Gluten-Free Goodness

Tri-City Herald   .   20 Dec 2006   .  Loretto J. Hulse, Herald staff writer

‘Tis the season for parties, dining out and nibbling and noshing ’round the coffee pot at the office. But what if you couldn’t? What if simply handling foods made with wheat made you ill?

There wouldn’t be a lot of joy in the holidays, or really, any time of the year.

There would be no Christmas cookies, no rum balls, no selecting a slice of this, a spoonful of that from the buffet table.

But leading a wheatless life has become easier, and a lot tastier, since Gayle Noga opened the doors of Giggles Gluten Free Bakery in Kennewick.

It’s a brand-new business, just over two months old. But Noga is an old hand at baking without wheat.

Fifteen years ago, Noga became ill and nearly died. What she loved to do — bake — was killing her.

Noga’s gluten-intolerant. Simply handling flour or eating anything made with wheat, rye or barley — which all contain varying amounts of gluten — triggers an autoimmune response and her body literally attacks itself.

“I was diagnosed on April Fools’ Day and, at first, I thought my doctor was kidding,” Noga said.

It wasn’t a joke.

“Everything in my life changed. I went home and cleaned out anything that had those grains in it,” she said.

When done she said, “there wasn’t much left.”

Even the oatmeal had to go. In the U.S., oats are commonly hauled and processed using the same equipment as other grains. Unless they’re certified gluten-free, Noga, and others like her, or anyone with an allergy to wheat, can’t risk eating them.

There’s simply too much chance of cross contamination, she said.

It doesn’t take much to trigger a reaction. Even tiny particles clinging to a knife used to cut wheat bread then used to cut Noga’s food is enough to make her ill.

“And I’m sick for days. It wipes me out,” she said.

Yet she wasn’t about to give up baking.

In fact, anyone who’s gluten intolerant or allergic to wheat has to learn to bake and cook for themselves because there’s very little out there for us, said Bonnie Para of Richland. Para, who started out as a customer, now makes cheesecakes and chocolate tortes for the bakery.

And they’re more expensive because the different flours — rice, potato, amaranth, tapioca and others — used in wheat-free foods cost more to produce.

“Just like salt-free, or sugar-free foods, any time you leave something out, any time you make a specialty product, it costs more,” Noga said.

“It’s getting better. But sometimes gluten-free foods are lacking, either in flavor or texture or both,” Para said.

Breads are especially difficult. The flours each react differently to varying amounts of water, so you need to experiment to find out which amounts of which flours work together. It’s a whole new way of cooking, of baking, and a lot of people get discouraged fast, Noga said.

“I’ve learned to compensate, to change the flours I use,” she said.

Noga’s also learned how to use ingredients like xanthan gum to add volume to breads, lecithin granules for a tender crumb and arrowroot starch for thickening.

“It’s a real trial to find a recipe that produces something that’s moist with a good texture and flavor,” Noga said.

Which is why Noga opened a gluten-free bakery.

“I wanted to give people who can’t tolerate gluten options. To give them back those things they had to give up,” she said.

In addition to breads — both sandwich and sweetened quick types — she makes muffins, cookies, pies, apple crisp and more. She also sells a variety of gluten-free dry mixes for those who want to do their own baking.

In addition to being gluten-free, Noga’s baked goods and flour mixes are made from organic and certified Kosher ingredients.

Allergic to dairy, corn or another food? Talk to Noga. It’s not uncommon for someone who’s gluten intolerant to have to avoid other foods too. She may already have a recipe for a bread or desert that fits your dietary needs.

“If not, I’ll do my best to accommodate them,” she said.

Giggles Gluten-Free Bakery is at 308 W. Kennewick Ave. Noga also sells her baked goods and mixes through her Web site, http://glutenfreebakery.biz.*

*Please note: Giggles Gluten-Free Bakery no longer operates a retail deli. Current contact information:

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More information available:

For more information on celiac disease, the National Institutes of Health has a Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign Web site, www.celiac.nih.gov. Or call 1-800-891-5389.

There’s also a Celiac Sprue Association, www.csaceliacs.org.

An excellent source for gluten-free products and recipes is Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, Ore. The company’s products are available in stores and on the Web, www.bobsredmill.com. Or call 1-800-349-2173.

The company also has a cookbook, Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book by John Ettinger, $30, available in bookstores.

* Reporter Loretto J. Hulse can be reached at 582-1513 or via e-mail at lhulse@tricityherald.com.