OK, maybe technically dessert isn't a meal for most of us most of the time — although I have been known to have chocolate for breakfast occasionally. But desserts may be the easiest place to feature sweet and safe menu options for your gluten-free patrons.
The key is to remember that the end of a meal doesn't have to include baked goods. Think about all the different yummy treats that you may already offer: ice cream and other frozen confections, including fruits like grapes; rice and other comforting flavors of pudding; flan and crème brulee; various combinations of fruit, nuts and chocolate — or just chocolate and chocolate.
I would guess that more than 99 percent of the recipes for those dishes that you now use contain no wheat products. Just be sure your kitchen doesn't use wheat in any step of production, like flouring a baking sheet, and you are already there.
Even some baked goods can be naturally gluten-free. You can't go wrong for diners with or without gluten issues serving one of my 1980s' faves, the flourless chocolate cake – they called it "chocolate decadence" for a reason. That it's gluten-free is an extra-special bonus.
Some of the simplest sweets can become gluten-free with simple substitutions, like chocolate chip cookies made with non-wheat flours.
That's something to think about, especially during the holiday season when diners are prepared to indulge. Once you've vetted your recipes and processes to ferret out any possible gluten inclusions, you can win high marks from diners across the board for highlighting safe dessert options on your menu.
In fact, you could offer an afternoon Holiday Shoppers' Special of a warm beverage and a dessert that includes a range of delicious sweet treats, both gluten-free and otherwise. Again, the key is to make absolutely sure that when you call something gluten-free it actually is – not just the written recipe but the actual production and handling in the kitchen.
I know I have said many times in the past that the reason to take precautions against serving your customers with food sensitivities – allergies or celiac disease – known triggering ingredients is that you don't want them to go to the ER for dessert. But that may be unfair to desserts, now that I think about it.
Maybe if you think about dessert first, you can get a handle on the gluten issue for your entire menu in a (ginger) snap.
Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC.