Saturday, November 29, 2008

C is for Cookie

Learning to obtain, cook, bake, and eat gluten-free is a real challenge. It is expecially tough for someone like me, who loves to bake. Tough, I guess, because the end product often seems inferior, no matter how much effort goes into it.

I learned very quickly that prepared gluten-free food is at best, tasteless, and often the texture is even worse.

For the first few months of this odyssey, I vacillated from avoiding the grocery store completely and just not eating much, to wandering around the local grocery, slobbering like Pavlov's Dog, as I examined one forbidden item after another. I will say that no matter how great the temptation to cheat, it usually didn't happen. The effects of eating wheat or wheat gluten are immediate and not something one discusses in polite company. It just isn't worth the very real pain it causes.

I tried one recommended item after another and ended up wondering just how long it had been since the well-meaning, fellow Celiac had tasted "real food". Store-bought GF sandwich bread: 1/2 the size, 4 times the price, and tastes only slightly better than soggy cardboard. GF frozen waffles: tasteless and gritty. I could write a whole lament here but that would not be helpful.

I wanted food I could feed to family and friends without them noticing that the food was different.

I have found that it is best to plan ahead and cook and bake at home. I rely on the wonderful Gluten-Free Gourmet series of cookbooks by Bette Hagman and some great blogs like Gluten-Free Girl and Jennifer Ate. Why? Because the ingredients, and therefore mistakes, are expensive.

There are three items I find enormously helpful:

Bob's Red Mill GF All-Purpose Flour This flour can be substituted successfully in a large number of my old recipes for muffins, fruit breads, and cookies. There is no need to look up conversions. If the recipe calls for 1 cup, 1 cup of this flour is fine. I do add a little xanthan gum, especially for cookies.

Bob's Red Mill GF Pancake Mix Yes, pancakes. It won't do to mix up too much of this the first time. The pancakes are slightly heavy and very filling. But they're good.

Cherrybrook Kitchen's "Gluten-Free Dreams" Sugar Cookie Mix I've saved my favorite for last. This mix is so yummy there is just no point in making sugar cookies from scratch. I do take liberties with this mix. By substituting Almond Extract for Vanilla Extract, they can be made to taste like spritz cookies. Add 1/4 tsp. of cream of tartar and roll them in ground cinnamon before baking and you have Snickerdoodles. If I am going to a function like a baby shower or a wedding reception, I smuggle some of these cookies in so that I can have dessert too. My next mad scientist project for this mix will be melting chocolate (the safe kind) and dipping the cookies half way into the chocolate.

All of these items can be ordered directly from the manufacturers' websites. I often get them at Super Target. If you cannot find them, carries all of them, at a lower price, and will charge you even less if you set up "subscriptions" based on how much you will need in a 3,6, or 9 month period. If you set up these subbscriptions with Amazon, the shipping on these items is FREE.
For a little extra encouragement, go here.

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