I used to pity people whose naturopath or other medical professional told them they were sensitive to gluten. I couldn’t imagine life without pasta, pizza, bread, or cakes. I’m a baker, and I love all of these things. Do without? How horrible.
Then last summer, we experimented with the paleo diet (which, along with other diet adventures, I wrote about in A Diet by Any Other Name). In order to do that, it meant giving up most carbs, including anything with gluten. And within a few weeks, my long-term problem with sinus congestion and allergies was eliminated. Part of that was also due to giving up yeast, too, but subsequent experimentation has shown that if I want relief, I need to avoid both yeast and gluten most of the time. I’m a baker, and I have a deep-seated love—maybe even addiction to—baked goods. So it was a disappointment to learn that I should avoid these things if I want to feel good and maintain a healthier weight.
When confronted with a gluten-free diet, most people ask this question: what on earth do I replace gluten with? The simple answer is that there is no real replacement for it. Gluten is the glue that gives baked goods their texture. You can make baked goods that are gluten-free, but I think that realistically you have to be ready to accept a new texture. Now, I know that there are many gluten-free recipes out there that call for a combination of other flours (such as rice flour) and rely on ingredients such as xanthan gum and guar gum. Since I want to avoid manufactured and processed foods, these are not options for me. (Xanthan gum is made from corn, most of which is GMO these days.) So what the heck was I going to bake?
Fortunately, I have found a few good recipes out there, and I have created some of my own. Here are some of our favorites.
This recipe is by Brittany Angell, and they are not only really easy (you mix them in a blender), but they are so good that my kids cannot tell the difference between them and “regular” pancakes. They love them.
These are very simple to make, and they have the added benefit of tasting very buttery—even though there is no butter in them! Yummy.
This makes a very satisfying bread, and our son loves it! (Also, if you follow the link to the original recipe, scroll down the page and find the Paleo Banana Bread recipe. Our kids love it.)
I have modified the original Flax-Seed Bread recipe as follows:
2/3 cup flax meal
1/3 cup almond meal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 Tbsp whole flax seeds
1 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
Enough water to make the batter pourable (~1/2 – 3/4 cup)
Combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs together. Add the eggs, oil, and a little water to the dry ingredients. If needed, add more water to make the batter pourable. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan.
Bake at 350° F for about 30 minutes.
My cracker recipe is a variation on the Flax-Seed Bread:
2/3 cup flax meal
1/3 cup almond meal
1/8 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
Combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs and oil together. Combine the two mixtures and mix well. Stir in the sunflower seeds.
Pour the batter onto a well-greased cookie sheet, and use your hands to flatten it out into a thin rectangle.
Bake at 375° F for about 15 minutes, or longer if you want it crispier. Just be careful not to burn it; almond meal is touchy that way.
When done, allow it to cool for a few minutes, then cut into pieces.
I actually have about 5 variations on this recipe, depending on what I’m in the mood for, but this is one of the children’s favorites.
2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove
1 cup puréed fresh pumpkin
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
If you’re using fresh puréed pumpkin, drain off some of the extra liquid so that it isn’t too watery. (Putting it in a sieve for a few minutes works well.)
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, combine wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Bake in a greased muffin sheet for 375° F for about 20 minutes. Allow them to cool in the pan before attempting to remove them.
Looking for more?
If you’re going gluten-free, you’re not alone. There are a ton of good recipes out there posted by people just like you. Google is your friend. Also, be willing to experiment. They may not always work out (I have had at least one epic failure), but eventually you will get something to work.