Food Science: Thomas Keller And Lena Kwak Introduce Gluten Free Flour To The World

By Steve West | Published

Starting now those with issues eating gluten can once again enjoy a brioche or chocolate cake. Thanks to the support and backing of Thomas Keller, the most important chef in America, a new gluten free flour has been developed by Lena Kwak. The culinary researcher for The French Laundry in Yountville, CA has formulated a mixture that closely approximates everyday flour.

Made of a mixture of tapioca, potato, rice, and other starches Cup4Cup can be substituted one to one in most recipes for all-purpose flour. The end product, while not exactly the same, is far superior to the usual alternatives. According to the New York Times the resulting cake made had a more delicate texture, but was otherwise the same old cake you’re used to.

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and related grains. It gives food elasticity when worked properly. Essentially it is the foundation that allows all of those yummy nooks and crannies inside an English muffin. Other grains have “gluten,” but lack gliadin (the glycoprotein necessary to form the elastic nature of worked flour). It’s gliadin that nearly 1% of the population has trouble digesting, which is why it’s ok for someone with celiac disease to eat Spanish rice.

While this is an innovative product, there are already a lot of gluten free alternatives out on the market. As a chef I see on a regular basis customers coming into our restaurant with the desire to have a braciole or scallops, but they have to provide us with their quinoa based pasta alternatives.

Which brings to question whether this would work for pasta making. I may give it a go to see if homemade tagliatelle is possible with Cup4Cup. Gluten is important to give a cake its support and texture, but it’s vital in the creation of pasta dough. I doubt it’ll work. And if some semblance of pasta does happen I expect it to not have the distinct bite and chew of properly worked fresh pasta.

Cup4Cup represents more than just a way to make gluten free brioche. It’s representative of a man, and the people like Lena he surrounds himself with, who is always at the forefront of what cooking means. Where everyone else went with the risotto or polenta style alternative (including the restaurant where I work) Keller decided that everyone should be able to enjoy a pastry now and then. And then did something about the problem.

Cup4Cup is currently available at Williams-Sonoma stores or at Bouchon Bakery locations. A 3-lb bag will run you $19.95