Gluten-free scones are scones that do not contain any gluten ingredients. Gluten is a protein found primarily in pasta, bread, and other foods that contain rye, barley, or wheat. People who are sensitive to gluten or who suffer from celiac disease will trigger an immune reaction in their small intestines when they consume foods with gluten. This reaction damages the intestinal inner surface, affects the individual’s ability to absorb some nutrients, and can cause diarrhea and pain. A traditional scone contains gluten and cannot be enjoyed by those on a gluten-free diet.
Traditional scones are typically made with wheat or barley as well as butter, eggs, and cream. Sugar, salt, and baking powder are additional ingredients found in most traditional scones. The wheat or barley ingredients are intolerable for those on a gluten-free diet. If a flavoring like artificial vanilla extract is used, this may also be a concern if it contains grain alcohol.
A recipe for gluten-free scones will substitute gluten-free flour for the wheat or barley flour. Brown rice or tapioca flour are commonly used to substitute for wheat flour. Chickpea flour is also often used in gluten-free scones. As gluten-free flours work better in some combination, substitutions generally involve blending a variety of gluten-free flours and starches together into a mix.
The availability of recipes for gluten-free scones online and in gluten-free and vegan cookbooks can take the guesswork out of substitutions and mixes. Gluten-free multi-purpose flour is a convenient commercial blend of gluten-free flours like white and brown rice with tapioca and potato starch. Some gluten-free bakers experiment and create their own mixes and replicate gluten’s sticky effect by adding guar or xantham gum to the blend. The taste and texture of gluten-free scones typically does not vary significantly from those of the traditional version if proper substitutions are made for the gluten flours.
The gluten-free label is typically used to indicate a food product that contains a harmless level of gluten rather than one that does not contain any. The question of exactly what level of gluten is harmless is unresolved, however. The World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization’s codex alimentarius set the level of 20 milligrams or less in 2008. In 2007, the American Food and Drug Administration proposed a rule to limit the gluten-free label to foods with 20 parts per million or more gluten.
In addition to labeling concerns, gluten-free bakers should search for products made in a dedicated gluten-free facility. Gluten-free facilities help avoid the problem of cross-contamination. Although the product itself may not contain gluten, its ingredients may have been processed in a facility where gluten is used to prevent food from sticking to the conveyor belt, for example. As a result, there is some gluten in a product that does not contain any gluten ingredients.
Baking and eating gluten-free products have become easier as more companies and restaurants offer options for gluten-free consumers. Gluten-free products can be purchased in health food stores or the health food section of a larger supermarket. Restaurants are increasingly likely to label items as gluten-free or even offer a gluten-free menu. As always, gluten-free eaters should be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination, especially in a restaurant kitchen.
Although a gluten-free diet has been marketed as a healthy coping mechanism for a variety of conditions and promoted by celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, only those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity need to follow it. A gluten-free diet is the only medically sanctioned treatment for celiac disease and a wheat allergy, but this type of diet may compromise nutrition when people have no medical reason to be on it. As a result, those considering a gluten-free diet should consult a medical professional prior to starting the regimen.