Dr Sister Outlaw’s baking career goes bung …

Having written extensively on the magic of flour-butter combos (which includes fabulous pastry for scallop pies), the seductive powers of fine desserts like Lemon Delicious Pudding and the charms of Christmas pudding, I think I have established I have quite a thing for working with flour.

Of all my kitchen skills I am most grateful for my skills as a baker and pastry chef. Over three decades I have gained a keen sense of how to emulsify flour and liquids into elastic doughs, or puff flour and fat into gorgeous cakes and desserts. I have celebrated these skills most when I have someone to impress; at a “bring a plate” do or, as has not often been the case, when there is an appreciative man around. I’m a baking nerd with a real thing for gluten – I know how to use it and how to play with it. And of course I love to eat it, as I confessed in my post about my food crimes as a single woman.

But now find myself in a quite a sad situation. Those who follow me on twitter will realise that I have, of late, developed a strong and quite dizzy making crush. This of course is not sad at all, for it seems the crush is reciprocated. No, what’s sad is all my mad baking skills are wasted upon him. He cannot eat gluten. Worst of all, I have not spent that much time cooking for people who are gluten intolerant so I do not know how to bake or make much at all without it.

The only answer to this problem, of course, is to develop some skills and knowhow in the area of gluten-free baking and cooking, which is why I have turned to you, denizens of the lazy web. I know you wise and learned Progressive Dinner Party readers will have heaps of good advice about how to develop mad skills in gluten-free baking. So, this is an open thread on pitfalls and dangers, tips and advice and, hopefully, a really good recipe for gluten-free bread.

24 thoughts on “Dr Sister Outlaw’s baking career goes bung …

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Dr Sister Outlaw’s baking career goes bung … | Progressive Dinner Party -- Topsy.com

  2. oh god, not the whole gluten-free thing! that’s almost worse than veganism. Gluten-free food falls apart very easily for some reason, then you sit round eating crumbs and splinters and pretending it’s ‘delicious’.

  3. I feel your pain. I can’t imagine life without gluten. It cuts out bread and beer, just for a start.

    Every gluten-free recipe I’ve ever avoided reading in detail looked like it wouldn’t be very nice at all.

    My ex-missus gave my current lady friend a recipe for a gluten-free cake that involved chucking a lot of whole oranges in a blender, which is when I lost interest. (The lady friend needed such a thing for a gluten-intolerant third party. I think I’d leave her if she had it.)

    Have you considered suggesting to your new romantic interest that he get a nice dose of intestinal worms?

  4. I don’t know that you’re going to get a lot of joy here, Dr Sister Outlaw, if the comments so far are anything to go by. I must say my first thought was that ‘gluten-free baking’ is an oxymoron.

    Could you not continue to wallow in gluten for yourself, the offspring, colleagues, skool fates hem-hem ect, and enhance your skillz with classy non-baked goods (e.g. pho) for the crush?

  5. Of course I shall continue to bake yummy gluten-filled things, and to share them, and Crush does drink beer (thank heavens for small mercies), but I agree that gluten free living sucks.

    As you point out Elsewhere, this is almost worse than veganism. In the past I have loudly complained about the proliferation of gluten-free diets – seems every person with a tummy bug puts themselves on it then makes the lives of those around them a living misery. A past colleague was a case in point – she would insist on gluten-free morning teas, which we would all endure, then have a white bread sandwich for lunch). But my crush is very polite about it, and has good reason to avoid these foods.

    The reason for this post is to ascertain, is there edible gluten-free food, apart from Claudia Roden’s orange cake?

  6. As someone who shares her life with one of the gluten intolerant, can I say that GF baking has come a long way in recent times. Try the local Celiac Society–they produce a magazine with a range of recipes. The variety of GF flours has also increased in range & availability & then try googling for GF websites—you’re sure to find one that suits.

  7. Forget bread without gluten – it’s all awful.

    Pastries too really.

    Cakes, puddings and slices are another matter entirely, as PC and others observe.

