The other day I realized that I have been baking gluten, soy, and corn free now for about 2 1/2 years. Wow. It feels like I just started thins yesterday, but then I started thinking about how much I have learned since the beginning. Then I thought I would share some of this knowledge with you all. I have spoken to several people over the last couple of months who just want to know where to start. Baking this way is so foreign to everyone. We all felt lost, scared, and nervous at the beginning. So here is some information that I wish I had known at the beginning. Hopefully it will act like a guide book through the murky world of gluten, soy, nut, and corn free baking!
1. Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it smells weird. But, yes, you must buy and learn how to use Xanthan and or guar gum. Especially when starting out. Once you get your feet under you, you can begin experimenting with recipes that do not use it, but for now . . . It is a wise investment.
2. Buy a bread maker. If you work, have kids, or are very busy, it can be a life saver. Find one that is new, a quality brand ( like Breadman, Cuisinart, or Kitchenaid) and has a gluten free setting. Also if it has an alarm that dings to tell you when you can take out the paddle, then you will skip having that weird whole in the middle three slices.
3. Good gluten free bread does not take a whole day to make, nor does it take a bread maker. I know, I know. This totally contradicts what I wrote above, but listen. Some people don't have the dough ( no pun intended. Okay maybe a little.) to go out and buy a bread maker right now. Or maybe you are sticken it to the man, and refuse to grovel to the totalitarian kitchen appliance companies. Or maybe you just want bread that you can eat RIGHT NOW! You can do this, I promise. I have tried many recipes for oven baked bread, but my most favorite is The Whole Nutriton Group's Everyday Sandwhich Bread. It takes about 15 minutes to mix up, no stand mixer necessary, rise for 40-60 minutes, and bakes for about 50. The best part? It lasts for day's, and tastes delicious! Especially toasted. When you put it in the toaster it tastes like delicious artisan glutenful bread. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.
4. The packaged Ener-G brand baked goods taste disgusting! And are hard enough to crack your teeth.
5. Buy and become familiar with all the flours available to you.
White rice flour
Brown Rice Flour
Garbanzo Bean Flour
6. DO NOT just replace your wheat flour with ONE of the flours above. Wheat flour has an elasticity (gluten) and flavor that gluten free flours just don't have on their own. You have to mix and match the combinations to get it right. Don't worry. I know this seems so daunting right now, but you WILL get the hang of it. Promise.
7. Try some other grains. Rice will get boring real fast. Instead try Quinoa, or Millet as a side dish. My favorite breakfast? 2 fried eggs and a half cup of cooked quinoa. Soooooo good. Trust me. Don't want to cook quinoa everyday? Cook up a bunch then package in individual baggies and freeze. Then just defrost want you want for the day. Check out here for more directions.
8. Think of this as your opportunity to be that whole food eating, healthy person you have always wanted to be. You have this grand chance to drastically change your eating habits in one fell swoop. Think whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, cheese, eggs, and dairy. Don't just replace your junk food with gluten free options.
9. Blogs are your friend. You can pretty much find all you can want to know, with just a click of your mouse. Plus they are constantly adding new recipes and reviews. One warning though. They do not have your allergies. Always check the ingredients. Many blogs use corn and nuts. So be careful!
10. Find a store. I don't know where you live, so I can't really help, but I do have a few suggestions.
Whole Foods: They have everything. They take everything. Aka they are wicked expensive! Flours are three or four times the price then other places.
A local co-op: A lot of times these stores are so much more economical because they buy in bulk. Also, they don't want to charge you an arm and leg.
Online: many companies offer online stores Arrowhead Mills and Bobs Red Mill are a couple of really good ones.
For those in the Inland Empire Area of Southern California:
Loma Linda Market: a university store that offers GREAT prices on bulk gluten free flours. Not to mention a great selection of gluten free products. I shop here basically every week.
Clark's Nutrition and Natural Foods Market: They have locations in Loma Linda, Ranch Mirage, and Riverside. They have a huge selection of pretty much everything! The prices are a little more then Loma linda market, but still very good. Plus, totally side note, but if you go to the Loma Linda store, look out. The guys that work there are very cute! Did I just say that? Moving on . . . .
So there you go. My top 10. Hopefully this helps you gluten, corn, soy, nut free bakings newbies out there!