For someone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, eating well can be a struggle. And even today, with many gluten-free products on the grocery store shelves, a crusty baguette might seem only a far-off dream.
In his second volume on gluten-free cooking, Landolphi not only shortens the time it takes to prepare a satisfying variety of gluten-free foods; but offers recipes for hard-to-find homemade favorites such as crepes, corn dogs, pizza crust, Thanksgiving stuffing and, yes, a rosemary-garlic baguette.
Landolphi is culinary operations manager at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, where he has helped build a state-of-the art gluten-free menu for its students and faculty. He is a recognized national expert on gluten-free cuisine and knows what it means to live a gluten-free life.
In the late 1990s, Landolphi’s wife Angela was diagnosed with celiac disease -- an ailment that for years had brought her misery in many forms: headaches, hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, and nearly a decade of heart-breaking infertility.
Celiac disease is an immune system disorder triggered by the presence of gluten in the digestive tract. It causes the tiny villi in the intestine to lose their ability to absorb nutrients, leading to a variety of symptoms associated with malnutrition. The disorder affects an estimated three million Americans; and experts suspect that gluten intolerance unrelated to celiac disease affects ten times that number. There is no cure, per se, but a gluten-free diet can bring a dramatic turn-around in the sufferer’s health.
The diagnosis was a revelation to the Landolphis and the beginning of a gluten-free lifestyle that restored Angela’s health and brought the couple the three young sons they have today. They reluctantly sold The Sugar Shack -- their popular bakery café near the UConn campus – and Rob began his “personal mission” to perfect a collection of gluten-free recipes of the highest standard.
Quick-Fix Gluten Free, available as of Aug. 23, offers more than 100 dishes– none of which take more than 30 minutes of preparation time. (Some leavened baked goods need time to rise or bake, of course.) Landolphi starts with breakfast and works has way through eight other categories of food, including appetizers, salads, international items, battered and fried dishes, breads and sweets.
Most of the recipes were inspired by the fans of his first, the Gluten-Free Every Day Cookbook, written in 2009. (It, like Quick Fix, is published by Andrews McMeel Publishing.) They told him of the foods they had been missing since starting their gluten-free lives. They also told him how grateful they were that his recipes and lessons could restore their ability to eat like their gluten-using counterparts.
Landolphi’s sugar-glazed cinnamon roll recipe, for example, was created for his wife, who otherwise would have to go through life without them or their wonderful aroma in the morning. A reader from the South asked for help creating chicken and dumpling soup like her grandmother used to make. Landolphi obliged with dumplings made of rice flour and egg.
Landolphi’s version of a Thanksgiving stuffing – another fan request -- has an Italian spin with pancetta, sausage and mozzarella. It relies on Udi’s Whole Grain Bread – one line of brand-name gluten-free products he says produces good results in his recipes. There are others identified throughout the book to help the gluten-free cook with the shopping.
As for those baguettes, another food his wife missed in particular, Landolphi relies on a blend of non-gluten flours to create a dough that can be leavened with yeast and also produce the crunchy crust that gives artisan bread its special character.
The chef spends a lot of time in the book instructing the home baker on how to handle doughs – even pizza crust – that don’t have the benefit of gluten to give them strength.
Quick Fix Gluten-Free is, in fact, more than a collection of recipes and Landolphi’s personal anecdotes about what inspired them. It is also a manual of principles, techniques and equipment that greatly expand the home cook’s ability to create original gluten-free dishes of his or her own.
In a section called “The gluten free pantry,” Landolphi itemizes and explains the wide variety of wheat-flour substitutes useful in his kind of cooking.
His recipes for waffles and pancakes start with a blend of tapioca, corn and white rice flour, for example. These are some fairly common binders, as are as arrowroot, guar gum, cornstarch and soy flour. But there are others he uses like black bean flour, teff flour, sorghum flour, and sweet potato flour. Landolphi embraces them all and teaches the at-home cook how to make homemade flour blends that have the correct properties for binding and flavoring other ingredients.
Landolphi, who got his culinary training at Johnson & Wales, also shares his years secrets for building layers of flavor into dishes and baked goods – using processed potato chips or ground coffee mixed with herbs as crusting agents on meat, for example.
It’s cooking knowledge that is a powerful asset for recipes – gluten-free or otherwise.