Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A sampling of my journey up to present

My first experiment with non-wheat, non-dairy, non-egg baking was for my daughter's first birthday cake. My allergist has a website with helpful links of cooking without common food allergens. From this I learned a few egg substitues, and became aware of allergy support networks and available recipes online. I have used search engines a lot. I haven't found many recipes on the internet that actually can be followed without my adapting them. Most all of my baking has consisted of altering recipes.

From one network, I found a recipe for cake using rice flour. I attempted, while adapting the recipe to be eggless. I thought it was a flop. It was grainy and dry, and I did not attempt any baked good with rice flour for months afterward. Even seeing the picture of my daughter's birthday cake brought back sickening feelings to my stomach for probably a year afterward. It probably was a reaction made worse by the fact that I was in my nauseaus pregnant state when I tried the cake. : )

The next direction I took, then, was to develop recipes already asking for oats, to consist solely of oats and oat flour for the grain. I had some success with cookies. But I wasn't satisfied. I actually decided recently to bring the rice flour back into my baking, to use in parts with the oat. As I have sought recipes or had questions, I have gone to the internet for answers. I have been frustrated as many resources aren't available to me without subscribing and paying membership, or without buying books. I haven't used many existing recipes; most have needed to be adapted, which means a lot of guesswork and trial and error. But I have still found a wealth of information, in tidbits here and there, across the internet.

Recently, I realized I could check out books from the library for free, and they've been a huge resource. I have checked out two recipe books(see below), and they have helped answer questions about how different ingredients work, or which ingredients can be substituted and how. The books have confirmed and solidified some of the facts that I had gathered from tidbits of info scattered across sources from the internet. For example, from reading various recipes and suggestions across the internet and on Bob's Mill packages and such, I had gathered that it is usually helpful to combine several types of non-wheat flours into one recipe, and to use a little Tapioca Starch or Arrowroot or Cornstarch, and sometimes Xanthum Gum. But how much exactly? And when? I had added the starches in teaspoons or tablespoons when baking with rice flour. This was for moisture, I had learned. With the new books I've read, I learned Tapioca or Arrowroot or cornstarch help retain moisture and lighten the texture. Thus, I deduce, it might be good to use these starches with oat flour, too. Oat flour can make things dense.

To get to the point I'm trying to get to, it has taken a lot of researching and experimenting to get to the point I'm at, and I'm constantly learning. I have flops and I have successes. But it's neat how much I've been able to learn with research and resources and trial and error. You can too! And hopefully I can pinpoint some of you to sources that will help you learn much more quickly than I have! : ) And hopefully some of you can pinpoint me to several more sources I don't know about!

By the way, your "flops" often can be converted into something successful! Three examples: Today I tried to adapt a rice flour pancake recipe to make waffles. Despite careful oiling, the batter stuck stubbornly to my waffle iron! I left it alone and got out my second iron. A couple hours later, I went to work at scraping off the cooked waffles. As I scraped the first section off into the sink, I thought, wait a minute, maybe I can use this for bread crumbs for breading chicken! It was a hit. Another example: I made my first loaf of garbanzo flour/rice flour bread from a Bob's Mill recipe, but had to adapt it in a few different ways. The loaf came out flat and heavy and had a stronger flavor than we liked for sandwich bread. I decided to tear it into pieces for using in meat loaf. The flavor and texture were perfect for a non-wheat, eggless, dairy-free meatloaf! Third example: I made a garbanzo bean cookie recipe from a newspaper article my mom sent. The cookies were much too salty and much too sweet for our liking. But I don't like to waste things. I realized they would probably make a good crumb crust for desserts. Why not pumpkin bars? It seemed the flavors would compliment each other well. And I had been bummed about not being able to bake pumpkin pie, as it normally relies on wheat crust and a largely-dairy largely-egg filling. So I made pumpkin bars with appropriate substitutes(I'll post the developed recipe), and the cookie crumbs were an excellent component of the dish!

I leave this post now with two resources I highly recommend checking out from your library:

The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook, by Marjorie Hurt Jones, revised 2001

The Complete Food Allergy Cookbook, by Marilyn Gioannini, copyright 1997

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