K and I have been gluten free for over 3 years now. That’s four Disney trips! We are gluten intolerant. That means we are not celiac. We just can’t handle gluten. Our symptoms varied and were not the same. K would have tummy trouble during every meal, she had severe eczema and itchy skin and she also did not gain weight easily. In my early 20s my thyroid failed, even after having a complete thyroid removal my numbers would not stabilize, I had trouble with eczema and certain foods seemed to make me feel more “yuck”. Our skin tests came back normal. Our blood tests came back borderline for celiac (mine was more into the positive range but still what the doc called borderline). So it was an elimination challenge that let us be absolutely positive. We felt great once gluten was eliminated.
What is gluten? Gluten is the binding substance in wheat, barley and rye. Oats from the U.S. are most likely contaminated as farmers rotate crops and grow crops close to one another. (I have found the McCann’s Irish Oats are good! Yay!) So, that means baking is a whole new ball game with gluten free flours. You need to include that binding agent that will make everything sticky (like what the gluten does in wheat and the other flours). But, first let’s discuss flours that are safe. With gluten free living you can use: Rice (white, sweet or brown), Potato, Corn, Garbanzo Bean, Fava Bean, Sorghum, Tapioca, Teff, Buckwheat, Coconut, Chia, Quinoa and Almond. These are flours. If your recipe calls for flour make sure the bag says flours and not starch. Some typical starches found in gluten free baking are: Tapioca, Potato, Rice, Arrowroot and Corn.
There has been some speculation as to Spelt. Spelt is part of the wheat plant and therefore it has gluten in it. IT IS NOT SAFE!
Now back to that binding agent. Without it our cakes would be one crumbly mess. Binding agents act as gluten in your baking and help things adhere. I’m sure it’s all chemistry but that was never my favorite subject. Binding agents include: Xantham Gum, Guar Gum, Baking Soda and Baking Powder. Xantham Gum is the gold standard and you will usually use this with baking soda and/or powder. It’s a bit pricey but the bottle last a long time. I can usually use one bottle per year!
Some good cookbooks are essential for gluten free living. I will list some of my favorites below:
- You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten Free! This is my go to book when I need an easy recipe. I made a two tiered birthday cake for K last year using cornstarch as my main flour. Yep. And it was moist and yummy.
- I also like Cake Mix Doctor Does Gluten Free. This book is fantastic. You can use the Betty Crocker gluten free cake mixes with this book.
- BabyCakes Covers The Classics is AWESOME. This is where I got a yummy doughnut recipe that uses bean flours. Plus this cookbook is vegan so that means no eggs, milk or butter.
- Gluten free Made Simple is one I just got for Christmas and it has quickly made my list of favorites.
- Another one I just got but LOVE is Quick Fix Gluten Free. Umm… Chocolate, Banana Bread Pudding. Need I say more?