This post is more personal and has absolutely nothing to do with photography, but I wanted to share a baking win with you guys! I have a love of baking that started when I was little. Some of my early memories are of licking batter off of mixer paddles with my sister when my mom was baking a cake. Mom will tell you she’s a cook and not a baker, but we loved to help her when we were little. As a result, Blythe and I both have enjoyed cooking and baking since. Blythe is much better than me in the kitchen – and more adventurous. She has made crepes, French macarons, doughnuts, etc. I just want to make a decent cake or cookie on occasion! My love of baking has been challenged for the last few years. Teen sons with crazy schedules, Wayne’s schedule, me working and being a small biz owner = less time to play in the kitchen. The major change came 3 years ago when Carson and I were diagnosed with Celiac disease – A.K.A. Gluten allergy. This means we cannot ingest anything containing wheat, barley, rye, or anything else that contains gluten – it will inflame your gut, do major harm to your GI tract, and can even lead to gastric cancers. The list of gluten-containing products is endless. I am constantly checking ingredient lists of everything from condiments to facial moisturizers and lip gloss. Even going out to dinner requires research. Thus began my adventures in gluten free baking and cooking.
Day to day cooking
After we were diagnosed with Celiac, I soon realized that most of my normal cooking was minimally affected. Minor adjustments included the need to find gluten free condiments like soy sauce, gluten free pasta, etc. I usually try to cook from scratch and use fresh foods and ingredients. I learned to tweak sauces and marinades and make acceptable substitutions. For my new celiac 6th grader Carson, the most frustrating thing was trying to find BREAD! Finding bread that either didn’t disintegrate instantly or didn’t taste like cardboard was a nightmare! After months of an exhaustive search, we found a couple of bread brands that had a good texture and tasted as close to gluten-filled normal bread as possible for Carson and me!
My Biggest Challenge
My biggest challenge has been gluten free baking. It was intimidating to me – baking has always been something I’ve done well. All the sudden, I had to learn a new way. For a long time, I even avoided family favorites like our “Breakfast for Dinner” pancakes. I was put off by the cost of alternative flours and other additives, and the research required to decipher what type of flour or blend was best was frustrating and time consuming. The learning curve was high, and I didn’t have time to experiment and make mistakes. Consequently, I didn’t try at all for a long time. I still don’t bake as much as I used to, but I am gradually adding to my GF baking repertoire.
My latest attempt.
I was hosting a meet and greet last Saturday morning for my 2018 PCP Senior Team and needed something yummy to serve. I found a recipe for Gluten Free Coffee Cake from America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen is always a great resource and I have consistently had success with their recipes. I’ll be looking for more GF recipes on their site now.
Success! This coffee cake was moist and flavorful, and delicious – not dry and crumbly! The pecan crumble topping was amazing. It would be a great addition to just about anything. Everyone at the meet and greet enjoyed it. Carson loved it. It even got the stamp of approval from my gluten eating son Hudson and my non-carb eating hubby Wayne! The entire cake was gone within hours.
Important Tips I’ve Learned:
- All GF flours are not created equally. For all purpose use, flour blends are best. I’ve tried several, and my favorite is Bob’s Red Mill. I have had the most consistent results.
- Xanthan Gum. I so did not want to make this purchase. It’s pricey, but I’ve learned there’s no way around using it for GF baking. Xanthan gum is an emulsifier and a binder, and adds volume to gluten free baked goods. A little goes a long way, so your supply will last a while!
- Room temperature ingredients. This tip isn’t just for GF baking. Room Temperature eggs, butter, and other dairy ingredients form an emulsion which traps air. While baking in the oven, that trapped air expands and produces fluffy baked goods. In addition, room temperature ingredients bond together very easily since they’re warmer, creating an evenly textured batter.
- My fave secret ingredient – Sour Cream! I often add a dollop to boxed brownie and cake mixes to add extra moisture to the batter.
- Be precise. Follow the directions carefully. Measure and mix exactly. Again, this is important in all baking, but even more so in GF baked goods. You don’t want to end up with dry and crumbly baked goods!
And thus, my adventures in Gluten Fee baking continue. Carson is asking me to try GF biscuits next. We will see about that!
Do you cook and bake gluten free? Leave a comment with your best tip!