Rather than taking an existing formula and removing wheat flour, Carson recommends starting anew. Sorghum flour is one option. “Sorghum flour offers a gluten-free solution that is competitively priced with other flours, and more economical than specialty starches," she says, noting that the flour “has a fine granulation to contribute to an acceptable mouthfeel in finished products."
White sorghum flour has a light color and neutral flavor and is processed similar to wheat flour. “The neutral flavor of white sorghum flour can be beneficial because it does not add an unfamiliar or distinctive taste," Carson says. “The whole-grain white sorghum flour can be used to provide nutritional benefits associated with whole grains. We are looking at white sorghum flour and whole-grain white sorghum flour for whole-grain, multigrain and gluten-free applications, and have used sorghum flour in gluten-free products such as pancakes, cookies, buns, cakes and more."
Cassava flour is also suited to gluten-free baking. The cassava root is the source of tapioca starch and tapioca flour. Mel Festejo, chief operating officer, American Key Food Products, Closter, NJ, says the company’s cassava flour was specifically designed for use in gluten-free baking. Its point of difference is customization of granulation, and the drying process helps achieve a certain level of gelatinization of its starch content. “The granulation of the flour is designed to approximate the particle-size distribution in wheat flour and was one of the critical parameters that was controlled to yield the best attributes in baking," he says.
Its functionality is described as similar to a cake flour. “For the most part, it is a drop-in replacement for wheat flour, thus eliminating the need for any other starches, flours or hydrocolloids," Festejo continues. “The other ingredients that affect the finished product, such as leavening, are simple tweaks that allow bakers to obtain the finished product that they are looking for. Even a simple combination of the cassava flour and potato starch can make a white sandwich bread that is better than a lot of the commercially available breads in the market today. While we have shown that our cassava flour can produce good breads and pizza crusts with potato starch as the only other flour or starch ingredient in the blend, we have also observed that there is good synergy between our flour and rice flour, which results in even better breads."
Ultimately, the mainstream success of gluten-free products will depend on whether they are as good as gluten-containing products. As a food technologist who watched the rise and fall of the fat-free and low-carb product crazes, other than addressing the needs of celiac sufferers, I can’t help but see some similarities in today’s consumer quest for gluten-free.
Cindy Hazen, a 20-year veteran of the food industry, is a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Securing the Label
Like many food issues today, the matter of gluten-free labeling has become political. U.S. senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) sent a July 21, 2011 letter to FDA demanding that the proposed rule on gluten-free labeling be finalized. “The regulatory uncertainty surrounding FDA’s inaction has led to a proliferation of ‘gluten-free’ standards and labels provided by third-party groups. This creates confusion for consumers, and hesitancy amongst producers on what their requirements will be," the letter stated.
Granted, the regulations for labeling gluten are as dusty as a used flour bin. Though efforts by FDA began with the proposed rule on gluten-free labeling published in the Jan. 23, 2007 Federal Register, finality is not in clear sight.
In August of this year, FDA reopened the comment period for its 2007 proposal on labeling foods as “gluten-free." The proposed rule dictates that foods carrying the claim cannot exceed 20 ppm gluten.
FDA offers a list of prohibited grains in which gluten proteins occur. These are from the genus Triticum and include wheat and different varieties, such as spelt and kamut, as well as rye and barley, and crossbred hybrids of wheat, rye and barley. Oats are excluded from this list and may be used.