When first told to take gluten out of their diet, most people feel like something you see in the cartoons. The ground beneath them is suddenly gone. They're hanging in mid-air waiting to fall. The struggle to cook gluten-free wasn't like that for me. I had already learned about dealing with a dairy-free diet and I had fell head-over-heels in love with heath food, herbs, and the vegan diet.
During the ninety's I worked in a health food store where I learned about the vegan diet. It felt so good. Veganism naturally reduces gluten, corn, and bake goods from the diet, and incorporates a larger variety of foods into the diet. Unable to stay on the diet I continued to have health issues.
So, for me, the bottom didn't fall out. It more at slowly crumbled. It started with starch. Starch, with its high pectin content, is the quickest, easiest, and seemingly best substitute for gluten. Gluten provides quite a bit of the nutrition and the strength to hold a rise in breads and cakes. Starch's lack of nutrition lead me to develop a number of my recipes free of it. Although, cakes, breads, and cookies can be made without starch, pie crusts, crackers, tortillas, and biscuits don't hold together,crisp up or roll out with it's absence.
It was after embracing starch I hit that emptiness. Potato and corn starches have larger starch molecules. The larger the molecules the better it works as a replacement for gluten. They also tend to be cheapest. Well, what do you do if you're allergic to potatoes and corn. First there is tapioca starch. It's too close to the potato family. Crossover allergy problems happen there. So, scratch that. Arrowroot starch is an excellent corn starch substitute. Turns out, it's not unusual for manufactures to cut potato starch into a batch of arrowroot, if they are a little short during bagging. Well, scratch that. Kuzu starch made from the kudzu plant costs 7USD for 3.5 ounces. Are you going to stick a cup of it in your baking? I think not! Scratch that.
With so many foods scratched from my diet, it has been an ability to cook from 'scratch' that has been the biggest help in my struggle to live with, not only a large number of allergies, but to also put together a family meal which considers other family member's allergy concerns. It helps with remembering the ingredient combinations needed to make a cake rise, or to take out out one nutritious food and replace it with another. It makes me brave enough to can my own food, so I can avoid the starch not listed on a food label, but used to make factory canning machines work smoothly without oil.
What has helped you the most in your struggle with gluten/allergy-free cooking?
This weeks highly recommended website for understanding gluten sensitivity.
The World's Ultimate Resource On: Gluten Free Diets, Gluten Free Research, Gluten Free Help, Celiac Disease, and Gluten Free Recipes. Gluten Free Society