Tag Archives: gluten free

Gluten-Free and Me

30 Nov

Gluten-free Pumpkin Pie

 

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Do you have any dietary restrictions?  It seems that many people do.  Some dietary habits come about because an individual has made a decision to eat (or not eat) certain foods (for example, deciding to be a vegetarian or vegan).  Others are necessary because of the individual’s intolerance to certain substances.   One of these, that seems to affect many people, is the sensitivity or, in the case of those with celiac disease, the inability to tolerate any amount of gluten.

For those of you who might not know what gluten is, here is the definition, according to Merriam-Webster:  “a mixture of proteins not readily soluble in water that occurs in wheat and most other cereal grains. Its presence in flour makes production of leavened baked goods possible because the chain-like gluten molecules form an elastic network that traps carbon dioxide gas and expands with it.

What has all this information about gluten have to do with me?  Well, I spend a lot of my time baking food for other people… and more than a few of them are gluten intolerant.  And because I love to create good food that everyone can eat, I have made a concerted effort to learn how to bake cakes, cookies, and of course, pies, that are gluten-free.  Sometimes this is not very hard to do, especially when there is only a small amount of flour in the recipe… and then there are times when things don’t quite work out as planned.

Once, when making a gluten-free cake, I tried to remove the finished cake from the pan, and it cracked and broke into pieces.   The cake tasted good but it was not possible to put it back together, and so, instead of making a traditional layer cake, I made a trifle by layering bits of cake, fresh whipped cream, and berries.  Do you think anyone minded that their cake wasn’t in the right shape?  I don’t think so.

Just the other day, I was making gluten-free cookies and tried substituting coconut oil for the butter in the recipe.  What happened?  A few minutes after I put the cookies in the oven, they started to merge and by the end of the baking time, I had one huge “cookie.”  I was pretty disappointed until I broke off a bit of the ginormous cookie and tasted it.  It was delicious!   My friends didn’t even seem to mind that they were eating bits of cookie instead of “cookies” and (bonus!) according to Cathy Guisewite, the creator of the comic strip, Cathy, broken cookies have no calories!

Next Tuesday I am scheduled to teach a gluten-free baking class at the Ashland Food Coop.  During the class I will share tales (and recipes) of some of my successes (and also some of “oops” moments) about baking gluten-free.   If you can attend, I’d love to see you there.   Wish me luck!

 

Gluten-Free and Me

28 Jan

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For a person like me, who has been baking most of her life, learning to bake gluten-free has been an interesting adventure.  As far as I know, I am not affected by gluten, but it seems every week I am finding that more and more of my friends/clients are either gluten-intolerant or have been diagnosed with celiac disease.  Initially, that presented a dilemma for me, because I still wanted to create lovely food for my friends and clients.  And I can… but I just needed to learn how to do that without using my old “mainstay”, namely wheat.

The hardest part of this process was discovering that wheat is hidden in so many different foods.  This meant that I had to read ingredient labels very carefully.  Some of the ingredients that likely contain wheat are obvious – bread crumbs, pasta, couscous, tabouli, hydrolyzed wheat protein.  Then there are the foods that you might not suspect contain wheat – malt vinegar, soy sauce, beer, brewer’s yeast, and even Red Vines licorice!    Who knew?   Well, most gluten-free consumers do… because they have learned to read labels and to look up the ingredients that might not be easily identifiable such as Dinkle, Chilton, edible starch, kamut, and Farro.  

My neighbor, Deb, has been gluten-free for a while now and she has been a great source of information for me.  She has also been happy to taste the gluten-free dishes that I come up with and will offer suggestions of other dishes that I might want to try.   Sometimes she is at an event that I have catered, and she is the one “selling” my goods because she knows which ones are “safe” to eat.  It seems that many times the guests who have issues with gluten are surprised that someone made an effort to provide food for them.   I just know that if some of my guests can’t eat any of my offerings, then I haven’t really “catered” to them.

Yesterday I helped a friend with an event and made about 10 dozen gluten-free peanut butter cookies for the dessert table.  As we were arranging the platters of sweets two guests thanked me for making something that was gluten-free.   It was such a simple thing to do… and I was glad to be able to provide something that everyone could eat.

Recently my friend’s son was diagnosed with celiac disease and in an effort to show him support, my friend has decided to eliminate gluten from his diet as well.  How sweet is that?  It reminds me of the story from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.  Shauna, the gluten-free girl, has celiac.  Shauna met and then married Danny, a chef.  Soon after, Danny decided to make his restaurant gluten-free so that he could create a place where his wife could eat anything on the menu.  Isn’t that amazing?

Tomorrow is my friend’s birthday, and so tonight I made him a chocolate cream pie that is safe for his son to eat.  The crust is made with those same peanut butter cookies – crushed in the Cuisinart, mixed with a tiny bit of butter, pressed into a pie tin and baked for 10 minutes.  This recipe for chocolate pie filling usually calls for flour, but I simply substituted cornstarch and that’s all that I had to do to make his pie gluten-free.  It was the least I could do for a friend.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”

~ Cesar Chavez

For a list of foods containing gluten, go to this website,  www.celiac.com , and search for the forbidden food list.  It was created by a man named Scott Adams who was diagnosed with celiac nearly twenty years ago.  He created this list so that others wouldn’t suffer needlessly.

Life’s gifts are where you find them

16 Aug

How can it be that I bake almost every day and have not taken the time to write a post in weeks?  I can’t explain it except to say that I can think up many reasons to bake something – but by day’s end, it’s hard to find the energy to write a single word!  Yet I can’t begin to imagine going for weeks without baking.

