Life moves on so rapidly: I just passed 9 years of eating totally gluten free. It is much easier than that first year. That was sure a lot to learn; terrifying making my first all gf meal for others. Fairly easy now. I quite enjoy the challenge of baking gf. I just made the most delicious gf blueberry scones this weekend. Tender and not that difficult to put together. It has been an interesting journey in my cooking/eating/lifestyle. I am glad to be able to eat safely food that I feel is as tasty as what I made before my celiac diagnosis.
I found a great pizza recipe with puffy chewy crust that is just delish. I think this latest bake is a favorite for me; loaf pan sourdough bread with seeds. Makes awesome toast. I made avocado toast last week and practically swooned with the incredible flavor of it. My angel food cake is just as delicate in its gf form. I made gravy that no one complains about and muffins that are easy and tasty. Recently I joined a gf sourdough baking group on fb. I didn’t expect there to be such an interest nor such beautiful breads. Yes, it is a good way to live, and no one should feel that being gf is impossible.
I have fully embraced the 1 for 1 baking flour blends; they are so great when you want to make an old favorite recipe into a gf version. Those scones I made were done with Bob’s Redmill 1-1 blend. As were all the fig ricotta cakes I make in the fall; based on a celebrity chef’s recipe that she says is her favorite cake. It is certainly a favorite of mine. So many pies and tarts come out of my oven, all gf and all a delight to share with my guy who doesn’t have to eat gf but never complains at what I put on the table for dinner.
Don’t get me wrong; eating out is generally a major challenge in the area of Pennsylvania where I live, very few places have more than a few items (if you are lucky!) on their menu that are gluten free. And don’t get me started on “gluten friendly” statements on menus. Uggh! The pandemic kinda reduced me to only home meals. I was unwilling to eat out other than an outside table. As things loosen up, I hope to soon eat out again and safely enjoy someone else’s cooking. Can’t wait.
Eating at family is possible although has been majorly crimped by covid worries. I hope to resume family visits later this spring. My sisters are very good at cooking gf for me. As are a number of friends. I feel so blessed to have caring people in my life that make it possible to share a meal or treat.
I still enjoy writing my blog on living gf. It is uniquely satisfying. I also love the process of remaking old recipes into gf versions. The new challenge of gf sourdough baking has me so intrigued. I just borrowed a cast iron oval Dutch oven and plan on testing it soon with some sourdough recipes. Fun to create and you get to eat your results!
So, if you are newly trying out the gf lifestyle due to celiac don’t freak; just try new things and work at eating safely. Honestly there are so many things that are naturally gf to eat, rice dishes, potato recipes, grains like quinoa. Lots of possibilities. Just read the ingredients on any packaged goods as hidden items and cross contamination is a real issue you will have to deal with. You may want to look back to my earliest blog posts; they were on the process of going gf and what it felt like; might be helpful for your journey to a gf lifestyle.
I am truly blest by my life and by what I create in my kitchen. A nine year journey that has gone pretty well on the whole. I hope your gf life is just as excellent!
So, if you are just going gluten free let me give you some advice. Things to do, things you should get and things not to bother with. I wish I had read a column like that when I was first plunged into gluten free eating.
If you plan to make baked goods, I suggest a stand mixer in the KitchenAid family; nothing big; just a standard/classic model. So many gf breads need a long beating before you put them in a pan. The stand mixer is a workhorse in my gluten free kitchen, used for breads, cookies, muffins and other baked goods requiring a long beating. I also have attachments for shredding large amounts of cabbage, for grinding cranberries for relish and I just got some for rolling out sheets of pasta. There are attachments for making sausage, for grinding grain and for straining out seeds from veggies and fruits. It’s a big investment but mine is 25 years old and still working despite my frequent usage.
I have a 8.5 x 4.5 heavy duty aluminum bread pan for gf quick and yeast breads. The taller sides and slightly narrowed width is particularly helpful for yeast bread rising. Definitely helpful to me as a baker. My pizza pan is heavy duty too. I have various baking sheets and pie pans sized to what I bake frequently. Sturdy muffin pans and English muffin rings are useful.
