Monday, November 7, 2011

Product Review: Sonoma All Natural Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free Wraps in Ivory Teff

Since going gluten-free, I miss flour tortillas. Really good ones, the type that melt in your mouth, the type patted out by hand at The Original Donut Shop on Fredricksburg, in San Antonio. The type that Chevy's restaurant chain makes on tortilla machines. The type you can buy at HEB groceries--usually still steaming--if you live in Texas. I even miss the less-than-stellar fresh flour tortillas I'd occasionally make (mine usually turned out overworked, but I was getting the hang of it, right about the time I figured out I should probably avoid gluten).

To fully understand this you should know: for me growing up, Mexican food was comfort food. We were homesick Texans--and for a time, in grad school, I was a regular follower of Homesick Texan's blog. My family made tacos on the weekends. Pretty much every weekend. We made tamales and fresh salsa and huevos rancheros and moles. We ate fish tacos and occasionally smoked things in plantain leaves. We made corn tortillas and sometimes drank horchata. You've probably got the point. Even when we stopped eating as much Mexican food--we replaced it with Indian, to some extent, we still probably had something Mexican once or twice a week. Rick Bayless visited our house weekly via his public television show and my dad tried his recipes. We would find new favorites and replace old ones.

So giving up flour tortillas, in a way, was hard. Fortunately, I'd also moved to the Midwest, where I couldn't seem to find fresh flour tortillas unless I'd made them myself. That made it a little easier just because I wasn't eating as many.

When I moved again, I found La Tortilla Factory's Sonoma brand ivory teff wraps (they also apparently come in dark, but I haven't seen those at my local grocer). The full name is a mouthful and in the title for this post, so I'm not repeating it here. These wraps, when heated, become very soft, smooth and pliable, have a rich, complex flavor and just enough chewiness to be reminiscent of gluten. They almost melt in your mouth and leave a slightly sweet aftertaste, the way a good flour tortilla will. When they're cold, they're less pliable. I might almost describe the mouth-feel as a bit rubbery. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me just not want to eat them cold if I have the option to eat them hot. The flavor is less complex because there's no steam rising to your nose, helping you smell the grains.

These wraps--really not tortillas, unless you subscribe to the "burrito size" jumbo tortilla idea so many people seem fond of right now--only come in a size I'd call "too large." I never want a full one, which is good since a 6-pack of the ivory teff wraps runs $4-5 depending on which store I buy them at. Not outrageous (at least by market standards) for an organic, gluten-free product, but pretty expensive on my budget.

These wraps, like many gluten-free products, start with a lightweight flour (usually either cornstarch or tapioca flour--in this case, tapioca), and also include teff and millet flours, and guar gum--plus a number of other ingredients, including among other things: soy lecitihin (this is in almost every processed food you eat), canola oil, corn syrup solids, and "colloid powder" which is cellulose gum, maltodextrin, carrageenan), honey. You can just taste that note of honey if you're eating these wraps plain (but heated), or with a mild spread, such as cream cheese.

If you can't find these wraps in your local store, that might be because their distribution outside of Northern California is spotty, at least according to the website. If you're craving flour tortillas though, and are gluten-free, it's worth talking to your local grocer(s) and seeing if they can get their hands on some. I don't eat mine particularly quickly, if you're concerned about that, and they store just fine in my refrigerator, as long as I'm careful to reseal the bag properly. I suspect that like many flour tortillas--and an obscene number of gluten-free products--these wraps also probably freeze pretty well, but I haven't given it a shot yet.

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