Thursday, February 24, 2011

What to Use for Gluten Free Communion

Now that you've decided to offer gluten free communion at your church, you're probably wondering: NOW what? What do I use? Where do I start? 

Well, look no further. Today I'm going to discuss gluten free options for communion bread and wafers. This info is all from my own trial and error, as well as that of friends. I'm not paid to endorse any products. Ready? Here we go!


1. Baking your own.
This is a great option for smaller churches, particularly those that include people who love to bake. It's downside is that gf bread goes bad more quickly than normal bread, and without refrigeration fresh gf bread will usually go bad within four to five days. With refrigeration it can last up to a week, but it will be very dry near the end of that week.

It's more than possible to bake delicious gf bread from scratch, but it's a bit tricky for the uninitiated (i.e., those who haven't experimented with gf flours before). The easiest and simplest way to make some delicious gf bread is with a mix.

Gf baking is easier than regular bread baking in some important ways. Gf bread requires no kneading, so after mixing it only needs to rise and bake. Most mixes require only an egg or two and some oil, keeping ingredients to a minimum.

As a start, I'd try one of the following gf bread mixes, all of which offer good flavor and texture (click on the product name to go to the product website):

Pamela's Gluten-Free Bread Mix
Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Bread Mix
King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Bread Mix

One more note on baking your own gf communion bread (or having someone in your congregation bake it): you must be very careful about cross-contamination. Buy new loaf pans rather than using old ones that may have gluten residue. If using a stand mixer, sanitize it throughly before using it to mix gf bread. Often wheat flour gets stuck up in the motor mechanism and can surreptitiously infect the gf mix.

2. Buying gluten free bread.
This is an even simpler option than baking gf bread. Most gluten free bread can be found in the freezer section and is pre-sliced. Depending on your polity and theology, this may be a no-no for the priest/pastor, who may want to break a whole loaf as part of the celebration of the sacrament.

Yet pre-sliced bread is easy to cut up for the serving trays, and the frozen varieties can easily be used a slice or two at a time and then refrozen.

The following are great breads to use for communion:

Udi's Bread
Rudi's Bread

The Udi's can be defrosted, which is a bonus. The Rudi's can get a little soggy when defrosted, but is a good back-up in case Udi's is hard to find.

3. Using gluten free communion wafers.
If you serve in a church that uses wafers for the Lord's supper, gluten free wafers are available (can I get an "amen"?). Check them out here:

Ener-G Communion Wafers

These wafers have the added bonus of being yeast-free, soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free, eliminating the other five most common allergens. These are a great option to offer as completely allergen-free communion.

Gluten free items don't usually last as long as regular ones, so be sure to keep leftovers refrigerated or sealed in plastic. Kept that way they should last 4-5 days, and wafers should last several weeks. To keep breads longer, freeze them and defrost them later.

Most of these products are available at standard health food stores and co-ops like Whole Foods. They are all currently available online for order as well.

Keep up the good work, friends! Offering gluten free communion does not have to be a monumental task - it can be very simple with a little thought. 

10 comments:

  1. The book "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients" has some easy GF recipes http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/.

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  2. I got here via Beauty Tips for Ministers. Thanks so much for opening my eyes to the potential dangers in communion! My own kids are nut-allergic, so I've made sure our church's communion bread is safe for them, but I had not thought of the problems with gluten. I've forwarded your post to the rest of our ministerial staff and look forward to a discussion about how we can better serve our membership. Thank you so much for this important work!

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  3. Just got here from RGBP - I am a lay lurker.

    Thank you for your post - my previous church offered GF wafers (unbelievably stale, but they tried!) but current church does not. I partake of the cup but not the bread (not intinction). Now I'll bring my own wafers and rejoice in the fullness of communion once again!

    Many, many thanks!!

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  4. I love your blog and especially the practical ways a church can fully include those with allergens.

    I am a gluten free pastor who has ordered the Ener-G Communion wafers. While they do have the distinct advantage of being free of the major allergens, the taste and texture make me wince. If I could persuade my church to offer Communion totally gluten-free, we would use Udi's bread. Since it is only me who is GF, and sometimes one or two others, I have (and provide) rice crackers.

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  5. I use to be on staff at my church (10,000 attending weekly). I had to quit working because of CD. They do provide a GF option, but it's not sealed and I am very sensitive I do not partake at church. My husband and I just do it at home. Not the same but ok.

    I have contacted Celebration Cups to try to get them to make a GF option. They make pre-filled sealed little cups with a wafer on top and grape juice below. They are still "researching it" as of today. By all means give them a call and bug them. Demand may make it happen.

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  6. you are correct - we do offer both zero gluten and gluten reduced hosts. Please feel free to check out the web site at www.glutenfreehosts.com.
    We would like to let churches know that parishioners are also welcome to buy from the web site directly - you do not have to be a church :).

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  7. To add to the list of pre-made, pre-sliced: Canyon Bakehouse Mountain White. It tastes very good (I know we should not look for that specifically but it makes it more "palatable" for a church moving to GF-only communion) and it holds up incredibly well being cut the day before, covered overnight, and then served the next morning. The bakery is in Loveland, CO but Woodman's in Kenosha, WI (and presumably other locations) carries it for those in WI. Canyon Bakehouse's website also indicates that they will ship orders.

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  8. Good to know on the Canyon Bakehouse! I haven't tried that one yet, but I'll add it to my products-to-look for list! Thanks for the heads up!

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  9. Does anyone know of other gf wafers besides ener-g brand? I'm allergic to potato also and those have potato flour in them. My church wants to have gf communion cause there are allot of us now so I'm trying to find one for them that I can eat! thanks!

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  10. I am so sorry to say that Canyon Bakehouse and others like Udi's no longer offer the special order unsliced option for their bread. Our church uses the whole loaf system and we are still struggling with finding a good non crumbly replacement. Actually Pamela's mix works quite well, is not crumbly and is moist, but someone complained about the taste (a fluke! most everyone else was really fine with it. It is a good mix.) For all other churches beside ours, hands down I'd recommend Pamela's. It also is inexpensive. Buy it on Amazon, in cases or bulk bags over $25 at a time for free shipping and put it on Subscribe and Save for an extra discount. I'll add that if the loaf is to be baked in a home, consider having a parishioner who already has a gf kitchen bake it to avoid cross contamination, even in the oven, particularly if it is a convection oven with circulating air. Pamela's loaf freezes pretty well and it is always good to have a backup loaf in the freezer for those odd times when something goes wrong and a fresh baked loaf does not appear for the service.

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