A well-functioning oven is critical to gf baking; you need those even temperatures for sure. I used to have a second oven with bottom heat; great for pizza and gf pie crusts. My current range is more traditional. I put my rack just above the oven bottom and my pie crusts come out perfectly browned. Just as good as the pizza oven I sadly gave up when it died.
You should get an instant read thermometer, use my constantly and it is great for temping proteins to know when they are ready. A set or two of solid measuring cups are vital as are 2 sets of measuring spoons and a liquids measuring cup; I have a one cup and a two cup size of those. A large, medium and small whisk set is needed as are spatulas for scraping bowls. I have a OXO pie crust rolling bag; very sturdy and well made; is a huge help in pie crust rolling; much better than the cheaper ones; the translucent silicon sides are excellent for the crust rolling process. My cheap one lasted a year; this OXO one is about 3 years old and in perfect condition.
I store some flours in my freezer; whole grain ones especially. Others are just in large storage jars in my kitchen and pantry. I have tried many mixes and brands and find a few are my favorites; King Arthur basic gf flour is my workhorse blend. I also really like Better Batter for a host of recipes especially quick breads. Kim’s GF Flour blend is wonderful for making pizza and focaccia. I made an old school muffin mix to use for cobblers Bette Hagman’s book, More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet – You can find the mix recipe in my post: https://myworldwithoutwheat.com/2020/05/20/rhubarb-cobbler-spring-treat/
When starting out start slowly. Look at recipe comments and try new things. I do want to give a shout out to King Arthur’s website and their large amount of wonderful gf recipes. They are well tested; work every time and have great flavor and texture. Their chocolate chip cookies are the bomb! I also love their cake mixes they sell; makes a bigger double layer cake than other brands of available store gf mixes.
Things I don’t care for: quinoa flour and almost all bean flours. Chickpea flour has some specific recipes it works well in. I avoid using all white flours except in a few cases as it is pretty devoid of nutrients and of flavor. I make a great French bread and I subbed in brown rice for white rice flour; much better flavor. Look at my most recent pizza dough recommendation; this one is a game changer; must try it; easy to do and it makes enough for two crusts.
There are many cookbooks available. My hands down favorite is Annalise Roberts, Basic Gluten Free Baking. Her pie crust is perfection. I love her muffins, the waffles are the best and the chocolate cake is excellent. She has another one full of heritage recipes which has proved to be a super source of party desserts. Maybe you should read some of my blog posts for ideas of what to make/bake. I had some excellent blueberry muffins my neighbor made with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 blend; so tender and delicious. I had shied away from that blend for a long while but those muffins totally changed my mind.
Don’t let anyone tell you that gf baked goods always taste bad; not the least true. My mom swore for years that my gf angel food cake had to be made with all purpose(gluten) flour. I had to swear that I never ever bake anything with gluten-based flour to convince her.
So get out there and bake some good stuff. I never post a recipe unless I make it for myself and most of them, I made over and over again. They are all delicious things you can feel confident in making. Enjoy baked good again. Really.
This week I discovered an old college friend has suddenly developed an allergy to wheat and to gluten. When his wife tried to bake gluten free using xanthan gum, he hated the after taste he noticed (I personally have never noticed that phenom but it sure could be so!) and guar gum made him break out in a nasty rash. She loves to bake and just was dismayed with a number of recipes she tried. Terrible texture and heavy especially without the gum. Generally disheartening. I decided immediately that I had to help them out. So after some research here are a few of my ideas, resources and general thoughts to help them.
Of course I wanted to help them out; I love a good challenge and to help friends is a true joy. So, I looked in my cookbook collection last night and discovered that my book by Nancy Cain titled “against the grain” is chock full of gluten free recipes that have no xanthan or guar gum in them. I haven’t made many of her recipes but I think they could work well for my friend. Bonus points as she takes a rather natural approach to baking gf and I am all for natural foods.
My second cookbook choice is “The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, Volume 2” by America’s Test Kitchen. This book contains two gf flour blends neither of which has a gum in them. I have made several recipes from it and can say they are tasty and worth making again. Not all the recipes avoid gums but they mostly use a tiny amount; ¼ of a teaspoon. I feel this could be replaced by several choices.
