Whether you are an experienced pastry chef, or feel forced to take matters into your own sweet hands because you simply cannot find tasty enough desserts, gluten-free baking poses some unique challenges that I will go over to make your baking experience an easy and delightfully satisfying experience.
Things You Will Need
Many of the ingredients you will be using, while not hard to find, are different from traditional baking ingredients. More importantly, there are added steps that must be taken to ensure you are really baking gluten-free.
First of all, cleanliness is key and wheat flour is disastrous. So before you even think about pouring over recipies, or shopping for ingredients, make sure you have a clean wheat free space. If you are cleaning a shared space, wipe down all the surfaces, and look around for spilled ingredients in cupboards, drawers, etc. Flour can get everywhere very easily and if you will be baking for someone who must be gluten-free, such as a celiac, this step is do or die. I also wash all my baking equipment. Even give the oven a clean unless it is really spotless.
Even though I just covered "cleaning" in a sort paragraph above, it is important to mention that I could write hundreds of articles the subject. Many people are just gluten sensitive, but others are extremely intolerant to the point that a crumb will cause all sorts of nasty symptoms. You should find that after you deep clean your home if you continue to think really hard about things that could be contaminated more will pop up for quite a while. Some of the things that you will think about really ought to be replaced, as well. I recommend not trying to clean your toaster. Just replace it. Ditto for anything that has nooks and crannies that prevent you from cleaning it, especially if you cannot immerse it in water because of the electronics.
Here are some bonus tips on places to think about cleaning:
- the oven racks (do these very very well since you cannot get them all the way into a sink. Think about the rest of the oven too.
- Under overhanging cupboards or ledges. Check for splatter (even if you cannot see it) in places that overhang your counter. Also places like the ceiling of the oven and fridge
- Think about replacing any wooden implements like rolling pins and wooden spoons
- Look closely at small appliances, some like hand mixers may have crevices under the blade that can contain gunk build up that would not affect the typical person, but may act like poison to someone with a food intolerance.
- Don't forget to replace any shared condiments
- Clean under the elements of the stove, as well as the elements themselves.
- clean the racks in the fridge and clean the freezer (even though it is a pain).
- wipe down the ceilings of any cupboards, including those at your feet,
- Clean the rims of the cupboard doors, especially along the bottom.
- Clean anywhere you might put food, groceries, or cutlery. Make sure these areas stay gluten-free.
- rewash all your dishes before using them if they are shared.
- clean on top of the fridge if there is an area to keep food or fruit.
- clean the spout of the faucet in the kitchen
- clean the arms of the chairs at the dining room table and anywhere else your hands might touch around the time you eat or prepare food.
- Keep your desk or bedroom areas clean of you eat there.
Okay, daunted yet? I hope not. Once your baking headquarters is all sorted out, the next step is easier. Find the tastiest recipe you can. Personally, I cook exclusively 100% gluten and dairy-free, and I amaze my mouth far more than make dog food. In fact I am eating homemade gluten free cookies right now.
In my next installment, I will go over the most important gluten-free shopping tips for your baking supplies, such as how to find the best stores (with special tips for Canadian shoppers). I have found a tremendous amount of success by discovering ingredients one store at a time, only using one new product at a time. These shopping tips will also help you begin an overall elimination diet to ensure that traces of gluten are not creeping into your diet. Also, I will give you the key recipe-creating ingredients and how to successfully combine ingredients so that your end product is appetizing, looking and tasting appealing.
Feel free to get started by thinking about what you already know such as fruit and veggies that you know will be gluten-free, as well as pure meats without fillers. Some other things will be easy to figure out these days becuase of the labeling, but you really cannot rely on that to provide a balanced diet. Much of the "gluten-free" products you will find at the supermarket are overpriced and made with refined starches. Remember that there are dozens of grains out there and the only ones always off limits are wheat, rye, and barley (and related strains like spelt).
Tips & Warnings
Remember, the first steps are the foundation of all the splendid baking endeavours that will follow, so make sure you follow the steps I described and you will be far more likely to avoid any bellyaching.
If you fail to properly clean your space, you could be plagued with symptoms and spend tons of time and money trying ot determine which product "glutened" you. It is hard enough to find good and safe ingredients. You don't want false positives for gluten just because you did not do a good deep clean of your living space to begin with.
I hope that this article also gave you insight into how easy it can be to overlook gluten in your cooking space. Think about that the next time you go out to a restaurant. Can that cook really do a perfect or even an adequate job to protect people who are really gluten intolerant? That is another reason why it is so important for you to start cooking and baking and preparing dishes and gluten free meals from scratch. The for you do that, the less often you will have to expose yourself to the human error of those who may not realize how hard we try to stay healthy and symptom free.