I have always said that I am good at cooking a delicious savoury main course but a terrible baker. At every dinner party, my friends and family have gingerly toyed at whatever home-baked goods I have offered up. Imagine how much worse my cake-making is now that gluten has been removed from the mix (quite literally!). So what is a girl to do?
I have a huge assortment of great gluten free cookery books – “The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook” by Elana Amsterdam and “Seriously Good Gluten Free Baking” by Phil Vickery to name the two with the most pertinent titles on my kitchen shelves. In the early days of my family’s gluten free living, I eagerly purchased every must-have ingredient that Elana and Phil told me I needed in order to have a perfect gluten free kitchen. My Amazon account was on fire with the orders of almond flour, arrowroot powder, coconut flour, hemp seeds and Spectrum all vegetable shortening (shipped over from the US because that is what Elana had told me I needed in truck loads). For Phil’s ‘essential ingredients’, I had to pre-mix all sorts of flours and there were Tupperware containers all over the kitchen labelled “Flour A” or “Flour B”, which looked uninspiring but actually represented hours of sourcing and then measuring out the correct amounts of each gluten free flour. Then I became overwhelmed by my terrifying tower of specialised ingredients and went into shutdown mode, particularly after a few botched culinary attempts (my fault and not that of either Elana or Phil).
Thank goodness, I have a number of tricks up my sleeve…. Luckily some very talented people have started companies that actually make cakes, such as the wonderful Pourtoi bakery who make a huge variety of gluten free, dairy free cakes that taste fantastic.
If I need freshly made cakes, I need look no further than Sweet Things Bakery, in Notting Hill or Primrose Hill, or Pearl and Groove, off Portobello Road. Both fantastic bakeries only need a little bit of notice (a few days) to conjure up something mouth-wateringly scrumptious that, if you are as naughty as me, you might pass off as your own (until someone asks you for the recipe or recognises that you can’t have improved that much in such a short time).
For those occasions when I feel like making some sort of advances in home economics, I have been known to “cheat” and buy one of the fantastic mixes from Glebe Farm. They are foolproof, always taste good and have the added benefit of making me feel slightly virtuous as I present the assorted dinner guests with a clearly home-baked (but not homemade) cake.
Two and a half years down the line, I feel that the time has come to take the Teff flour by the horns and start baking again – watch out all my future dinner guests! In order to boost my ‘inner Delia’, I think that I will seek out a gluten free baking course and luckily there are a few to choose from…Adriana Rabinovich runs courses for a number of cookery schools and is fantastic, patient and helps you make the most delicious creations. You can learn to bake gluten-free in many different locations – in the Lake District with Lucycooks at The Cookery School or with the River Cottage in their Devon HQ. However, I think that I might start in the privacy of my own home with one of the “at home” courses that you can do online with The Gluten Free Flour Co. All I have to do is buy their recipe book online accompanied by pictures explaining what everything should look like. They also run courses in London, Harrogate and the Wirral if you live near any of those locations. I refuse to let myself book anything else until these recipes have been tried and tested on my family at least but then, if The Gluten Free Flour Co can help me make tasty vanilla cupcakes and gluten free scones like they promise, then maybe I will branch out into other courses. There is one at Divertimenti in Central London that promises to teach me how to make gluten free Yule logs and mince pies in time for Christmas and, although I have never thought of Beckenham as the centre of all things gluten free, Elvira’s secret pantry which is located there may be the answer to my prayers. Trust me, if the results are worth bragging about, I will let you know……!