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Friday, December 9, 2011

Trying to bake Gluten free

I love being so aware of all the options out here for me now. I just found a new place in Mississauga, called Healthy Planet, that is a big health food store, with LOTS of gluten free options. They will learn to know me well! I am excited when I see new products coming down the pipeline. Working for a restaurant magazine, I am seeing more and more showing up in the pages about companies adding gluten free products, restaurants offering gluten free options and more and more gluten free companies entering the game. Despite the fact that it still costs a fair bit to eat my GF stuff, I am really happy to see all this new stuff and get to sample it. Is it any wonder I'm in danger of busting my jeans? Crap...
I've always had a sweet tooth and because of my grandmother and my mom, I developed a love of baking from an early age. Making things from scratch was something I was always good at...plus with a single mom, it was more cost effective too. I learned pretty quick how to substitute when we didn't have an ingredient and what to add when the mixture in the bowl did NOT look like it was supposed to. Baking at Christmas was especially fun for me. No boundaries, no restrictions, just bake what I could with what I had before Christmas. I was in heaven and people who came to our house over the holidays were always happy to see my Nuts & Bolts, Chocolate Chubbie cookies, decorated sugar cookies, homemade donuts, fudge, spice cake, banana chocolate chip bread, etc. But then when Celiac changed my life, I lost my passion for it.
I hated not just being able to buy a massive bag of flour and go to town. Since I loved eating the sweets as much as my family and friends, I looked at the new situation as "what's the point anymore?" If I couldn't even EAT my desserts and yummies, why bother? So, truthfully, I gave up. As the market for gluten free products improved, I turned to mixes. For a baker, it kind of feels like a cop out. But when faced with having to purchase 8 different flours, starches and xantham gum (waaaay too expensive for this bargain shopper!), I looked at a cake mix ringing in at $4 and took the easy way out. I got the flavour I wanted but I didn't feel very "proud" of my accomplishments as I used to with all my "baking from scratch" successes. I felt like I was cheating, taking shortcuts. Then I had a child...yeah, time suddenly became something that I had when my baby was sleeping...and that wasn't much. Between her, working, my husband and sleep, I suddenly found baking with a mix not only necessary (if I wanted yummy treats) but way less stressful. So I succumbed.
Since then, I have found something that has made me feel like less of a failure, a GF all purpose flour mix...essentially giving me back my freedom of tossing the flour into my recipe and going for it. No complicated math equations to figure out what percentage of each flour and starch was needed to give me the correct "dough" like texture I required.
And here's another secret I found. I had cookbooks filled with recipes that had stains on them, well turned corners on the pages and flour marks on them from years of successful bakes. I didn't really want to give those books up. They held such great memories for me. But what to do with them? I had also received a few GF cookbooks but again, by having me mixing several types of flour and starches, along with a particular gum, I truthfully hadn't really used the books. So I thought about it and realized that if I had a good GF flour, I could still make those tried and tested recipes...and they would still be good.
My baking life became much more happy when I realized that I could enjoy the process again.
So, even though I know I won't have much time for a lot of Christmas baking, I plan to do at least a few things from scratch so that as my little two year old grows up, she will learn how to make a "bowl" or "well" with the dry ingredients, mix in the wet ingredients, use a beater (I even used a MANUAL in my day!), knead dough with her hands, make icing, use a fork to crimp a pie crust, and maybe she'll even enjoy it and can pass it on to her kids someday. She'll still know how to use mixes for baking but I love that I can have my old baker self, mix it in with my new GF baker self and find a peace somewhere in the middle. Now where did I put my pastry cutter?

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