Thursday December 12, 2016
by Rich Lansdale
Accommodating Gluten Free Diets in your Restaurant
Today’s restaurant customers can seem overly demanding to the casual observer. Some patrons request gluten-free products. Gluten free menus may seem like the industry’s latest buzz word, but celiac disease or intolerance to products made from wheat, barley or rye is a common problem suffered by a significant minority of the population.
While less than one percent of Americans have celiac disease and follow a gluten-free diet as a medical necessity, many others are ditching bread for other reasons. Some believe a gluten-free diet offers a healthier lifestyle and avoid gluten products because it simply makes them feel better.
Gluten-free menus make it easier for people with this condition to eat out, but restaurant staff still need to be prepared for questions. For example, are fries cooked in the same oil as chicken fingers which are floured?
As a restaurant owner, you want to address the issue, but you don’t to compromise your quality. Luckily for all of us, an entire industry of wheat and grain alternatives is now available. Take a moment to explore your options. You may be surprised by how many ways you can avoid adding wheat or gluten to your menu.
Alternatives to Traditional Flour
Consider what you need your alternative flour to do. If you want to just throw it in your mixer and make your lovely, artisanal bread, try coconut flour.
Coconut flour is made from the pulp leftover from the process of making coconut milk. The meat of the coconut is dried in an oven or dehydrator and then ground into a soft, usable flour which is obviously gluten free. It has an almost traditional flour look and texture. It’s full of carbohydrates and fiber, with five grams of fiber in just two tablespoons.
Before you use coconut flour in baking, you must keep in mind that it requires about double the liquid of wheat flour. Coconut flour is much drier than your average wheat flour and absorbs a lot more moisture, including liquid from eggs.
When baking with coconut flour, add an additional 20 percent of water or milk (or whatever liquid the recipe requires), and, for every cup of coconut flour, you will need at least three eggs. Many coconut flour bakers recommend you give your batter time to sit once all the ingredients are mixed together to ensure the flour and the liquids are fully merged.
Coconut flour users love the product and claim the final baked product is more aesthetically pleasing.
Baking and cooking with coconut flour can take a little practice, and you may want to experiment with mixing it in with different alternative flours to keep your bread and pastries from being too dry.
Cassava Root Makes Great Flour
Another great gluten free flour to reach for when stocking your restaurant kitchen is cassava. Cassava, also known as yucca, is an ugly, brown root that can be skinned, dried and powdered into a usable and tasty flour. In fact, many fans of this flour brag consumers can’t tell the difference between regular and cassava flour.
There are a few health reasons why cassava flour is so popular. Anyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or just general stomach discomfort finds baked goods made with cassava flour are much easier on their digestive tract. People with nut allergies can’t eat almond or coconut flour, so yucca is a great, allergen-free choice.
Fans of this flour cite taste and recipe convenience as the main reasons to use it as a substitute for traditional flours. This alternative flour doesn’t have any flavor of its own. Cassava is neutral and soft, and it is used in the exact same amounts as called for in recipes calling for white flour.
One serving of cassava has 1.6 grams of protein and 1.6 grams of fat, making it a very light choice that doubles as a protein supplement. The same serving size also packs in over 11 grams of fiber and about 417 grams of sodium, making it easy to eat and process.
Cassava can be used to make desserts or standard bread, and there are lots of great cassava recipes available online for you to try.
Banana flour sounds like a strictly dessert- or banana-bread-making flour, but this new product is versatile and completely gluten free.
This unique product is made strictly from green bananas. The sugar content is low, and the flavor mellow and neutral. The unripe bananas are peeled, sliced, dried, ground into flour, and packaged.
Banana flour recipes require less flour than other recipes. This is due to the higher starch content. It binds more easily with wet ingredients. You can also blend banana flour with other flours with no effect on the final product. Like cassava flour, this product is allergen-free and gluten-free, which makes it a popular choice for establishments offering gluten-free products on their menu.
Banana flour adherents claim it is full of a disease-resistant starch and has a high potassium content. Many places advertise products made from banana bread as being healthier for you, especially products like sling brownies and pies.
Producers assure buyers that using this flour produces light and fluffy bakery products. While the flour does have a light banana smell and taste in its raw state, bakers who use it claim this goes away as soon as the ingredient is blended with the other ingredients.
While it may seem like a major shift in your kitchen operation to make your baked goods gluten-free, many believe it worth the time and effort. Even if your customers don’t suffer from celiac disease, or have allergies or sensitive stomachs, they will appreciate the effort you put into your menu to make choices available for everyone.
Many customers who have given up bread to avoid gluten will appreciate the option of eating bread products again. While others may be intrigued with the unique ingredients and convert to consuming and baking or cooking with alternatives to standard flour.
Experiment with all kinds of flours as you move away from traditional baking so you can adjust to the new textures, demands, and tastes that each non-wheat flour brings to the kitchen. Soon, the slight changes in recipes or preparation, depending on the alternative flour you use, will become second nature to you and your kitchen staff.