Vi pastry chefs learn new techniques for no gluten added and low-sugar desserts
Do you look forward to a sweet treat at the end of a satisfying meal? Many of us do. But for people managing a chronic condition like diabetes, dessert can be more detrimental than delicious. That is why Vi pastry chefs traveled to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to learn ways to reduce gluten and sugar and still create desserts that satisfy.

"Diabetes is a chronic disease. Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are on the rise," notes John Vogelmeier, Vi Assistant Vice President, Food and Beverage Operations. "These are issues that may affect the well-being of our residents, so they matter to us. We are asking 'How do we reduce sugar and create desserts with great taste and texture? How do we eliminate the gluten but still produce great color, structure, texture and aroma?' Vi is a national leader in senior living, so it's important we find ways to answer these questions while continuing to create delicious desserts and baked goods that satisfy our residents' palates."

As part of that effort, the culinary team at Vi worked directly with the CIA Continuing Education Department to develop a two-day course with curriculum designed to teach Vi pastry chefs about gluten-free and diabetic-friendly baked goods and desserts. In August of this year, the pastry chefs from every Vi community traveled to the CIA's San Antonio campus, where a Certified Master Baker, Chef Alain Dubenard, taught an intensive, two days of lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on baking.

"We designed this training to give each pastry chef the necessary knowledge and tools to inspire personal creativity and enhance our bakery and dessert offerings within our communities," Vogelmeier said.

Vi at The Glen Pastry Chef Michael Beltran participated in the training, and came away surprised by how much he liked the no-gluten-added baked goods.

"I've purchased gluten-free products at the grocery store, and wasn't impressed," said Beltran. "When you make them from scratch, they are very good, a much better quality."

The desserts Beltran and other pastry chefs made in San Antonio included mixed berry muffins, chocolate torte, cheesecake, and fruit tart.

"We used different blends of starches and flours, like rice flour and potato starch," said Beltran. "Each blend has different characteristics, and we learned when to select which blend. Do we need a blend with more protein? It depends on the dessert you are making."

"We've been making desserts with low sugar for a long time.  It's something we have demand for in our community," Beltran continued. "Residents ask for it more than they ask for low fat desserts.  Our residents haven't been asking for no-gluten-added foods, but we do get requests at Sunday brunch, when we have friends and family visiting. The response to the new desserts has been good, and we'll likely have more demand as time goes on."