By American Quality Foods' President Kathy Milner
Is it possible to make gluten free products in a kitchen that also makes wheat-containing foods? Yes, and it is not even difficult.
My quality engineer and I had the opportunity to visit two large universities this summer and make our gluten free mixes in their busy kitchens and test the final products on site for gluten proteins. We tested the muffins, cookies, and cakes for gluten levels that are far more stringent than the government standard. Everything we made turned out to be free of gluten to 10 ppm or less.
How did we do it? The only stipulations we required was all participants put on fresh gloves and not introduce any gluten containing flours in the area where we were working. We used all of the equipment and bakeware normally used for wheat containing products including the convection ovens. Other than using parchment paper on the sheet pans and liners in the muffin pans, we used no special procedure.
At both universities, it surprised the staff that everything produced tested gluten free. Both universities had big misconceptions about how difficult (or even impossible) it is to use gluten free mixes like ours unless they are made in an allergen free kitchen.
Of course, an allergen free kitchen is ideal and it is much less likely that a mistake of cross contamination will be made! However, with some basic staff training, any kitchen can be used. To gain confidence in your process, you can run an inexpensive and simple gluten test to be sure you are exceeding the government guidelines.
As you are all aware, more and more students are choosing a gluten free diet. It can be as serious as Celiac Disease (only 1% of the population), an intolerance to gluten, or or a lifestyle choice because they simply feel better. Although there are many pre-made gluten free products on the market, there is just nothing better tasting than a freshly baked cookie.
For more tips about gluten free baking in your commercial kitchen, you can download our booklet Gluten Free Baking in Foodservice by clicking here.