Chocolate Cream Pie topped with chunks of Cary’s Toffee

It seems I am always finding a reason to bake.  Recently, I baked a chocolate cream pie for my friend Judi who was leaving her job after 28 years.  She is looking forward to what the future holds for her – and to spending more time with her seven grandchildren (who I hoped would be able to help her with all of that chocolate!)

And then last weekend was the first anniversary for the Medford Food Co-op and I was asked to make some cakes for the celebration.  I made three cakes – two of which were chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sour cream frosting.  The third cake was also chocolate and had a chocolate frosting but with raspberry filling -  and this one was gluten-free and dairy free as well!  That made a lot of people happy… and I was tickled to provide a cake that worked within those dietary restrictions.

Lest you think I have forgotten, there was a “pie recipient” in the mix.  I’d been listening  to Jefferson Public Radio on Saturday night not long ago, and the program that was on is one of our favorites.  It is called American Rhythm.  The host of this program is a man named Craig Faulkner and this is what is said about Craig’s program on the JPR website: Craig Faulkner uses his extensive archive of classic R&B, Swing, Jazz, Blues, and the popular music of a time gone by to honor and celebrate the Golden Era of American Music.

As I was preparing dinner and listening to his show that night I thought, I should make this man a pie!  You see, we’ve listened to his show for many years and I realized, he doesn’t know how much we enjoy this music.  I wanted to bake him a pie to say “Thank you for bringing us this lovely gift each week!”  However, this was a little bit of a challenge because I didn’t know Craig Faulkner at the time.  But after a few emails and a few phone calls, we became acquainted… and I was able to meet him and give him a berry pie (his wife had said he’d like that).

Fresh Blackberry and Raspberry Pie

You see, I think it is important to take the time to let people know when they’ve made a positive impact on our lives.   Even if all we offer is a simple “Thank you” to the person who has changed our lives for the better, we will have acknowledged their efforts – and that is the least we can do.

Oh –  I forgot to mention that we are hosting two lovely Japanese students for a few weeks.  Their names are Hitomi and Saya and they are here to participate in an intensive English program at Southern Oregon University.  Each day we talk, ask questions, and laugh at the differences in our languages… and each day their English gets a little bit better.  It’s been quite an amazing process to witness!

Saya and Hitomi

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” 
―    Marcel Proust

Day 213: Amey

5 Nov

When I am preparing a pie for someone I try to consider what their dietary restrictions might be. Sometimes I know that a person is gluten-intolerant or that they are a vegetarian. This information helps to guide my choice of pie (or quiche) and I do my best to meet or exceed their needs.

Occasionally a person’s needs challenge me to create something that I have not made before. Such was the case today when I needed to make a pie that was both gluten and sugar free. It took a little bit of thought but this is how I went about it. First I needed to make a crust without flour… and so I chose to grind up almonds and add a bit of butter and pressed that into my tart pan.

Next, I added a mixture of cream cheese, egg, and apple juice concentrate to the crust.

Finally, I arranged sliced apples on top of the cream cheese mixture. The apples had been tossed in a syrup made from apple juice concentrate and cornstarch.

The tart baked for about 45 minutes and when it was done it had a lovely golden brown tint on the apples. It looked and smelled quite nice… if I do say so myself.

Today’s pie was made for Amey, one of the department managers at the new Medford Food Coop. Amey was one of the first managers hired, and she has been an incredible asset to the Coop. I know I speak for everyone involved when I say that we are very lucky to have her on our team.

Day 152: Gina and Scott

5 Sep

A few years ago my husband and I volunteered to prepare food for about 300 people at a charity event. It was quite an undertaking and we were fully prepared to do it on our own. Luckily, we didn’t have to. Scott and Gina have many years of restaurant experience between them and they offered to help us with our task. We couldn’t have had better allies.

We spent many hours over several weeks planning and preparing for the big day. As we worked we shared our stories and got to know one another. We had been acquaintances before; through this work we became friends. I’ll never forget the time that Gina stopped by where I was cooking to bring me some tacos for lunch. She’d gotten to know me well enough in the short time that we’d been working to know that because I was totally focused on the event, I had not even thought about eating. Not only did she realize that – she took care of it.

Since then we have shared dinners fairly often – well, as often as we can coordinate our schedules. We always look forward to catching up – and since we all love to cook, there is usually a feast to look forward to as well.

Tonight we planned a picnic in the park – and I decided to make a pie with Gina in mind. I started with this Peanut butter Cheesecake recipe from Paula Deen but I had to make some variations because Gina doesn’t eat foods with gluten. The first change to the recipe was to substitute homemade gluten free peanut butter cookies for the graham crackers.

Next, I substituted cornstarch for the flour in the cheesecake batter. And then, I was about to put the little peanut butter cups on the crust when I read this on the package “manufactured on the same equipment that processes wheat.” Damn. There went the peanut butter candy idea. But I can work with a challenge and so instead I added some peanut butter to a cup of the cheesecake batter and made a peanut butter swirl cheesecake.

Once the cheesecake was baked, I had to find a way to add some chocolate to it. The solution was so simple: using a paring knife I shaved off enough chocolate from a chunk of Guittard bittersweet chocolate to form a rim around the edge of this pie. And it was delightful. Just rich enough without being too much. My sincere thanks to Paula Dean for her inspiration – and to Gina and Scott for their continued friendship.

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