If you're one of many people who've discovered after years of misery that you're gluten-intolerant, congratulations are in order. You've just walked through a doorway into a brand new world.
There's only one catch. You can't eat gluten. Not if you want to hold on to your newly-found health, you can't.
If you're trying to learn how to live without gluten, you may be discovering that it's present in many foods, medications and cosmetics.
It's popular in the bakery because of its unique flavor and consistency. For the inexperienced, baking without gluten can be a dismal experience, yielding dense and gummy doorstops.
While this may sound unappetizing, if you have celiac disease, gluten allergy or gluten sensitivity, don't sell your health for a toothsome pie, or flavorful loaf of bread. A plate of cookies or a stack of pancakes may be tempting but, the bald truth is, for the gluten-challenged these things are invitations to belly-ache, brain fog, muscle cramps and neurological repercussions.
As more people are found to be gluten-intolerant, food manufacturers are offering a wider variety of gluten-free products. Many chefs are concocting recipes for the gluten-challenged, revealing some of the secrets and finer points of gluten-free cooking so that what you cook tastes like food and not like hardened mud.
So it may be possible to have your cake and eat it too.
Guar gum and xanthum gum can be added to corn, rice or potato flours to create a reasonable substitute for wheat. Use corn starch instead of flour to thicken sauces, soups and stews. Use rice instead of bread to stuff a bird.
Once you have all the ingredients for your gluten-free baking extravaganza, you'll need to learn a few tricks unique to gluten-free cooking.
For instance, beating wheat dough that contains gluten for too long has a toughening up effect. But beating gluten-free dough for several minutes makes the dough lighter by beating air into it.
Gluten-free dough and batter are much stickier than their glutenous counterparts. Be sure to dampen or oil your hands.