In the celiac world, there remains a long-standing controversy over whether to exclude oats and oat products from the list of "safe" gluten-free grains. When I was diagnosed with CD, standard protocol recommended against including oats in a gluten-free diet, but more recent studies show that oats themselves are likely not the source of a celiac reaction. Instead, researchers now believe that the fact that milled oats are often contaminated with other gluten-containing grains has skewed diagnostic testing of reactions to gluten from oat products.
The most recent scientific statements on the inclusion of a reasonable amount of oats (1 cup or less per day) in a gluten-free diet indicate that most individuals with celiac disease can actually tolerate uncontaminated oats. However, health professionals (including the American Dietetic Association) recommend that newly diagnosed celiac patients avoid oats until the disease is well-controlled with full resolution of symptoms and normal blood tests demonstrate that tissue transglutaminase levels (IgA tTG) are under control. Gastroenterologists also universally caution that introducing oats into your diet should only be done under the guidance of your physician.
Federal food labeling laws and rules have incorporated this recent research and have not per se excluded oats from future "gluten-free" labeling, so long as the manufacturer seeking to dub its oat containing product "gluten-free" demonstrates that there is less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten in that product, just as in any other. Thus, it seems the greatest hurdle to reintroducing oats to your gluten-free diet will be the shortage of mills and processing plants which produce certified "gluten-free" oats (and the resulting high cost of those few products)!
I decided to try these outrageously expensive "gluten-free" oats myself to expand my baking horizons (of course, I discussed this with my physician first...). I doubt I will be sitting down to a big bowl of oatmeal anytime soon, since I still love my grits and they are probably 1/5 the price of gluten-free oats! However, as it would be challenging to make oatmeal-like cookies with grits, I dove into my $12 box of oats to see what happened. (Granted, as time goes by, companies like Bob's Red Mill are thankfully making gluten-free oats more prolific -- and thus, less expensive -- they will always be more expensive than my grits!)
Just as an aside, I recently found a product available (finally) in the United States that would probably make a mean oatmeal cookie for those of you who are unable or unwilling to give the gf oats a try. On one of my European adventures many years ago I thoroughly enjoyed German muesli made with rice flakes, but have since been unsuccessful finding them Stateside. Imagine my surprise when, on a slightly less exciting adventure last week, I discovered them at David's Natural Market in Columbia, Maryland!
But back to the oats. I used them quite successfully in the first oatmeal-raisin cookie I have had since 1999, and I'm pleased to share the recipe with any of you who would like to try! The oats I used were Lara's and the rice flake substitute I found at my local organic market was made by Shiloh Farms. The cookies are soft, moist, chewy, full of cinnamon-y flavor and are almost totally gone, so I only had 2 left for a picture! I probably should have doubled the recipe, but my oats were so darn expensive! Oh well, these are worth splurging for next time.
I hope you enjoy!
Soft & Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
½ cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or butter
½ cup granulated cane sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white
½ teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
1 cup All Purpose Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups gluten-free oats*
½ cup baking raisins**
Cream the sugars and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and thoroughly incorporate into the batter. Stir in the vanilla last.
In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients (except oats), mixing well. Stir into the creamed mixture until integrated. Stir in the oats and raisins. Cover the bowl and chill until cold, at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 F for static ovens or 325 F for convection.
Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place at least 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until lightly brown. If you can wait, let them cool on a wire rack before removing.
*Note: Not all people with celiac disease can include oats in their diets. For more information on whether they are appropriate for your diet please see our Celiac Disease and Oats section.
**If you do not have baking raisins on hand, gently boil ½ cup of raisins in a saucepan with enough water to cover them. Drain, then add to your recipe.