It was a good Christmas. We convinced the beautiful wife the iphone 5 she wanted wasn’t happening quite yet. All her friends had upgraded phones, but not the BW. Then we hid her new phone in a hollowed out book, wrapped the book extra special, and slipped it under the tree.
When the BW opened the gift, so obviously a book, and realized it was a book she had already read, it took all of her discipline to give a gracious smile of thanks. She hides disappointment well; experience is a good teacher. Just then her ‘book’ began to vibrate and ring. It’s good when the screams of delight don’t just come from the children.
I’ve been working on a wheat cracker recipe (see below) but the thread of my thoughts keeps returning to the issues around wheat. Grains are endorsed in the Word of Wisdom as the “staff of life,” especially wheat. But some people are allergic to wheat, especially the gluten in wheat. Gluten intolerance—which is hard to diagnose—can lead to celiac disease, a serious condition that attacks the lining of the small intestine.
The problem of gluten intolerance is growing, as noted in a N. Y. Times article. Blood samples collected 50 years ago but recently tested, showed 0.2% in a group of 9133 had gluten intolerance. Recent comparison tests found 0.9% intolerant—over a four-fold increase in half a century. Investigation also revealed reduced longevity for those of the 9133 group that were gluten intolerant.
So there is a conflict: The W of W endorses wheat but for some, the gluten in wheat presents a deadly threat. Every food group has an allergy risk—peanuts, for example, present a serious risk to some. And while allergies in general have been rising, gluten has been more in the news.
Here are a few facts:
- Though gluten intolerance is estimated at 1% of the population, most with symptoms (diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss) go undiagnosed.
- Gluten is mainly found in wheat, but also in grains like rye, barley, and triticale (a cross of wheat and rye).
- Gluten has a function—it gives bread the doughy texture and creates the matrix that allows CO2 bubbles to form so bread can rise.
- Gluten is not just one protein but a family of proteins. As new grain varieties are developed, new forms of the gluten are discovered—gluten forms that we’ve not had generations for the G.I. tract to adapt.
Why is gluten intolerance increasing?
Like many questions in nutrition, we’re not sure. But here are possible causes:
- New hybrids of wheat, some created by GMO or irradiation, have new gluten proteins not seen before. The human body has not had generation to adapt to these proteins.
- It’s not just that wheat has changed, but modern roller mill refining produces flour that lacks traditional nutrients found in the germ and bran. In addition, since the early ‘40s, synthetic forms of some vitamins have been added.
- The large collection of bacteria in our G.I. tract is essential to digestion and the nature of this biotic colony changes with our diet, or with antibiotics we consume. The modern American diet causes a different colony than a traditional diet, for example. I suspect a health diet produces a healthy biotic colony.
- In the late 19th century fast-rising yeasts were developed. In times past natural yeasts were used, as in sourdough breads, which took much longer to ferment. Today’s fast-rising yeast gives less time for bacteria to break down the gluten during fermentation.
So when I searched for a wheat cracker recipe, in view of reason #4, I looked for a sourdough recipe. I found one in Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. Fallon, with Mary Enig, is a big proponent of sprouting, soaking, and fermenting of grains and legumes. These traditional processes make nutrients more available for digestion, and also help break down glutens.
Sourdough Wheat Cracker Recipe
Here is my adaptation of Fallon’s recipe:
- 2-½ C fresh whole wheat flour
- 1 C plain yogurt
- 1-½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ C toasted sesame seeds
- 8 T butter, melted
- White flour (to help handle sticky dough)
- Mix freshly ground flour with yogurt and let sit 24 hours in a warm place to ferment.
- To fermented dough, add salt, baking soda, and 4 T butter. Mix in food processor until blended. Add sesame seeds and pulse just enough to blend.
- Roll out dough on a floured surface until less than 1/8” thick. Cut into shapes and place on baking pan. (I used my new Silpat matt but the thin cracker was hard to handle. The BW suggested we need a pasta maker, for thin crackers.)
- Brush remaining butter over crackers and bake in a warm oven (275 F.) until browned and crispy. (About an hour for my recipe.)
I got a good gluten education out of my cracker research. I enjoyed the crackers with cheese but I have to admit that others—even the grandchildren—were less impressed. It doesn’t appear the BW is converted to homemade crackers, just yet. Please share your experience with gluten, soaking/sprouting/fermenting, or homemade crackers. There’s more to learn here.