My Grandpa is a tall, quiet man. He’s losing his hearing these days, but even before that I always knew him as a gentle giant and a good guy. Before he was diagnosed with celiac disease he was plagued by mysterious intestinal pain (which was a burden he bore quietly) and bad cholesterol. He became gaunt and pale. On medical advice he stopped singing with the tenors in the church choir, because long periods of standing left him dizzy.
Once he was finally diagnosed, Grandma had her work cut out for her. She’s alway been the matriarchal cook and hospitality expert of the family — I think it has something to do with being from Tennessee, and all that southern hospitality stuff. But this was back when I was in high school, in the mid 2000’s. At the time, there was one shelf in Whole Foods dedicated to certified gluten free foods, maybe two. There was only one GF flour blend that was easy to find (might have been Bob’s Red Mill, might not’ve been) so whenever Grandma wanted to bake she did a lot of her own blends, buying pure rice flower, chickpea flower, tapioca flour, potato starch, etc., and xanthan gum, which she once told me is like buying gold.
By now, of course, you can usually find at least two different blends in any grocery store you walk into, even the conventional ones like Safeway and Lucky’s. If there isn’t a GF section or aisle it’s because they carry such a wide variety of GF products that the items have been scattered back throughout the store, and you can get your cereal, canned soup, or cupcake batter in the regular aisles like everybody else.
These days, I’m quite familiar with hunting down GF options. Like my Grandma I enjoy baking, so I’ve done my fair share of experimenting. Making pie dough with pure rice flour was like working with sand. I couldn’t roll the dough out so I ended up smoothing it into the glass pan and evening it out as best I could, but it tasted awesome both before and after cooking. Pure chickpea flour held together better, but tasted like beans before it was cooked. (I am not a legume fan.) I haven’t tried making banana bread in a long time — my last attempt came out dense and a little soggy, but I can’t remember what I used.
My partner is gluten free, so when we met I already knew what that meant and wasn’t intimidated by it. Together we’ve made some pretty amazing things, from GF pies to salted caramel cheesecake bites with a GF graham cracker crust. Most flour blends work well, and we’ve experimented with some do-it-yourself blends from magazines, but our brand of choice is Namaste. We eat a lot of pasta and try new brands whenever we find something that looks interesting. There’s a local restaurant that makes The Best gluten pizzas and sandwich bread (in house!), and it’s where we go for lunch whenever family visits, especially my Grandpa.
Do you cook and bake gluten free? What are your favorite recipes and flour blends?