7 Ingredients For A Gluten & Grain Free Pantry

April 05, 2016

7 Ingredients For A Gluten & Grain Free Pantry

Gluten free baking is a scientific art, especially when you know what you are doing. When you don't know what you are doing it can be overwhelming, messy and expensive. I really delved into the world of gluten free baking over 11 years ago after my brother was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.

I had not long arrived home from travelling and working as a chef throughout far north QLD. As a chef one of my passions and interests had always been pastry and chocolate. Having worked in many hotels, fine restaurants and luxury resorts I had been exposed to and learnt many different aspects of cooking. I am a trained chef and had always been on the grill, in the heat of the kitchen. Every time I tried to get into the colder part of the kitchen, I was always put back where the action happened in the middle of service. I worked well under pressure and had a great memory for orders.

The pastry kitchen has come a long way in the last 17 years and even though I cannot eat many of the beautiful desserts seen on Masterchef, I still love reading books by Adriano Zumbo, David Lebovitz or books about the many beautiful patisseries in Paris.
I take my inspiration from many of the greats and create something that suits my intolerances. Creating a dish that is gluten, grain, refined sugar and dairy free is somewhat of a challenge, but I am up for that.

 What does the Paleo pantry look like? The thing I love about Paleo baking is it's simplicity. I love whole food cooking, but we still end up with containers of foods that were a good idea at the shops, but 12 months later has found its way to the back of the pantry.

 For me these ingredients are essential to Paleo baking and now so easily sourced at your local health food shop or grocery store.

Green Banana Flour
I discovered this great gluten and grain free flour 3 years ago. Not only does it make baking so much easier without gluten, but it is extremely high in resistant starch. Resistant starch is a prebiotic and found in a few foods, the most edible being green banana flour. A prebiotic is food for the gut flora, by increasing the micro-biome of our gut we are increasing the health of our immune systems and overall health. Resistant starch can also reduce inflammation in our digestive system, improve colon health, lower blood sugar and aid in the promotion of weight loss.
 
Almond Meal
In recent years the price of almonds have risen, mostly due to drought in California, but also with the rise of whole food cooking and awareness. If you do have a food processor or Thermomix you can make your own with whole almonds. Be careful not to over grind as once you start releasing the oils in the nuts you are on your way to making a nut butter.
 
Chia Seeds
These black little seeds are a blessing from God in the gluten free kitchen. Gluten is what gives flour its elasticity and ability to rise and stretch when making pastries and breads. There are a range of other supplements used in gluten free baking, but many of them are mixed with additives or chemicals. When soaked, chia seeds are gelatinous and can prevent crumbling which is so common in many gluten free failures. They are also a nutritious source of Omega 3's.
Psyllium Husks
I have only in recent years discovered psyllium husks. When experimenting with this bran like ingredient, less is always more. From a baking perspective it adds a lightness to an otherwise potentially crumbly product. It can also help in risen baked products, too much though will cause it to sink. I also add 1 tablespoon to my morning smoothie, it is a great source of fibre and for anyone suffering digestive inflammation, this can help reduce the symptoms.
 
Tapioca Flour
 Tapioca flour can replace corn flour in the Paleo pantry, but can cause reflux for some people. If I have used it is usually a small amount to give a lighter baked product. Before I discovered green banana flour, I used tapioca flour as a sauce or gravy thickener. It is always best to use organic as it is a root vegetable and some of the pesticides and chemicals used in growing root vegetables can be some of the worst.
 
 Coconut Sugar
 Many people always ask me which sugar I use in my cooking. With so much debate surrounding sugar it can be a taboo subject. I use sugar in many different forms, it is important to add here that sugar is sugar in the body regardless of its original source. Obviously refined sugar has other chemicals we don't need in our bodies and some so called healthy sugars are just as bad as refined sugar, they have just been marketed well. But I prefer to use coconut sugar as it is low GI and has a much less sweeter flavour than many others.
 
Bicarbonate Soda
 Bi-carb Soda or as it may also be called baking soda, is the main raising agent in baking powder. Baking powder generally contains rice flour, cream of tartare and aluminium. There are many organic, aluminium free baking powders now available, but they also contain rice flour and cream of tartare. Rice flour is the carrier in baking powder, but cream of tartar is an acid which combined with bicarbonate soda, being a leavening agent creates a gas to create the rise in a baked product.

 I recently did some research on cream of tartare and it is the by-product of wine making. After the wine making process there is a sediment leftover in the wine barrels. This is then scraped out of the barrels, dried and processed.

 I still prefer bicarbonate soda as it is a naturally occurring product. It is a salt mineral, mined and refined into a fine powder. The brand I use and prefer is Mckenzie's. I spent the time speaking to them to make sure that nothing else is added during processing or packing, including aluminium. Mckenzie's bicarbonate soda is also packed in a completely gluten free factory.

 Substitute apple cider vinegar for cream of tartar, combined with bicarbonate soda and you can still have a whole food rise.

 How simple is that? If you have these 7 ingredients in your pantry you will likely be able to produce a gluten and grain free dessert that will knock the socks off your visitors.

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