Learning to Cook Gluten-Free
Learning to Cook Gluten-Free: Plus an Easy Gluten-Free Sugar Cookie Recipe
No, not for me, but a grandson.
Which means our whole extended family is embarking on a journey nobody wanted but everyone gets to participate in–which is something every family which has any of various food allergies experiences. I touched on this a few weeks ago, before I had tried mixing up our own gluten-free flour blend, which I learned about from Julie of Mennonite Girls Can Cook fame, here.
So here’s a summary of some of my learnings so far:
- My first discovery was wow, you can make a flour out of almost any food that grows in a garden, rice paddy, tree or bush: peas, beans, chickpeas, potatoes, rice, corn, popcorn, nuts! I’ve been cooking over 40 years and did not know some of these flours were possible.
- You don’t even have to buy a wheat grinder. You can use a coffee grinder, which I have but don’t use much any more. And of course that takes forever, but you can give it a try.
- This stuff can be very expensive in ground forms. But if you don’t have the patience or time or grinder and can find a bulk food store that stocks these items already ground up, you will likely save megabucks over buying them from a health food store. Nothing against health food stores, except not being able to afford much there. I ended up buying one bag of potato starch (different from potato flour) in a health food store which cost double what I paid for the other bags purchased at Sharp Shopper, (a small chain of grocery outlets that have all kinds of things for less, such as canned or frozen items which are almost past their best “sold by” date). But their bulk food section has a wonderful selection and fresh items not soon expiring.
- Help is always at your fingertips online. Here’s a great WikiHow To Do Anything on making your own flour, and storing it. If you are not using such flour right away, do freeze it as it will keep much longer (year or more); just be sure to bring what you use to room temperature before mixing up, especially if using it in a yeast dough recipe.
- Don’t feel you need to reinvent the wheel. I am ecstatically grateful for all the research and experimentation Julie did in coming up with her blend.
- But do experiment and adapt. I ended up using Julie’s Blend of flour for a Christmas cookie very similar to our all-time favorite simple sugar cookie recipe of Mary Lou McMillin from my church. These tasted grittier than using normal flour (duh) but my grandson enjoyed his special Christmas decorated cookies.
- Stick your neck out. I also tried my hand at Julie’s Winner’s Bread (scroll to bottom of that page) and baked it for James for the holidays. He was able to enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches with our homemade vegetable soup the same as we did. What a treat for us all–that we could eat grilled cheese without feeling sorry for James because he had his own homebread and sandwich. (The bread disappeared so fast I forgot to get a picture of it!)
- In some ways, this is like learning to cook and bake all over again. The steps of recipes I have down pat from years of using them—even if I don’t have the recipe totally memorized—are like second nature. Julie adds steps or hints throughout her recipe that I found very helpful—and very new. Instead of kneading this bread, for instance, (which is too sticky and gooey to even think of doing), you wet your hands with warm water to smooth the top of the loaf.
- Bring your best concentration game to the kitchen so you don’t lose track of which steps you’ve completed or else you’ll make a big expensive mistake. For instance, the blend called for one cup of most of the flours, but then switched to just ½ cup of two flours, and I accidentally doubled the amount of cornstarch. I did not throw it out when I discovered my mistake, and just went with it.
- Don’t first try these recipes while simultaneously keeping a toddler from hurting himself, or walking a baby on the hip while cooking. Aim for naptime!
I know I have a whole lot more to learn.
I adapted Julie’s Lemon Butter Cookies – gluten-free recipe from Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog because the cookies seemed so much like Mary Lou’s, which I decorate with different colored sugars at different times of year/occasions. Here are Julie’s.
Simple Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup butter – salted
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 lg. egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 3/4 cups Julie’s Flour Blend + 1 rounded tablespoon (or use any purchased gluten-free flour mix)
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- sweet rice flour – for handling the dough
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add egg and beat well.
- Add vanilla.
- Blend well the xanthan gum into the flour.
- Using as little sweet rice flour as needed, you can either roll this dough out or form walnut size balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Press them slightly with the bottom of a cup or glass which you’ve buttered and then dipped in plain white sugar (so it won’t stick to dough).
- Top with colored sugar or sprinkles of your choice, or leave plain.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes … just until the edges begin to turn golden.
- Remove from oven and cool on tea towel, paper towel, or cooling racks.
- If you didn’t add colored sugar, ice or otherwise decorate as desired, or leave plain.
Allergies in your family? How have you adapted your cooking when sharing family meals? I’d love to hear!
If you have gluten-free recipes or websites or tips to share, here’s your space!
Both cookbooks from Mennonite Girls Can Cook include marked GF recipes suitable for gluten-free diets, and available here.