I come from a background where food was very important. Cooking has always been a passion for me. When Kasper was first diagnosed as autistic in 2001 and the decision was made to experiment with a gluten-free and casein free diet, the challenge was on to develop recipes that were both good for him and that he would actually eat. There seem to be too many recipes around that produce attractive-looking results but which taste like grit and wallpaper paste mixed together. I wanted recipes which the whole family could eat and enjoy without feeling deprived because the food was awful. The transition took time with some notable failures along the way. Rice ice cream anyone?
While you can buy pre-mixed gluten-free flour from supermarkets and health food shops, I found that I got better results from mixing my own flours from scratch. I make up large batches and store them in labelled bins. Sourcing the base flours to make up the mixes can take time. Now, if I see unfamiliar gluten-free flour in a shop, I buy it and then think about what to use it for later.
Currently in my cupboards, I have rice (brown, white, and glutinous), millet, sorghum, besan, lentil, tapioca, corn, potato and amaranth flours. Some of them we use on a daily basis, others I’m still getting the hang of.
Healthfood shops and supermarkets have some flours but I’ve found that Asian and Indian supermarkets have better ranges at lower prices. It is really worthwhile shopping around and buying in bulk once you know what you like and what you will use.
It is very important to check that cornflour is actually made from corn and isn’t just wheaten starch labelled as cornflour. I replace milk powder in bread with almond meal.
Gluten-free flours lack the elasticity and texture of wheat flour so it is necessary to replace these qualities. The secrets of success with gluten-free baking are gelatine, egg replacer and xanthan and guar gums. Xanthan gum is a powder milled from the dried cell coat of a micro organism, Xanthomonas campestris. Guar gum is much cheaper than xanthan gum but can cause distress for people with sensitive digestive systems. It’s a powder from the seed of the Cyamopsis tetragonoloba plant.
Gluten-free cooking is much much easier with good equipment. It’s not a style of cooking well-suited to low-tech methods. I’m devoted to my big powerful mixer. It’s an investment which will pay for itself over time as the baking I do at home is far cheaper than the gluten-free biscuits and breads currently available in the shops at much higher expense.