What is gluten, and what’s the big deal?

Gluten is a substance found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is very destructive to the digestive tracts and overall health of people with celiac disease and other forms of gluten intolerance. And it’s in almost everything in the contemporary American diet. It may seem like no big deal to eat without gluten or wheat—simply substitute something else, or do without entirely. But doing without is a problem, not only because wheat and gluten are everywhere in prepared foods, but also because it’s very hard to live without bread or baked goods—we crave the tastes and textures of wheat-based foods. And when everyone else around us is eating yummy things we can’t have, it makes us sad. Substituting is also more complicated than it seems—it turns out that the reason gluten-containing wheat is so extensively used is, well, because of the gluten.

Gluten is a stretchy binder in the wheat particle, in the grain of flour. When you think of fluffy, porous, highly risen bread, that’s the gluten. Gluten allows for tiny elastic strands to bind the flour, interacting with expanders like yeast, eggs, or baking soda to create softness and lightness in a form that also holds itself together. Without gluten, generally things can be dense, and fall apart (both literally and metaphorically).

Baking gluten-free, it turns out, is not an oxymoron, thank goodness—it can be done. Starting with a close reading of traditional baking principles, borrowing heavily from the art of cooking, taking in some recently-established GF baking tricks, and proceeding with a willingness to blend and depart from each of these to create experimental disasters, a new alchemy is revealed. And it’s not really very hard, just different from what we might have grown up with.

GF baking is a fun and open field, with more opportunity for discovery and innovation than in more traditional baking, where nearly everything has been done over and over for centuries. But one person’s fun is another’s frustrating burden, and what’s great about Cooqi is that we have taken the guesswork out of gluten-free baking. Now, you can make your own delicacies, to please and amaze your friends and family, with absolutely no gluten. And you don’t need to understand or explain any of that science-y stuff—just enjoy!!