Monday, 29 July 2013

Going Gluten-Free - an (almost) adventure in cookie baking

Becca is off to a friend's cottage this week, and I want to send something with her as a token thank you hostess gift.  But she is a tween who thinks I go overboard...what's a gal to do?

I was planning on a gift basket, but Bex quickly nixed that as "too much Mom - I'm a kid and kids don't do gift baskets".  OK...why not something home-baked?  I pride myself on not doing "store bought" very often, and so buying cookies was out of the question.  We finally agreed that we'd find a unique vessel for our home-made cookies.  Off we went, to look for the perfect cookie jar.  Much like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, some were to big and some were too small, and then, as we were about to throw our hands up in the air, give up and head out to a different store, Becca announced she'd found it!  It was a ceramic canister, with a vacuum sealed top in a nice, neutral colour.  It had a mini chalk board label on the side.  It was perfect!  Hurray Becca!

We bought the jar and off we went, back home for lunch.  And then the adventure began.  I needed to find the perfect, gluten-free cookie recipe, as they adhere to a gluten-free diet right now.  I must admit, I know little about gluten-free cooking, although I see recipes for it on Norene's Kitchen all the time and know people who follow gluten-free diets.

My girlfriend Diane, pointed out that I could buy ready-made cookie mixes that are gluten-free, then laughed as she acknowledged that I wasn't likely to do that.

After some searching, I found a cookie recipe that didn't look too complicated and the cookies in the photo look scrumptious!  Thank you Rachael Ray!

I take dietary restrictions very seriously.  While Kashruth is more of a choice over a medical need, it is something that my father and brother strictly observe and I respect that.  When they come over my meals are strictly kosher.  My mother is lactose intolerant with a white flour allergy.  My Sara is allergic to fish, and I suffer from migraine and have to avoid a multitude of migraine-inducing ingredients.  Becca and I both have friends who are allergic to nuts.  So, baking gluten-free is just another cobblestone on my culinary adventures.

I perused a few gluten-free websites and printed off lists of safe foods and taboo ingredients.  Off I went to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for our "bakefest".  I soon discovered that going gluten-free is not so simple.  You need to ensure you don't cross-contaminate - which means gluten-free: flour (who knew there were so many kinds of flour!?!), baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, etc!

I repeatedly stopped in the aisles to Google all these different types of flour - white rice, brown rice, kamut - not one package that simply read  "gluten-free baking flour" like the recipe calls for! - and then a sinking feeling came over me as I realized that I was in way over my head.

Over the years I have learned from  numerous Passover baking disasters that adapting standard baking recipes with substitute flours and sugars does not guarantee that the recipe will turn out.  In fact, you can pretty well bet that the recipe will flop and you'll throw out the whole batch.

So, with Diane's words ringing in my ears, I reluctantly picked up a box of ready-made gluten-free cookie mix and put it in my shopping cart.  I continued to shop, cringing at the prospect of baking a boxed cookie that wouldn't taste homemade...and then it hit me - MERINGUES!  They are gluten-free and always prove to be a hit at the bake sales and dance competitions.  The ingredients are all safe and they keep well, package well, and will travel to the cottage without mushing!

So tonight, after I get home from work, I will whip up a fresh batch of Mama's Meringues to fill the canister Becca and I picked up this weekend...phew!

In the meantime, I am still determined to learn how to bake gluten-free...just because.  So if you have a simple and easy recipe for gluten-free baking, please share it in the comments below!

Whatever you're having, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!