Review: Gluten-Free Baking by Richard J. Coppedge Jr.
Originally posted at Paper Palate on September 8, 2008.
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse about 1 out of every 133 people suffers from celiac disease; that’s roughly 2 million Americans. So just what is celiac disease? The NDDIC defines it thusly:
Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in products we use every day, such as stamp and envelope adhesive, medicines, and vitamins.
When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. The tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine are damaged or destroyed. Called villi, they normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, regardless of the quantity of food eaten.
Because the body’s own immune system causes the damage, celiac disease is considered an autoimmune disorder. However, it is also classified as a disease of malabsorption because nutrients are not absorbed. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Celiac disease is a genetic disease, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered—or becomes active for the first time—after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.
Celiac and similar ailments are the reason why there is a new emphasis on gluten-free baked goods. Recently, the gluten-free movement was aided by the most esteemed culinary school in North America. The Culinary Institution of America in Hyde Park, New York has used its considerable gastronomic knowledge to help those who suffer from gluten intolerance. Richard J. Coppedge Jr. is a professor of baking and pastry arts at the CIA and a Certified Master Baker. He is also the author of Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America (Adams Media, Avon, MA).
Gluten-Free Baking is more than just a cookbook, it is a guide to understanding alternative baking procedures. It is written for people with at least a casual understanding of the baking arts so it would be necessary for novice to do a quick crash course in baking elementals before tackling Coppedge’s opus. Within the pages you will find baked goods that many celiac sufferers had written off for good like molten chocolate cake, ham and cheese scones, and even soft pretzels.
The secret to Coppedge’s magic are his five flour blends which are specially formulated to mimic gluten-full flours. Flour blend #1 mimics cake flour and consists of white rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch. Blends 2, 3, and 4 are more like all purpose flour with variations designed for different applications while #5 is the “strongest” blend which is high in protein not unlike bread flour. Many of the advanced recipes actually use more than one of blends. All five blends use white rice flour as their base and then other ingredients like guar gum (blend #3), brown rice flour (#2), and whey powder (#5) are added.
Gluten-Free Baking is perfect for anyone who has a gluten sensitive family member. This book has been endorsed and celebrated by pioneers in the gluten-free movement like George Chookazian, founder of Foods by George and Bob Levy of Bob & Ruth’s Gluten-free Dining & Travel Club. Dr. Peter H. R. Green, a professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University says, “Chef Coppedge has made it easy for those who need to maintain such a diet. With recipes ranging from sweet to savory, this book is essential for anyone who wants to live a gluten-free lifestyle.”
Editor’s note: a new book for celiac sufferers has just been relased that may be of interest as well. It is The G-Free Diet: A Gluten Survival Guide by Elizabeth Hasselbeck wife of NFL quarterback Tim Hesselbeck.
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