Gluten Free Tips

One of the goals of my blog is to educate and inspire people, and because of this I want to make sure I post information on what I have learned about gluten free cooking.  I will continue to post some further information in this area.

I have made and developed many gluten free recipes over the past 20 years due to my husband’s wheat allergy.  When I first started baking with alternative flours, I had many failures and was quite discouraged at times.  Since I love to bake, I felt bad that my husband could not share in my wheat creations,  so I continued reading and trying new methods and ingredients.  Keep in mind that this started over 20 years ago when much less information and awareness were common.

I am pleased to say that today I can reliably produce gluten free creations that are so good that I often make just one gluten free version rather than baking a wheat recipe for myself.  When we entertain people often want to try the gluten free baking, and are amazed at how good it is. The other emerging advantage to learning about gluten free baking is that our western culinary society overuses wheat, and there are many nutritional advantages to using other flours that are often richer nutritionally and some have lower glycemic indexes and higher fiber content.

For Beginners in Gluten Free Baking:

You have to have xanthum gum and guar gum.  Buy them usually at any healthfood store.  You need them to make stuff stick together.  After you learn more about different flours you may find other ways to make mixtures stick, but you always need these two on hand.  They last a long time and you only use a teaspoon or two, so just get them!!!!!

This cookbook is great for people new to gluten free.  It uses only 2 alternative flours, potato starch and corn starch.  I have made several recipes in this book and they have all turned out well.  In particular I recommend the “Petite White Cake” as an easy and dependable cake that everyone likes and it only uses a little oil rather than butter.  The other advantage of this book for me was that it uses no rice flour.  My husband is also somewhat allergic to rice and most gluten free cookbooks use rice flour heavily.  The disadvantage to this cookbook is that these two flours are really wastelands nutritionally, and also have little fiber.  But overall, if you are just starting into gluten free cooking this book really changed my thinking on what could be done with the right ingredients and know how.

The first usable gluten free cookbook I baked from was from the  series written by Betty Hagman, a pioneer in this area.  At that time only her first cookbook was out, and since then she has had several more published.   Her recipes in the first book worked very well, and this was the first place I was able to make decent gluten free bread.  The new discovery from using Betty’s books was bean flour.  I have used many bean flours since, and they really open up what can be done with gluten free cooking, and they are nutritionally superior to many other flours.  Betty went on in other books to develop other flour combinations.  Unfortunately sorghum and rice flours ended up being used a great deal, and my husband can’t eat sorghum at all and can only tolerate rice in small quantities.  Anyway, all of Betty’s cookbooks are very good, and she did understand that many people who are gluten intolerant have other food allergies, so the books do suggest ways to substitute.  These books are best for people who like to cook and are willing to use a broader range of flours.

For the more adventurous gluten free cook:

I am a Francophile, I admit it, and when I saw this cookbook I had to have it.  (I am trying to improve my French and have had three wonderful trips to France this year).  It has some more diverse recipes based on French cuisine.  In particular it opened up the use of chestnut flour, and this is a versatile flour to have on hand if you can find it.  I find it in Italian grocery stores in Toronto (The best I have found is on Dufferin south of Lawrence where there is a large Italian grocery store on the east side of the street)).  It is distributed by Aurora Foods, a company that specializes in Italian foods.  I called the company to check on the content of the flour because it was not clear from the label, and they assured me it is just ground chestnuts and does not contain fillers.

A growing number of other gluten free cookbooks exist, however I prefer to just adapt regular recipes now, and most of the books use rice flour heavily so I end up having to adapt the recipes to other flours anyway.  I really enjoy the challenge of developing recipes with other flours, and quite frankly my adapted versions are often really good and barely detectable as gluten free.  I will admit however that it sometimes takes me several tries to get the right combinations of ingredients because gluten free flours absorb fat and water a little differently.

The world of the internet has opened up many new gluten free resources and food sites.  I will work on adding some of these blog links to my site.