Here’s what you miss most when you give up gluten: baked things with light, fluffy insides and crispy, flaky crusts, like focaccia right from the oven, pillowy sesame rolls, thin-crust pizza, chocolate birthday cake, pies you can sink your teeth into – in short, all the foods that make life worth living.
Fortunately, some local restaurant chains and supermarkets have woken up to the fact that increasing numbers of us are gluten intolerant, forced to give up anything containing the sticky protein present in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and potentially in oats. People with coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity can’t tolerate gluten: just 50 milligrams of the protein – about the amount in one small crouton – is enough to cause trouble!
So we at the GH office (well, the gluten-sensitive among us) were quite excited to taste Woolworth’s new fresh bakery range of gluten-free breads, rolls, biscuits, muffins and cakes including lemon drizzle slices, carrot cake slices, brownies and fruit cake. Instead of wheat, various gluten-free flours are used, such as rice, maize, potato, pea and soya flour, as well as a blend of corflour, tapioca starch, potato starch and rice flour.
Explains Zyda Rylands, Woolworths Managing Director: Food, ‘With food allergies and intolerances on the increase and our focus on offering more and more options for individuals with special dietary needs, we took the decision to substantially increase our gluten-free offering. We’ve worked closely with our supplier, who has built a new facility that is entirely wheat- and gluten-free, enabling us to guarantee that our gluten-free range really is gluten free.’ She continues, ‘… we were determined not to compromise on taste, and are exceptionally proud of the flavours and textures our new fresh bakery range delivers. It’s hard to tell it apart from the regular bakery range!’
Is it really? We put it to the test. ‘This is a major step forward,’ said Sarel, our art director, who usually opts for gluten-free foods. The banana muffins impressed him: ‘They’re light and fluffy, and they taste like normal muffins.’ He also liked the seeded bread, ‘if you’re looking for a light alternative to a normal seed loaf that won’t leave you feeling bloated.’ Paula, our chief copy editor, responded, ‘The gluten-free carrot cake is divine! I would never have guessed it’s gluten-free. It’s a little moister than usual, but it’s fab.’ But others commented that the carrot cake didn’t have the expected texture and was ‘a bit slimy’, and that the seeded rolls were dry and not light or fluffy.
The products are on the pricier side – R36,95 for a seeded loaf and R19,95 for a pack of two smallish muffins – but that’s only to be expected for a niche product. All in all, we applaud Woolworths for their foresight. (And we hope three-tier gluten-free chocolate birthday cakes are on the way.)
The new Woolworths range is stocked in 90 stores around the country, on specially marked gluten-free shelves.
Get your gluten-free fix at these recommended eateries:
Gino’s, with branches in Joburg and Stellenbosch, do a fabulous wheat-free pizza made from rye dough. Light, and perfectly crispy on the outside, it’s almost indistinguishable from the real Italian deal. Gino’s Robertsham: 126 Harry Street, 011 680 1819; Ginos at De Kelder, 63 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, +2721 887 9786. www.ginos.co.za
Col’caccio serve gluten-free pasta and pizza with inspired toppings in their restaurants in the Western Cape, Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng: see
Knead bakeries (in Cape Town and at Vodacom Corporate Park, Midrand) sell tasty 100% rye bread, gluten-free bread and gluten-free pizzas
Martin’s Bakery in Cape Town offer an extensive range of gluten-, wheat- and sugar-free bakes (think fruit muffins, monster cookies and Florentines, breads, quiches, pies). 43 main road, Diep River, 021 7128555, www.martinsbakery.co.za.