For that I did a search and found this: bakingkneads.com/substitutes-for-xanthan-gum-in-baking/ by Sarah. This is a wonderful post and I highly recommend you visit it. Here is a brief summary: you can use chia seeds softened in water, egg whites, cornstarch, konjac powder, agar -agar and flax seeds mixed with water (the flax seed “egg”). For cornstarch you use the same amount as a gum. For the flax seed or chia “egg” I believe it is a tablespoon of chia and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Let it stand about 5 minutes. You can grind the seeds up if you want a smooth mixture as whole seeds can definitely add texture or pop to your bread. I can’t wait to try a few of these ideas out. I have used the flax seed egg in the past and it works okay in a cake. I think it would work better in a whole grain bread which would more disguise the seedy texture and flavor.
Another cookbook I like is “Gloriously gluten-free cookbook) by Vanessa Maltin. It focuses on three cuisines: Italian, Asian and Mexican. The red velvet mochi cupcakes with ginger buttercream icing recipe looks amazing and no gum. There are dozens of gorgeous sounding ethnic recipes. I am wondering why I haven’t cooked from it lately!
I constantly use Annalise Robert’s book: “Gluten-Free Baking Classics” I feel you could use one of those six substitutes I mention and alter her recipes to make them gum free. She uses a simple flour blend of 3 flours but you can buy it too; it is King Arthur’s Basic Gluten Free Flour. There is no xanthan gum in it. I is comprised of brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. Has a nice “wheaty” taste to the pie crusts she shares. I won’t make any other pie crust. I get a lot of complements on it. A suggestion from fb; add cinnamon to your baked goods to hide the taste of xanthan gum. I actually do that for a number of my recipes; will do it even more now that I am thinking on it.
Two more choices are “Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking” by Kelli and Peter Bronski and “‘The Gluten-Free Table” by Jilly and Jessie Lagasse. Most of the Lagasse sister’s recipes are naturally gf recipes, there is some use of xanthan but now armed with my knowledge of several gum replacements I feel I could make them gum free successfully. Ditto with enthusiasm for the Bronski book. It is chock full of interesting and mouthwatering ideas. Definitely work the look and maybe the buy!
I buy a lot of gf items at Aldi’s and sometimes Trader Joe’s or Wegmans. Aldi’s has a bread that is fairly new; it is a multi grain wide pan loaf. I find it life changing. Makes amazing grilled cheese and ham sandwiches. About to try french toast with it. So tasty and the bigger slices are the best!
Other advice to newbies; read my original early posts on switching to being gf. Look at my 2014 posts: for most of 2013 I posted on Patch. I do not thing those posts are still available but I reposted most of them in my first few months on my new blog location. Critical to success: new bread pans at 8.5x 4.5 with taller sides, new cake and pie pans unless you scrub the heck out of them. You need to read up on cross contamination as it is a really serious problem. You should invest in a new toaster for only gf breads and bagels. Your cutting boards and rolling pins must be incredibly free of all old flour; maybe if you are going to still have gluten in your house buy a new bread board and rolling pin for gf use only. You will absolutely need a new colander for gf pasta. Mark it so or get one very different in color so you can easily distinguish it. Ditto for wooden spoons. In fact, you need to run everything you plan to use for gf cooking through the dishwasher several times or hand scrub a LOT. I found it too difficult to keep both gluten-based flour and my new gf flours around. I have a few burger buns and a loaf of white bread in my basement freezer for Joe or Aiden. No more do I keep gluten-based pasta or mixes.
In short, eat clean, eat organic when you can, don’t buy packaged gf foods if you can make it yourself and avoid the processed gf treats full of fats, sugar and preservatives. DIY is always healthier if it avoids excesses of those demons especially hydronated fats and all sugars other than coconut palm sugar which is low on the hypoglycemic index and possibly use honey, maple syrup and agave syrup but in moderation. Being gluten free is a journey, an adventure in experimentation and can be surprisingly delicious. GF foods have gotten a bad rap and often folks eating my cookies, brownies, pies, tarts and cakes are shocked at how delicious they actually are. I am generally very happy to be gf. Rarely, on visiting people I find them being insensitive; like baking gluten filled muffins right in front of me and offering me no substitute or alternative. I think that behavior is obnoxious; you knew I was coming. Couldn’t you put off your wheaty muffins a few days and buy a gf mix treat to make while I was there? My pet peeve…. oh well. I survived it and I love to bake gf and we eat darn well around here!
