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Gluten-free baking is on the rise: Tips and recipes from the experts

May 8, 2013
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Gluten-free baking is on the rise as more and more people minimise or cut out wheat from their diets. Celebrities who are known to follow a gluten-free diet include Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rachel Weisz. But going gluten-free isn't a foodie fad that's exclusively for the A list. "Every single nutritionist, doctor and health-conscious person I have ever come across...seems to concur that [gluten] is tough on the system and many of us are at best intolerant of it and at worst allergic to it," writes Gwyneth in her new healthy-eating cookbook, It's All Good.

Gluten is a protein found in grains including wheat, barley and rye, meaning it's a prevalent ingredient in bread, cake, pasta, pizza, biscuits and many of the processed products on today's supermarket shelves. Years ago, there weren't many alternatives to gluten and cutting it out meant a potentially restrictive and bland diet. However, as the demand for gluten-free food increased, so did the variety of appealing alternatives. 

HELLO! have quizzed the experts to bring you the lowdown on the advantages of a gluten-free diet, how to bake without gluten and the tastiest gluten-free recipes going. 

So what's the harm in gluten? 

"Gluten is particularly difficult for the human digestive system to break down, resulting in a host of health issues," says nutritionist Penny Crowther. "Not only is the digestive system affected but osteoporosis, anaemia, brain fog, depression and fatigue are more likely." "The problem with modern wheat is that it is very different from the wheat of pre-1950," says cardiologist William Davis. "Since the Second World War, wheat has undergone genetic manipulation to make it disease and drought-resistant and massively increase its yield. "There is emerging research that the genetic meddling with wheat may be responsible for its effect on inflammation, the immune system, imbalanced hormones and weight gain."

 What's the difference between coeliac disease and gluten intolerance? 

"Coeliac disease involves a severe wheat allergy associated with an autoimmune condition, explains Penny. "This is an end-stage condition. What is much more common is a milder form of gluten sensitivity rather than allergy. "Coeliac disease, although it is on the increase, still only affects a small percentage of the population." 

Is it hard to bake without using gluten? 

Gluten-free baking can seem like a contradictory term since gluten is the ingredient that gives cakes their spring and bread its elasticity. Despite this, it is possible to indulge in gluten-free versions of your favourite baked treats without losing out on flavour, texture or the wonderfully comforting feeling that home baking brings. 

What should I do differently when baking without gluten? 

"Baking gluten-free cakes is not difficult, but you often need to approach it in a slightly different way to conventional baking," says Charlotte Pike, MD of Go Free Foods, an award-winning 'free-from' specialist bakery. "Gluten free flours are very different to traditional wheat flours in terms of texture and absorbency, so it is always best to follow an allergy-friendly recipe when starting out. "Look for UK based recipes and ones which use the same brand of flour as you are buying as they vary enormously."

 Apart from gluten-free flour, are there any other appealing alternatives? 

"If you are able to eat nuts, there are many wonderful nut-based cakes what contain ground almonds or hazelnuts instead of flour," explains Charlotte. 

Will my gluten-free baking taste the same as normal baking? 

"It is possible to make delicious allergy friendly cakes with the same texture and flavour as their standard counterparts," says Charlotte. "It is harder to make bread look, taste and have the same texture, but there are some good breads and bread recipes around."HELLO! Online's editor loves Knead bakery — it's "the best gluten-free bread" she's ever tasted! 

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