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The Big GF Chew

August 26, 2014

By Beth Hillson

Last weekend when I did a bread machine demo at the GF Food and Allergy Fest in Indianapolis, I was reminded why I am so passionate about my bread.

In an excerpt from my new book, The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free, I wrote a personal essay called The Big Chew: A History of Bread.  In essence, the essay explains why, once I found good bread again, I was not going without it for a single day!

Here’s part of that essay:  “The first time I was diagnosed with celiac disease as a young child, I ate a lot of bananas—fried, mashed with dates, wrapped in Canadian bacon and broiled. Indeed, it was a strange but fascinating menu.  I ate broiled steak, cottage cheese, and all the butter I wanted. But there was no bread.

For more than three years, no starches or sugar came across my plate. Gradually potatoes, corn, rice, and wheat reappeared. About that time I was pronounced “cured.” (We now know you can’t be cured.)

When I was twenty-two and traveling in Europe. I fell in love with brioche, Brötchen, and croissant. Dipping hard rolls in café au lait, slathering sweet butter and homemade jam on rich brioche, this was yummyness to the third power.

Back in the USA, I signed on with two roommates in a walkup on Beacon Hill in Boston. Every Friday, one of them baked whole wheat bread. I couldn’t wait to reach our apartment, where I was greeted by a burst of steam from the oven and the aroma of freshly baked bread.  We cut the bread thickly and draped one side with butter and fresh honey. I ate with a gluten frenzy, as if this might be my last slice of bread. Little did I know.

In 1976, I was rediagnosed with celiac disease. These two memories of “real” bread lingered in my culinary DNA, but it would be years until I found a gluten-free bread that approximated the chew and taste of the real stuff that filled my days in Europe and on Beacon Hill.  Until then, the big chew was gone. I was facing a gluten unload.”

We’ve come a long way since those days when bread tasted more like Styrofoam than a crusty, chewy loaf.  In the eighties, I finally figured out a good formula and I made it over and over.  That became Gluten-Free Pantry Favorite Sandwich Bread Mix.  For years my son and I relied on that bread for toast, sandwiches, and even rolls.

Today there are so many wonderful gluten free breads available – - Glutino Breads and Udi’s Gluten Free Breads.  You don’t even have to bake to enjoy great breads.

But I don’t take our breads for granted.  I remember when a sandwich crumbled the minute you tried to take a bite and when a slice had to be toasted three times to give it decent taste and texture.

We’ve come a long way and I, for one, am grateful for light, yeasty slices of the big chew.  How about you?  When you began this gluten free journey, what breads were your go-to favorites?