It all started with bread.
After the initial shock of being diagnosed with multiple food allergies, one of the first baking projects I tried was bread. The first surprise was learning that I couldn’t just substitute one kind of non-wheat flour for regular flour.
I spent much money buying rice flour, oat flour, and several different flours just to try to make some bread. I put everything in my bread maker and pressed the start button. The machine fired up and I was excited to taste my new bread.
The result was devastating. I opened the bread maker and was greeted with a bowl full of crumbs. Further research gave me the knowledge that most bread machines punch down the bread, and in order for the punch down to work your bread needs gluten. There are newer bread machines created for gluten free breads, but I don’t have one of those.
My frustration level was extremely high, I needed to find good substitutes for the foods that I could no longer use.
My first discovery was gfJules gluten free flour. It is a one-to-one flour replacement. My first bread using this flour was a success. The key to making it work is that you weigh the flour rather than just scoop it into a measuring cup. Scooping compresses the flour and you end up using too much.
I still have a pantry full of various flours that I almost never use. I just hate to get rid of them. Hopefully I will eventually use them up.
With that first victory under my belt, I began building a foundation of food, one recipe at a time. Taking one recipe at a time, I began reinventing my favorite recipes. There were successes and failures. My first Thanksgiving cooking with allergies had both. The gluten free dressing mix (you know, the bread cubes) was awful. When I opened up the package the smell almost knocked me out with that rancid smell. I ended up using it, but it tasted as bad as it smelled.
For subsequent turkey stuffing, I now make my own cornbread, dry it a little, and then cube it. It’s wonderful, but I’ve lost the convenience of being able to open a box and go. I need to begin at least a day – or two – ahead of time.
The second fail of that festive meal was dessert. I wanted to make a pumpkin pie. I made my own gluten free pie crust, and then followed the instructions on the side of the pumpkin pie can. To this day I’m not sure which of my substitute ingredients caused the fail.
If you closed your eyes and took a bite, it tasted like pumpkin pie. But when you looked at the pie, it didn’t resemble pumpkin. It looked like goose poop. Trust me when I say that no one wants to eat goose poop pie.
Gravy was a failure for a long time. It was something that I really missed. Every time I tried to make gravy; it was a complete fail. Then one day my husband looked at the ingredient label on the almond milk I was using and explained that I was adding water to my gravy, not milk.
That realization began my journey creating my own non-dairy milk substitute, Cheri’s HazelCream. I approached a friend who is a fourth-generation hazelnut farmer and a chef and begged for help. She suggested trying Hazelnuts as a base. I am fortunate to be married to an engineer and over time, together we were he was able to figure out the formula for a great tasting hazelnut milk. The important part is that it is great for cooking. Today, I am able to make everything from soups to ice cream.
So what’s left? Deviled eggs are one of my next challenges. I can make a substitute for the filling, it’s delicious. The problem is the egg white part that the yellow filling sits in.
Eggs are hard to substitute because you need to be a food chemist. The way the egg interacts in the recipe determines what you use as a substitute. If the recipe calls for more than two eggs, then you should either find a different recipe or use multiple egg substitute. I make a killer lemon cake that uses two different egg substitutes. I use a product called “Neat Egg”, combined with applesauce. But while those work well for liquid eggs, a firm egg white is out of the question, so far.
I’ve tried finger potatoes – but they taste like potatoes. The next experiment was with button mushrooms. Still not good. My next attempt will be with firm tofu. I’m hoping to be able to shape it into something that looks like an egg.
One of these days, I will come up with something wonderful. So keep trying new ideas and one day you will make something wonderful too.