Update on being gluten free: I went GF seven years ago this past February. My diagnosis was on the last day of January but it took two weeks for me to gradually transition off gluten. I remember the first day I was supposed to be fully gluten free and in the faculty room I absentmindedly popped a chocolate cookie into my mouth and chewed. I was aghast and just felt I couldn’t spit it out in front of everyone. So, the next day was my first fully gf day. It is seven years later and most days I am fine. But once in a while I really morn the loss of the normalness of being able to buy a donut or bagel at a convenience store for a treat. I mourn the inability to be flexible and easy when my family or friends want to eat out. I watch my loved ones eat things I cannot eat anymore. I often can’t eat at church events; nothing safe for me. I feel sad over that. I won’t lie or sugar coat the situation: it still can be difficult and my food choices do leave me feeling left out at times. It is not easy long term, especially when I am eating outside my house and kitchen. There is temptation, there are no options for me most of the time and it just wrenches me to be forbidden many foods I used to enjoy.
On the flip side, I feel much better; the pain in my gut left not that long after going gf. I actually had the start of ulcers in my stomach due to the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. I underwent a two week treatment of two heavy duty antibiotics to get that crap out of my stomach! They found it during my endoscopy to confirm my diagnosis of celiac disease. But once I was gf two weeks and the antibiotics were done I was hugely better. It was a great feeling. I highly recommend being fully gluten free if you have the diagnosis of celiac disease. Just don’t eat gf until you have completed your testing; being gf can reduce your symptoms and give a false negative result to testing.
So, how do you do this gf thing every day? One day at a time. With the support of your loved ones. With the knowledge that if you continue to eat gluten you will get sicker and sicker. I knew gluten was at the root of my gut pain and discovered a host of issues that I had been suffering from that are directly linked to my auto immune disorder. I hate how I feel if I do eat gluten and that knowledge is a major factor holding me back from cheating. I am not willing to deal with the pain and the side effects from cheating.
I used to know someone who said she had no symptoms of her disease. I imagine that would be much harder to stay gf without the drum beat of painful hours post gluten feasting! I hope she is sticking to gf. For her health and for her family.
I see folks in social media talking/bragging about their recent cheating and wonder how they do it? How they make that bad choice. I am guessing it is for the taste of regular food, for the freedom to eat something at 711 or Dunkin or a family gathering and a beloved holiday food that is hard to resist. I see their posts, half bragging and half whining about how sick they got. I know we all have moments of weakness. Seeing what they say and have done I feel sure I am on the right path; the choice of eating safely, totally gluten free.
It is just not worth it to me to cheat. To risk damage to my small intestine for that treat, that glass of beer or that plate of regular pasta. I am also afraid that once I start cheating it will become normalized and I will slide downward into daily consumption of a substance I know to be deadly to me. I hold on tight to the knowledge that I am doing what is best for my family and the uprising subsides in my brain. Life goes on.
I eat well. I enjoy many tasty homemade meals and treats. I made focaccia this week for first time in years. Great with soup. I have a lot of awesome go to recipes for things like Italian bread, muffins, cookies, pie, angel food cake and cobbler. People clamor to eat those foods and none of them have to be gluten free. It is totally possible to eat well with a bit of planning, basic willpower and a little effort. So, life is good; even gluten free. Hang tough; you can do it! Thousands of us do it. Have an awesome gluten free day!
Holidays are a joyous time but they are also a stressful one for those of us with celiac or gluten allergies. We have a difficult road dealing with holiday work parties, festive outings, dinners with family and or friends. Some people make it easy for us to participate and some try but make errors that cause upset digestive systems. I myself am rather leery of all those situations except my family gatherings. My sisters and brothers understand my dietary restrictions really well and never cook stuff on the table that I cannot eat. They try had to find safe places to eat out, which isn’t easy in my geographic area. They don’t want to go far and close by my home there are extremely limited choices. All that said, if you need to cook for someone who is gluten free there are a number of great choices of what to serve and there are some simple protocols to follow.
