True confession: Despite years of baking experience, the idea of gluten free baking scared me. Prior to Grace’s diagnosis, my experience with gluten free baking was limited to one occasion nearly a decade ago when a dear friend asked me to bring a gluten and dairy free showstopper dessert for a celebration. I toiled over that one, and ultimately turned to one of my most trusted pastry chefs of all time, Emily Luchetti, whose Walnut Cake With Chocolate Orange Sabayon and Vanilla Crème Anglaise fit the bill (note: the creme anglaise has dairy, but only 1 person was dairy free so I left it off of that plate). No surprise to those who know or have tasted Ms. Luchetti’s work, it turned out great and while this prompted me to buy my first ever potato starch, I never used that ingredient again. Until now.
Prior to Grace’s diagnosis, I was wary of GF baked goods, in part because of the many pasta and bread making demos hosted during my years with KitchenAid, wherein I urged folks to “coax out and stretch the gluten” and partially because the GF baked goods I had tasted seemed…hmm…let’s just say…questionable.
With our new GF imperative, I feared I was judging prematurely and I was not well enough informed so I decided that there’s one way to really make sure and that is to dive right in. First, with research and then by giving myself complete permission to fail along the way. I have done quite a bit of both in the past couple of years.
For my research, I turned to some pretty remarkable cookbooks and bakers or which three particularly stand out. My first acquisition was Alice Medrich’s, Flavor Flours. I was long a fan of Bojon Gourmet blog before Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s cookbook, The Alternative Baker was published, when it was, it was the second GF baking book I bought. Until I read these two books, I didn’t know half of the flours existed, let alone how to cook with them. Countless hours spent online and trips numerous to the library were many, and then I discovered my newfound favorite GF cookbook: Jeffrey Larsen’s Gluten Free Baking at Home. I sat down one early morning (thank you, insomnia) and I read it cover to cover all 260 something pages of it. It was filled with knowledge, information, tips, explanations, nutritional content. It blew my mind and distilled down so much of what I’ve been learning into easy and accessible recipes.
In tremendous gratitude for the work, time and effort that these bakers and so many bakers ahead of me have gone through, I am baking gluten free, without compromise or sacrifice in flavor, texture and quality. It has taken a while to get the hang of it and though some recipes still stump me, I have can now confidently say that there are scrumptious gluten free baked goods just ready to be made and enjoyed.