Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Own Little Holland

Tonight I was mixing together some various non-wheat flours to make some pizza crust for Tim's birthday party (see whether those poor boys coming over can handle it--I think I'll have backup just in case!)...and thought back to reading once a mom's description of having a Down's syndrome child. Now don't get me wrong. Tim doesn't have Down's Syndrome, he has a wheat sensitivity! But there is a comparison in the thought...The woman wrote that having a Down's syndrome child isn't a bad thing. It's more like thinking you're going to Italy and you end up in Holland. Holland isn't bad, it's just different than what you expected. There are good things there that you wouldn't have found in Italy. She found the deep sweetness of her child to be one of those things.
Now I know that mixing flours and making non-wheat things is nothing, compared to that situation, but on the other hand it does have its own level of dauntingness! I told my friend Lois that I can't have wheat, and she exclaimed, "Then what can you eat! I can't have you over for dinner, because I can't serve you bread, and I can't serve you noodles!" She loves bread a little on the extreme side. I'm glad it is me and not her, because bread isn't that big a deal for me.
And there's a good thing when you avoid wheat, a hidden benefit. I found that there are so many other flours that the vast majority of the population never even tastes, never explores, because they don't need to. And yet, these all have their own flavor, characteristic, and nutrition. Some are far more nutritious than wheat! The down sides are that they can be hard to obtain, and about 3-5 times as expensive as wheat flour. I haven't yet found a store that carries a very wide variety of flours, even though I've gone to stores as far away as Lynnwood and Bellevue with that hope.
But look at this list of flours: Amaranth, arrowroot, almond, artichoke, barley, black bean, white bean, fava bean, garbanzo bean, garfava bean, brown rice, buckwheat, cassava, chestnut, coconut, corn, cottonseed, dal, dasheen, manioc, millet, cashew nut, chestnut, pistachio, milo, tapioca, montina, oat, pea, peanut, plantain, potato, quinoa, rye, sago, sesame, sorghum, soy, sunflower, sweet rice, tapioca, teff, water chestnut, white rice, and wild rice. All these can be found as gluten-free flour (as I understand so far)--just not necessarily nearby or affordably--though I could order them online! I have only found about ten of these locally, and I'm still not sure of all their characteristics, what they all taste like, and what you can use them all for. I have some figured out to a point, but it's a learning curve. An enjoyable learning curve, for the most part.
I used a mixture of these flours to make Tim's 11th birthday cake--a three-layer carrot cake. It had no wheat in it, and when he and Gary tried it, they both liked it. Then I told them it had no wheat. Tim said there was something different in the first bite, but it didn't bother him and after that it was fine. I thought it tasted salty, and found today that the flour responsible for this was tapioca, so for his pizza crust, I mixed potato, sorghum and millet flours to substitute for tapioca (since I don't know the equivalency of any of them!)...we'll see how well it turns out. At least it won't have to rise quite like bread!
And these flours don't rise on their own. I have to add xanthan gum or guar gum in order to help that along. We are avoiding the gluten flours, and gluten is what enables the flour to hold together while rising. It's easy enough; I found xanthan gum fairly readily and a little goes a long way.
So I am kind of enjoying it, even though meal-making is harder. All substitute noodles such as rice or corn seem to be a poor substitute for wheat. I can't serve dinner with ready-made french bread or rolls. And anything I bake, I can't just use one flour because none are quite equivalent on their own. There are also a lot of other normal ingredients such as soy sauce and white vinegar that often contain wheat. But I like creativity, I like a's my own little Holland. I think it's going to be fun, in its challenging little way. Of all life's challenges, I'm thankful I was given this one.

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