One of the great benefits of having an online home is the small community it generates – I’ve met so many like-minded people – eaters and writers – through online communities, their blogs and mine. One of them is the lovely Lauren of Celiac Teen, a wonderful 17 year old high school student who it turns out lives in the same city as I do. We’ve since had the chance to get to know each other (she’s every bit as lovely as she comes across as on her blog!) and have had the chance to taste her lemon rhubarb and plum cakes (delish!). As a writer, photographer and recipe developer she’s an inspiration and a great source of information – baking gluten-free requires much knowledge and experimentation to figure out, so I’ve referred many a gluten-free query to her experience.
I asked Lauren if she might answer a few questions for those who are struggling with a new diagnosis, navigating the steep learning curve that comes with omitting all sources of gluten from your diet. She was also generous enough to share her recipe for millet biscuits, one she says she makes all the time. Thanks Lauren!
JVR) How did your diagnosis with celiac disease change your relationship with food?
L) Being diagnosed gave me the freedom to explore my food. I’ve grown to respect food more because I have to be increasingly aware of it. Having to know what was in every bite allowed me to savour it more as well as search out foods that I wouldn’t have considered before going gluten-free. It’s expanded my food horizons vastly and made me much more grateful for the foods that I can have.
JVR) Did you find it difficult to adapt to a gluten-free lifestyle?
L) Not really. It was difficult in that I couldn’t just revert to a couple of those old favourite meals. On the other hand, half of my favourites were naturally gluten-free or only needed a simple switch. I was so relieved and excited to know what was wrong and that I could fix it, so I didn’t see the hardship. Learning to bake in this new way made it all the more fantastic.
JVR) You’re a genius when it comes to gluten-free baking – are you self-taught, or did you find help/and our inspiration?
L) You are too kind! I would say both. I’ve learned so much from countless cookbooks and websites over the past few years that I’ve figured out what works for me and the tastes of my family. I’ve learned how various flours interact that I can predict what will work and what won’t. It’s a constant process of learning and growth. I’m learning all the time.
JVR) Is there one type of flour you suggest as a good substitute when people try to adapt their own recipes to make them gluten-free?
L) I wouldn’t suggest using a singular flour. It can be very one-dimensional and you only get one set of properties, which can play against you. I would suggest purchasing a few flours in small quantities and trying a few reputable recipes to discover what flours you enjoy. Some are distinct and others can create an overly grainy or bland taste, but when blended in the right way, they can be magic.
JVR) What advice would you give to people adapting to a new gluten-free lifestyle?
L) Look to what you can eat rather than what you can’t. Fruit, veggies, dairy, meat, corn, fish, potatoes, millet, quinoa, rice and countless other grains are just the tip of the iceberg. Know that gluten-free will never have to mean deprived; instead it’s a permission to explore your food. As a family, we’ve preferred homemade versions to their prepackaged counterparts, as we have the opportunity to tailor them our preferences and enjoy them at their freshest.
An original recipe by Lauren of Celiac Teen.
1 cup millet flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry blender until butter is the size of small peas.
Stir buttermilk into dough until it just comes together. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Pat dough into a rectangle that is about 1 inch high. Cut into squares.
Place squares on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.