Several years ago, my doctor said that I needed to be gluten-free to help resolve some issues I was having. As someone who had at least one serving of bread every day and enjoys baking desserts regularly, this was a tough one to swallow. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had been working with a health coach back then as they would have made my transition MUCH smoother.
One of the first things I had to learn is what things commonly have gluten in them. There were some surprises! Below is a list of items that surprised me most:
Oatmeal: Oatmeal itself is gluten-free. Unless specified as gluten-free, it is mixed with flour when it is processed.
Barley: like wheat, barley naturally contains gluten
White sauces, gravy, and salad dressings
Many types of sausages
Some corn chips
Cream based soups: often uses flour as a thickener
Now I know to look for gluten-free labels on these items, and it is easier to avoid gluten when attending a potluck.
The next hurtle was learning to bake gluten-free. I can not count the number of things I have tried that did not come out right. The pancakes that were mushy inside no matter how long they cooked, the cookies that tasted ‘different’, the ‘never fail gluten-free bread recipe’ that resembled nothing more than a pancake, and the cupcakes that were too dry or too mushy to earn the name. For a while I gave up and was using “flourless” recipes. It turns out there really is a limit to the amount of chocolate mouse I can make before I just want some fluffy, normal cake or bread like deliciousness.
My breakthrough came when I started focusing on the consistency of what I was baking. Because all gluten-free flour mixes are different, I have found that the amount needed when using one type is not the same as others. When a recipe is clear about how runny, or vicious, the dough needs to be, I can add whatever amount of gluten-free flour it takes to achieve the right consistency. Now, about 2/3 of my trials in gluten-free baking are successful, and the other 1/3 are edible even if it doesn’t come out as intended.
If you are starting to a gluten-free diet, welcome to the club! There are more resources and companies offering gluten-free options now than just a few years ago. My one piece of advice is to consult with a health coach, they make all the difference in making it a smooth transition!
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