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Does Gluten Glow in the Dark?

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Gluten free goes gourmet with mouthwatering cupcakes, pizza dough good enough to be served in mainstream restaurants across the Tucson landscape, breakfast burritos, and house-made pasta at Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery / Bistro.

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Going gluten free is a godsend to the multitudes of celiac sufferers. But to the rest of us the words "gluten free" or "gluten zero" or "GF" is an enigma. Gluten is the protein found in wheat barley, rye and other related grains. For celiac suffers, a severe autoimmune disorder, gluten causes damage to the lining of the small intestine.

A few years ago, people were hard pressed to find any gluten free products but that’s all changed. Walk into a Sprouts grocery store and the gluten free product section is no longer relegated to a small corner in the back; instead now sits up front near the produce and bulk bins. Gluten free has practically gone mainstream.The symbol GF can be found on many restaurant menus, food products and GF restaurants and bakeries are popping up.

Tucson boasts the Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery & Bistro, and on a recent Saturday afternoon lunch, it was standing room only. While eating gluten is not a dietary problem for me, my friend said she no longer eats sandwiches in restaurants because of being wheat intolerant. So, I invited her to lunch where she raved about the double-decker grilled cheese with heirloom tomato, avocado and bacon sandwich.

The words, “Indulge yourself again,” scroll across the wall and that is precisely how she felt. Indulged! The toasted bread in her sandwich came thinly-sliced with crunchy seeds on top. I chose the salad of mixed organic greens with brie, toasted pumpkin seeds, cranberries, pears and fig balsamic vinaigrette served with a piece of baguette. It was deliciously satisfying and oh, so fresh.

We could not leave without pondering over the baked goods. My friend also has a nut allergy so anything with peanut butter or nuts was verboten. We shared the chocolate drizzled cherry cupcake with cream filling. Gluten, schmuten…we didn’t miss a thing.

The Gourmet Girls are Susan Fulton and Mary Gibson who first came together for a catering business. When a client asked for gluten-free food they began to explore. At that time – three years ago – there were not too many acceptable (i.e. tasty) products in the marketplace and learned by trial and error.

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At last week’s gluten free cooking class, the “girls” and Chef Ryan made warm wilted winter salad with crunchy pine nut lemon topping, gluten free pasta with Alfredo sauce and Florentines with chocolate mousse and port wine syrup.

So what is gluten free pasta made from? Let’s see, brown rice and white rice flour, tapioca, potato flour, and xanthan gum to hold it all together. It looked like pasta and went though the pasta machine like pasta. This rich pasta dish is sometimes on the lunch menu.

Wheat has been around for a long time. Why the increase in gluten intolerance? Nobody including researchers know the exact cause but theories revolve around how wheat is grown and processed. For instance, wheat is higher in gluten than previously because it makes bread springier and easier to slice. Also, wheat is bred to produce higher yields or to be disease resistant.

While neither Fulton nor Gibson was gluten intolerant, they now eat gluten free. For Fulton, her migraines have disappeared and for Gibson, who was a former pastry chef in Sedona, her joint pain has greatly diminished.

Be sure to take some of the baked goods, pizza dough with toppings and without and quiche home. Some local Tucson restaurants are now buying the pizza dough. You can pre-order birthday and wedding cakes too. Currently, Gourmet Girls is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. but starting at the end of February will be open for dinner three nights a week.

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So, does gluten glow in the dark? Researchers have yet to make that determination. Gourmet Girls Gluten Free