Cherry Sunrise Pie; can use a premade gf crust. No baking then!
Gluten is in all wheat-based ingredients; from all purpose flour, to rye flour, whole wheat, spelt, farro and barley grains/flours. So, I have to avoid them completely. Even a quarter teaspoon in your dessert or sauce is enough to cause major digestive pain.
One easy way to go is to make a meal that is all naturally gluten free; baked potatoes, steak, roasted or grilled chicken, fish without breading, pork chops, fried or mashed potatoes, rice: all safe. Beware of breading on proteins unless you are creating it with gf flour or gf breadcrumbs. Veggies are safe unless they come with a crumb topping or other fancy stuff; read the label! Be careful with spice mixes; sometimes they have flour in to facilitate flow; stick to McCormick; their single spice containers are generally very safe.
You might want to focus on a gluten free dessert like a cake,pie or cookies for your company. I have some advice below for you for each of these categories and there are many options for gf desserts on my blog; just type in what you want like cake or pie or cookies and see what comes up!
Stir fry; I used cornstarch in a slurry to thicken the sauce.
First some entree and sauce advice: no regular flour can be in that gravy or sauce. No way! An easy substitution is either white or brown rice flour in the same proportions as regular flour stirred into the gravy or sauce. I have gone with each of them several times. I slightly prefer the brown rice in gravy. Other gravy thickener choices are cornstarch, sweet rice flour, potato flour or arrowroot. It should function pretty much identically to the all purpose flour in your recipe for these items of gravy or sauce.
Most proteins are naturally gluten free but be careful of injected broth or marinades; often have some small amounts of flour which renders them uneatable for folks with celiac or a wheat allergy. This happens in turkeys and often hams. Read the labels! I look for a GF stamp/sign. FYI: Fake crab is the one seafood I cannot eat; it is wheat based. Eat the real deal!
Be careful making soups or stews; many canned broths have a small amount of gluten/wheat in them. Read that label. Aldi’s has some great gf broths at excellent prices.
Chocolate silk tart ready for embellishment and devouring!
Now desserts: If you are making a dessert it is a different ball game going gf. A mix that you add eggs, butter and milk to is a great starting place. If you buy a gf mix for a cake I suggest you also buy some throw away aluminum pans to use; your pans may have tiny amounts of food particles from past baking. Better safe than sorry as even that tiny amount would be problematic. If the dessert requires a graham cracker crust just buy a readymade one in the gf section; the ones I make with gf crackers cost just about as much as a readymade one and it is a real time and labor saver.
Chocolate pavlova: if you can make meringue in your mixer you can make this awesome company dessert.
If you want to make cookies; there are gf mixes out there. You might even find readymade gf dough. Just be sure to lay down some aluminum foil on the baking sheet to keep any stray tiny crumbs of old cookies at bay. May I recommend Russian teacakes; easy to make the dough; then form balls and bake; lots of powdered sugar on top after they are cooling. Delicate and delicious; my family says they are even better gf than when they were wheat based. The recipe is on my blog. I have a gf holiday baking cookbook as well as a Christmas gf cookie cookbook and some in my favorite Annalise Roberts cookbook.
My stollen recipe is off the King Arthur website; they have a great selection of gf baked goods including cookies and pastries. And there is always pinterest; I have found great things there.
Christmas stolen breads; super yummy; look on King Arthur’s website. Pretty easy too!
In summary; read labels, try to cook naturally gf and don’t try to make too many gf items your first time or two; think one new recipe at a time! You will be rewarded with gratitude from the person who has to be gluten free and you will feel great for your efforts. I will be posting and reposting holiday baking recipes in the next 2-3 weeks so you may find some awesome gf holiday treats. There are even more in my large catalog of blog posts so use the search feature to see what I have available to shine for your holiday gathering. Best of luck to you in your holiday gluten free adventure!