Saturday, June 13, 2015

Horror House of Gluten

If you want to really give yourself the willies, read up on the horror that is modern wheat.

To start with, its development reads like a hammer house of horror. Modern wheat is a mutant of 42 chromosomes to the 14 of old varieties, developed over years of genetic modification. It makes me think of those old paintings of rectangular cows, or Frankenstein. You can't see it, but you're eating Frankenwheat.

This Frankenwheat contains a whole load of new proteins that our bodies can't assimilate. If they can't be assimilated through our digestive process, they pass directly into the intestine where they are free to wreak havoc.

If you're one of the 1% suffering from Coeliac disease, it's like having Frankenstein on crack rampaging around your belly wielding a flail and inflaming your insides. Not nice. Torture, actually.

You might think that if you're not totally intolerant, you're okay. Unfortunately, a new study from the US shows that modern wheat is toxic for all of us. Even if you're in tip top good health, eating wheat products merely increases the permeability of your intestine by perturbing the intestinal hormone zonuline, with dire results.

Not only does your intestine struggle to assimilate the nutrients you're so keenly consuming (rather than stuffing your face with crisps, hotdogs and doughnuts), but it can't stop certain proteins getting into the blood stream to act as front-line terrorists triggering auto-immune diseases and upping the risk of cancer.

Two of these malevolent buggers are prolamines and glutenines which together form the infamous protein gluten. Don't be duped. Modern gluten is bad Bad BAD. More and more people are suffering from its effects, including diarrhea, bloating, depression, joint pain, etc.

So cutting out gluten could happily cure your digestive problems, make you feel happier, less open to infections and give you more energy.

Does that croissant/slice of toast/baguette sarnie/pizza/spag bol/cake look quite as appetising now?

Even if you're in glowing health, eating a gluten-free diet reduces the production of proinflammatory cytokines, and by consequence, makes you less at risk from the effects of inflammation (heart disease, cancer, depression, etc.).

Having given myself the willies, and tried to frighten the boys, with a marked lack of success, I decided to try eating as little gluten as possible. I'm not a gluten-free nazi, but when I'm in my own home, I'm just not eating normal bread, pizza, cake or wheat pasta. Funnily enough, my boys are bored with my bread machine bread (although not the pizza dough it makes...) and are thus eating less bread because they want me to buy baguettes, and I'll buy no more than one of those a day, if that.

Instead, I eat Pain des Fleurs buckwheat crackers, lentil pasta, and I've started making my own bread. It doesn't look anything like the dry yellow stuff you see under plastic in the gluten-free aisles in supermarkets, and tastes surprisingly good.

Stylish inside and out
In France, there's a stylish seasonal magazine on gluten-free cooking and 'art de vivre' called Niépi that my yoga teacher told me about. She lent me the latest copy where I discovered the recipe for egg-free, gluten-free bread. I have nothing against eggs, but thought I'd give it a go for the hell of it.

The recipe called for 40 minutes in the oven. If a skewer came out clean, it was cooked. My skewer did not come out clean after 40 minutes, or 50 minutes. I got cross at 55 minutes and shook it out of its silicone mould and stuffed it back in the oven, heat turned off.

It never actually finished cooking, but was sufficiently cooked to eat. When I tried it again a few days later in a metal Teflon mould, the result was even less cooked at 50 minutes. Does anyone have a suggestion about how long it actually takes?

Here is attempt one, looking pretty normal:

Gluten-free, egg-free bread (a bit undercooked)

It's made with rice flour, tapioca starch, buckwheat flour, flaxseeds, chia seeds, psyllium etc. My DB enjoyed too and took the recipe to see if he could make it in his bread machine as he has no oven.

Attempt two came out with an over-inflated top - I think I kneaded it too much, and I forgot the apple cider vinegar. And it was really undercooked. A mystery!

I found and tried a couple of other recipes in the mag, liked one of them so much I decided to splash out 20 Euro and buy all the electronic back copies.

All I need now is a Kindle Fire to read them on...

UPDATE 15/6/15
I emailed the Niépi people and they told me that gluten-free flour is not calibrated in the same way as wheat flour (Types 55,65,110 etc.) and so they absorb moisture to different degrees. It was suggested I reduce the amount of water, and leave the loaf in the oven on the rack once it had finished cooking. I tried this, and the third loaf came out perfectly. It rose properly and cooked properly, and tastes very good. Result!


  1. Hmmm... I'm aware that my diet is too wheat-based (isn't everyone's, really), so I try to eat oaty breakfast cereals instead of wheaty ones (Husband has porridge, but you have to be more of a mornings person than me to stomach that). I have tried to cut down on bread. But it's hard. Bread is so NICE! Is pasta ok, or is durum wheat evil too?

    1. Yep, pasta is evil too. I love bread and wheaty foods too but it's actually entertaining looking into other foods and searching out tasty alternatives. Variety is the spice of life. :)

  2. I don't know how long it should take, but I have baked cakes that take twice as long to cook as the recipe says. I just make a note on the recipe for next time. Sometimes the recipes are derived from industrial ones using huge quantities and industrial ovens so they don't translate to domestic easily, you just have to try it and make a note.

    PS Thanks for your help with the malware - worked a treat!

    1. I'll have to try leaving it in around an hour I reckon. Thanks. :)

      I'm glad you tried out the anti-malware software. You should be okay now.

  3. Sorry have been slack on the blogging front of late but good to catch up again.
    Thanks for frightening me witless!!
    I do like wheat but maybe I am on the right track as I have become quite a porridge fanatic at the moment.

    1. Weird - I wrote a reply to your message but it didn't stick, as it were. :) On my own blog too!
      Oh well. I've been through a porridge phase too, but I'm on a boiled egg phase at the moment. :)

  4. Dear Sarah

    My name is Joe Pinzone and I'm casting an international travel show about expats moving abroad. We'd love to film in France and wanted to know if you could help us find expats who have moved there within the last 15 months or have been there for 3-4 years, but recently moved into a new home. The show documents their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. The contributors on the show would also receive monetary compensation if they are filmed. If you'd like more information, please give me a call at 212-231-7716 or skype me at joefromnyc. You can also email me at Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Joe Pinzone
    Casting Producer
    P: 212-231-7716
    Skype: Joefromnyc

  5. I will email you, Joe.


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