, which means all wheat, rye and barley products and, some research thinks, oat products, also. There are no meds to treat the disease, but there are some meds to treat the symptoms until a wheat-free diet is firmly established. 

Many people have believed that Celiac disease is more prevalent in Ashkenazic Jews. Some research still says this is true, but new research, as recent as May of 2016 (by the American Gastroenterological Association in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology) has found that this is not the case (“the rate of celiac disease among patients of Jewish and Middle Eastern ethnicities was similar to that of other Americans”). In fact, the group in America that suffers most from this illness is those who originated from the Punjab region of India. This may be one disease that does not, in fact, strike the Ashkenazic population at increased numbers.

Still, for those who have Celiac, this research is no comfort. For decades, finding foods that were completely gluten-free has been a challenge. Luckily, that is no longer the case, perhaps because so many people have joined the GF population, many by choice. While Celiac disease is a serious, but manageable, condition, many others believe that they are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive. There has been a lot of research on this and, so far, there is no consensus. Some feel that Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, or NCGS, is a real condition, while many medical specialists believe that only a very tiny fraction of people have a sensitivity to gluten without having Celiac. Many people report that they feel better when they avoid gluten. This has translated into a demand for clear labeling and more GF products

The bottom line is that if you have Celiac, you must refrain from eating anything with gluten. If you think you are gluten sensitive, and you feel better avoiding gluten, then avoid it. If you feel that avoiding gluten will help you stay on a lower carb diet, then do it. Happily, avoiding gluten is not as hard as it once was, and there are lots of cookbooks to help you and delicious recipes that you can make to keep you healthy and happy.

NOTE: Many companies make GF flour. I like King Arthur.

GF Banana Bread (pareve)

1-3/4 cup King Arthur GF Flour (for other flours, use 9.5 ounces)

1 Tbsp. baking powder (GF)

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. xanthan gum

5-6 large, very ripe bananas

9 Tbsp. butter or trans-fat-free pareve margarine, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

3/4 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup walnuts or other nuts (omit if desired)

1/2 to 3/4 cup mini-chocolate chips (omit if desired)

2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bread pan and set aside. 

Place the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and xanthan gum in a large bowl. Whisk gently to blend.

Peel the bananas, cut into pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes. Let cool for 30 seconds and microwave for 3 minutes. Let cool for 1 minute. Pour the bananas into a strainer over a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. Stir several times to release more liquid. Scrape the bananas into a medium bowl and pour the liquid into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Reduce liquid to 1/4 cup. Pour the liquid over the bananas and mash with a potato masher until smooth. This step increases the banana flavor and moistness of the bread. Add the melted margarine, eggs, sugar and vanilla and whisk until smooth. 

Pour the liquid into the flour mixture and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the nuts and chips and mix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the Turbinado sugar. Bake until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 60 to75 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes and then remove from the pan. Serves 10+

Sweet Enough Cornbread for Dessert or Tea (dairy)

Corn is naturally gluten-free, but many cornbread recipes include flour. This one does not. Adding the sugar and a bit of maple syrup adds a delicious sweetness to this, making it perfect for a light dessert or with tea on a cold winter afternoon. Making this in a skillet ensures a crisp crust and a moist interior.

2-1/4 cups yellow cornmeal

1-1/2 cups sour cream

1/2 cup whole milk or almond milk or almond coffee creamer

1/4 cup canola oil

5 Tbsp. butter 

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. golden brown sugar

1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

Pinch salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cornmeal, sour cream and milk in a bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside to soften the cornmeal.

Heat an oven-proof, 10-inch skillet for about 2 to 3 minutes. (A cast-iron skillet is perfect for this, but any oven-proof skillet will do.) Add the oil and heat over medium heat until it just barely begins to smoke. Add the butter and hold the pan off heat until the butter is melted. Pour into the cornmeal mixture and whisk to blend. Place the skillet back on very low heat. If it begins to smoke, remove from heat, let cool a minute, and place back on heat. The goal is to keep the pan hot.

Quickly, add the vanilla, sugars and maple syrup to the cornmeal mixture and whisk to blend. Add the salt, baking powder and baking soda and whisk. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

Carefully scrape the batter into the hot pan and smooth the top. Place in the oven and bake, rotating the skillet once, for about 13-20 minutes, until golden, the top begins to crack, and a tester comes out moist. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the cornbread from the skillet onto a plate or serve from the skillet. Serves 6 to 10. Great with butter and/or really excellent preserves.

Amazing Almond Cookies (Pareve)

These can be made either with toasted or plain almonds.

1 pound almond flour or ground almonds or grind 2-2/3 cup blanched almonds

4 large egg whites at room temperature

1-1/3 cups sugar (you can cut this a bit)

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. pure almond extract

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate melted and cooled.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If using whole almonds, finely grind the almonds using a food processor. Set aside. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the sugar two tablespoons at a time beating until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Remove the beater and add the nuts, gently folding them into the whites. Mixture should be thick. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes. Cookies will look dry and white, a bit light golden at the bottom. Let cool.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. When just melted, remove the top of the pan from the water base and set aside to cool for a minute or two. Mix often. Dip half of a cooled cookie into the chocolate and let the excess drip back into the pan. Place on a clean parchment lined baking pan and let cool or refrigerate until chilled. Makes about 18 to 24 cookies.