Gluten-Free First Timer: Baking from Scratch
When Silvana Nardone invited the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to participate in her Gluten-Free Holiday Cookie Countdown, I did a happy dance. What better way to celebrate the season than a virtual cookie swap with gluten-free’s biggest names? I perused our stock of recipes for gluten-free sweet treats and settled on Buckwheat and Raisin Cookies. They were unique (Cream of Buckwheat in a cookie? Not too common) and, best of all, a kitchen-tested recipe from our friend, Nancy Baker.
The only problem? No photo, which meant I needed to bake. Now, curry or dips, I can do. Xanthan gum? Not my forte. As someone relatively new to the celiac scene, my gluten-free baking typically consists of boxed mixes. Xanthan gum still hovered in that “Experienced Bakers Only” category. Still, I can’t deny my love for a cooking challenge, so off to the store I went.
Fast forward to Dec. 19, also know as “the day I’m supposed to bake gluten-free.” My roommates don’t bake often, so I figured a Sunday morning would be a safe time to de-glutenize the area and break out the buckwheat. I strolled into the kitchen to find two sticks of butter on the counter. “Kate, are you making something today?” I shouted up the stairs. “Yeah, I’m baking chocolate chip cookies and some sugar cookies for everyone.” The traditional, gluten-containing kind. Crisis.
I immediately went to Plan B: Baking at my boyfriend’s house, a place void of flour and baking mixes. Still, he and his roommates enjoy their hoagies and pizza, so I thoroughly cleaned the counters, bowls, utensils and cookie sheets to ensure a gluten-free environment.
And the baking? Well, the recipe actually is easy. Sure, gluten-free flours and cornstarch dusted everything in sight, and I left the oven light on for hours so I could check each batch every 2 minutes. But, despite one near mishap (a friend dared to enter the kitchen clutching a deli sandwich), the cookies turned out round, toasted and quite photogenic.
After a few snapshots and a taste test by my boyfriend’s roommates (tough critics, as you can imagine), the cookies were safely stashed in Ziploc bags to await enjoyment at the office.
NFCA’s gluten-free experts gave the cookies a thumbs up and, more importantly, no one felt ill after eating them. Cross-contamination successfully avoided!
After this culinary victory, I’m convinced that baking gluten-free from scratch really isn’t as hard as it seems. In fact, I dare say that xanthan gum and I are now friends. Hey, it sounds cheesy, but if I can do it, you can too.
What tips do you have for gluten-free baking from scratch?