When I found out that I was sensitive to gluten, I spent a long time missing the things I could no longer eat (toasted bread and bagels were at the top of my list). I am under the impression that most people who discover that they have a food sensitivity or allergy go through a similar mourning period. It would get particularly bad for me when I wanted to bake cookies. I’ve never been a dedicated baker, but I was pretty good at producing a tasty batch of cookies when the mood struck.
Baking with gluten-free flours works, but it’s different. You’ll never end up with exactly the same flavour or texture. That’s not to say that what you make won’t be delicious, it will just be different than the gluten version. I never know if the alternative flours will behave the same way in terms of moisture, or if the end product will be light or dense, and I don't have a lot of time to experiment. Some of my relatives have had great success with substituting g-free flours into cookie recipes, so I know it’s possible.
I was pining for something that I used to enjoy that had become bad for me, and dwelling on it. It finally dawned on me that I was looking at things the wrong way. Staring me in the face was a learning opportunity: there are loads of desserts and sweet treats that don’t involve flour to begin with. Why fuss with substitutions if you can find something that complies with your restrictions already?
A quick stroll through Tastespotting will show you what I mean:
• Meringues are the only thing on this list that I have tried baking so far, and they worked really well (Espresso Meringues, Cinnamon Meringues with Dried Cranberries). Some people dip the finished meringues in chocolate, some serve them with custard, and some mix them up with cream and strawberries (Eton Mess).
• A close cousin to the meringue is the French Macaron (Double Chocolate, Raspberry). These little beauties were front and centre on the food blogs for quite some time, and it’s easy to see why. The opportunity for experimentation with flavours and colours is irresistible.
• Ice cream or sorbet can provide a cool and refreshing hint of sweetness (Dark Chocolate Fudgcicle Ice Cream, Raspberry Lychee Sorbet). Ice cream machines have become readily available, or you can freeze the mixture in a pan and scrape it regularly with a fork.
• Popcorn is an easy way to tick the crunchy, salty and sweet boxes (Sea Salt and Caramel Popcorn). Roasted chickpeas offer another approach for a crunchy snack that can be made sweet or spicy (Roasted Spiced Chole).
• Marshmallows and other candies are great for a crowd (Carrot Cake Marshmallows, Chocolate Irish Cream Candies, Salted Butter Caramels). Individually wrapped, bite-sized treats also make great gifts.
• And, of course, there are cookie recipes that don’t require any fiddling (Easy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies).
You've probably figured out from that list that I have a thing for chocolate. Obviously, your own recipe hunt will be shaped by your own likes, dislikes, and any dietary limitations you may have.
What are your favourite desserts?