  8. Gluten-free eating is easy – it helps to have a rice cooker – but gluten-free baking is hard, and often unwise.
    Here are a few tips:
    You can make cakes where egg carries the load of making it light, rather than the long proteins of gluten.
    Flourless chocolate almond cake makes the best and most popular birthday or occasion cake.
    Buckwheat pancakes are good.
    Sponge cake can be done with corn flour.
    Pizza is feasible.
    Damp or stodgy things work better than ones that need to be light eg fudge, brownies, batter puddings.
    Home-made pasta is not possible, but commercial pastas can be good – go for the Italian ones.
    Generally, try to go for dishes and meals that are genuinely flour-free, rather than trying to create substitutes.
    White Wings gluten free is the best flour.
    Most commercial breads are awful.
    Biscuit crust can be made with those rice biscuits.
    Italian almond meal biscuits are gluten-free.
    Polenta is useful.
    Look to Latin America for maize dishes.
    Never on any account try to put a gluten-intolerant person in the same party as egg or nut allergy people, and avoid vegetarians.

  9. “Never on any account try to put a gluten-intolerant person in the same party as egg or nut allergy people…”

    Extremely sage advice…

    “…and avoid vegetarians.”

    …but perhaps that’s going too far. I played poker with one last night, and it went reasonably smoothly.

  10. ooh. Thanks Emma @Cake Mistresse for the link to Cannelle and Vanille. What a beautiful blog! an inspiration to improve mine!

  11. I’m adding my blergh to everyone else’s. it’s not a lot of fun. everything dries out and/or crumbles really quickly unless it’s a cake drenched in syrup, which is so delightful and decadent until you get heartily sick of it and want to throw it against the wall. what you love about bread and pastry is the gluten, there’s no getting around it…

    I’ll mention a brand, because it’s easy to access and gives decent results – Basco’s all purpose mix is very reliable. I’ve got a choccie brownie recipe which uses it and you just cannot tell it’s gluten free. will find if you want. their whole range is decent for an instant gluten-free mix that’s on a supermarket shelf.

    unless your bloke is very intolerant, you could experiment with the lower-gluten breads like flat bread, or spelt, or a spelt-rye mix, because I find spelt dries out a lot too. anything chewy and dense like Italian bread usually causes upsets. sourdough culture is something we’ve found can make a bread more tolerable.

    then again, TDN is The Naughtiest Little Coeliac, so sometimes it’s hard to tell between a lesser reaction and sheer bloody determination to eat gluten.

    you’ll want to play around with flour mixes, and it probably is a mix that you’ll want. unless you’re making a sponge, corn flour isn’t going to satisfy you texturally, or rice flour either. and too much soy flour makes for intestinal discomfort. we found that out the hard way back in the 80’s when TDN was found to be a coeliac. beware.

  12. oh! PS: every coeliac I know also gets heartily sick of the density and richness of almond meal. it’s like the ubiquitous syrup. utterly delicious until you want to stab the next person who kindly makes you a flourless orange and almond cake. even TDN, who is a total marzipan fiend, gets over it.

  13. Thanks so much Speedy – that’s useful info. I think I will get into making sponges, I have so many chooks! Choccie brownies are big in this house so yes please, send the recipe along.

  14. Well I’m wheat free (though thankfully not gluten-free). So I have a few ideas.

    I think the absolute key with GF baking is to make your own flour mix. The commercial ones vary in their ingredients – the problem is if you use one brand flour one time and then replicate the same recipe with a different brand, you will have different results.

    You need to make up your own mix of flours (ie, rice flour, millet, sorghum, cornstarch) and use that as a substitute. The blogs listed later have some good ideas on this.

    Also note often with GF recipes there is a need to add additional fat so that things aren’t dry and crumbly. The mixtures are also usually quite different to deal with – usually a bit more liquid than normal.

    Some great blogs are from people who are professional/semi-professional cooks that are recently GF Canelle & Vanille, My Tartelette (a pastry chef who recently became GF) and Alinea at Home.

    Some good recipes from them are:

    Puff pastry –

    Sponge cake –

    Cupcakes –

    These all give some ideas on appropriate substitutions of GF flour when you make the flour mix yourself.

    Personally, I mostly make flourless things when I bake GF –
    Flourless lime cupcakes – http://itpleasesus.com/2010/11/07/tropical-cupcakes-flourless-lime-with-coconut-cream-cheese-frosting/

    Good luck with it!

  15. Oh wow, thank you SO much. This thread is proving to be a great resource for recipes that aren’t just about substituting gluten free flours, but are about making food that is actually nice.

    Nom nom nom.

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