In the celiac universe, the profusion of gluten-free products is constantly expanding. We now have access to almost every conceivable type of prepackaged food in several forms, from several brands. And several of them are actually palatable (and affordable).
For those of us who choose to venture into the world of gluten-free cooking and baking, however, a slew of daunting obstacles still looms before us. Initially you may feel as if you’ve landed on another planet in which the laws of physics no longer apply to your space-age flours, and in which you no longer recognize your seemingly NASA-copyrighted ingredients (xanthan gum, anyone?). Alternately, you may believe you’ve plunged down the rabbit hole, and that the brown cube served on a tea tray before you that looks like a brick, feels like a brick, and frankly, smells like a brick, cannot possibly be food, despite the “eat me, I’m gluten-free bread” tag riveted firmly to its side. What is a gluten-free baker to do to bring one’s cooking back through the wormhole and onto this temporal plane?
The world of gluten-free blogging has expanded equivalently, and the Alice-like disorientation people with celiac disease can experience here can become quite curious indeed. There are blogs covering everything from gluten-free makeup and home products (…in case you feel the urge to take a swig of that lilac perfume?) to forums for gluten-free mothers to recipe blogs by everyone from your local government representative (“Patching City Streets Using GF Baking Failures as Pothole Filler”) to your coworker’s 13-year-old twins who only speak emoji.
Buried far within this colossal trove of information can be nuggets particularly helpful to certain individuals, but also pieces of conjecture, of misinformation, or of, in my mind, the most heinous of all crimes: poorly-tested recipes.
In all seriousness though, as individuals with celiac disease, we take our health, and to an extent our lives, into our hands every time we venture to trust a new recipe, product, or establishment. We have a heck of a lot to lose. In cooking, the least of these things are time and money. To whom should we listen, then, and who should we trust? When searching for a reliable gluten-free blog, where does one start?
After a little research, the following blogs have proven themselves reliable beginnings. In lists of the best gluten-free blogs compiled by several institutions, these four bore repeated mentions, and each is a longstanding, trusted fixture of the gluten-free community. These bloggers have worked long and hard to establish both their sites and their reputations, and if we can look to anyone out there for guidance, I believe it to be this group of pioneering women.
The Art of Gluten-Free Baking was one of the first resources toward which I was pointed when I took that long, deep breath and dove into the world of gluten-free baking… a world filled (twelve years ago certainly, but occasionally still today) with plenty of baked “bads” as opposed to goods, dinner rolls impersonating cobblestones, and pizza crusts less palatable than the cardboard boxes in which they were frozen. Jeanne Sauvage, the author of this site, was diagnosed gluten-intolerant in 2000, and subsequently discovered she also possesses a wheat allergy. She has spent her time since learning the gluten-free baking ropes through experimentation, and as a result has been able to create many delightful recipes. Her site really does explore the vast art of baking, as well, with an extensive FAQ section of reader-submitted queries regarding everything from recipe adaptations to flour substitutions to measuring by weight vs volume, and even to calibrating your oven (something I knew nothing about before reading this, wondering why the magic box kept transforming my attempts at bread into construction materials…). She is the author of the books Gluten-Free Wish List: Sweet and Savory Treats You’ve Missed the Most (to be released in October of this year), and Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays: 60 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats.
Another staple in the gluten-free blogging world is someone who acquired great celebrity for her paleo recipes (although they are gluten-free as well): Elana Amsterdam, of Elana’s Pantry. A priceless nutritional resource, she is a thoroughly-educated and wellness-oriented woman who cooks both to please the palate and heal the body, and who has made it her mission to help as many individuals struggling with chronic illness as she can by sharing her story and her recipes. Elana has been cooking grain-free (yes, ALL grains) since 2001 in an attempt to alleviate her autoimmune and inflammatory symptoms, and was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1998. Her site contains hundreds of recipes featuring unique takes on traditional dishes and insightful, healthy paleo adaptations of others. She also has catalogs of additional allergen-free recipes for the benefit of all, including ones for vegetarian, vegan, and candida diets, and nut-free, grain-free, egg-free, dairy-free, and agave-free recipes, as well. She is a woman well-regarded and well-known within many communities, and is the author of the books Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, and Gluten-Free Cupcakes.
A powerhouse of gluten-free blogging is Karina Allrich, the Gluten-Free Goddess. In my many years as a celiac (and in my fewer ones in desiring to cook for myself), this site is the one to which I have returned most often for helpful tips. Her thorough and informative advice on flours is cooking fuel for the creative mind, as are her hundreds (no really, HUNDREDS) of recipes. Since 2005, Karina has been baking, troubleshooting, and posting for those not only with celiac disease, but other allergies, medical conditions, and dietary restrictions as well (to which her vegetarian, vegan, low-FODMAP, dairy-free, and casein-free sections, among others, can attest). This veteran site is certainly worth several journeys through, and if you are ever looking for an allergen-friendly version of a recipe (no really, give any recipe a try. This woman is a wizard), you are most likely to find a (Palatable. Feasible. …Good) version of it here. Karina Allrich is the author of the eBook cookbook Gluten-Free Goddess.
Lastly, a mother of the gluten-free blogosphere, an advocate for all people with celiac disease, and a fascinating woman with a beautiful site (Yes, I love it. Yes, I am biased. And yes, if you try just one of her recipes, I can almost guarantee you’ll be following her around like a well-fed puppy, too), is Shauna Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl (with her husband, James Beard award-winning chef Daniel Ahern, the duo are known as Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef). Diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, Shauna learned how not only to cook gluten-free to feed herself, but to cook to heal herself. In meeting her husband, and in raising a family and cementing a supportive and loving group of friends, she also learned how to nourish people, to show them “joy in the belly,” to expose them to perfection on a plate, to seasonal ingredients, and to a richness of both food and life many have never experienced. Part diary, part cooking lesson, part recipe library, Shauna’s site is an indulgence uncommon in today’s blogging world. Also a writer (by passion and birth, not merely profession), Shauna’s words are concise, inspiring, and full of the flavors of life. Her site contains valuable cooking techniques, both basic and complex, from the proper way to season food to the importance of establishing a mise en place, from cooking “in season” (utilizing ingredients currently being harvested in your geographical area) to selecting ingredients from meats to spices, from how to braise to how to macerate (coming from a medical background, it always sounded to me as if “macerated” cherries had been in a terrible but delicious car accident). The information on this site is as boundless as the beauty of the life shared within it. Shauna Ahern is the author of Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes, and Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food that Loves Me Back… and How You Can Too. She has also recently launched a cup-for-cup flour mix on which she and the chef have been working for a long while; one well worthy of a try.
A browse through any of these sites will help you to realize that you are not alone in mirror-baking world, that others who have come before you have worked diligently to establish rules and recipes to assist you in navigating the strange, foreign star-trails of the celiac universe. These helpful voices have so much wisdom to share. By reading these blogs, you will be able to improve your own cooking skills, your recipes, and most importantly, your health and mental wellbeing. Gluten-free living can be a challenge, but with a little help from sites like these, it can become far less daunting, far more manageable, and most importantly… far, far tastier.
Book photos from each book’s page on Amazon.com
Other photos copyright Alexis, aka GF Lex, 2015.