Venturing into gluten-free territory

Food and Whine
Gluten Free Goodies
Aside from that one Easter Sunday service that Greg Petersen dragged me to in 1979, I never read the New Testament. I should have. One of that document’s key maxims (I understand) is- pride goeth before a fall.
This is what happened: I sponsored an oneg in the Sukkah this year, as I do for my mom’s yahrzeit every year. Usually, I spend a half-hour in Trader Joe’s for challot and treats, I whip up a fritatta, and I’m done. But this oneg was special, because my sons were coming to services with me to honor my mother’s memory, and one just started a gluten-free diet.
Gluten-Free? With all the cooking and writing about cooking I do, I figured gluten-free was no problem. There was a shelf at Whole Foods that had strange flours and gluten-free mixes. That’s where I started. I bought Bob’s Red Mill brownie mix, Pamela’s brownie mix, Pamela’s bread mix, Chebe manioc flour baking mix, brown rice flour, sweet potato flour, tapioca flour and potato flour. I figured I was set. What was that maxim, again?
Just to be sure, I turned to the EtzWomen email list for advice. “Amy Bayersdorfer makes the BEST gluten-free challah” they told me. Amy sent along her
recipe. When I felt ready to bake Thursday night, I read Amy’s recipe. I had bought so much
gluten-free stuff that I felt confident I had what I needed. But I didn’t have white rice flour. Looking over my stock of various flours, I thought I could make one TEENY little substitution. Well, two. I thought that sweet potato flour and maple syrup instead of white
rice flour and brown sugar would be OK.
Pride blindeth the eye–
the ingredients on the left do not
even look like the ingredients
on the right.
OK? The ingredients don’t even look alike. The failed challah looked sort of like, well, maybe a deflated
Halloween balloon. Or a bizarre orange woolen  beret with pompoms.
a failed gluten-free challah–or a hat
My son, Mike, who is not picky, told me that is  about how it tasted. FAIL!
So I went to Piazza’s, which has an even better selection of gluten- free ingredients than Whole Foods got the right flour, and tried again. Success! The bread rose up, held its shape, tasted wonderful, and presented nicely. It was delicious! Ari kept going back to it. “What’s the pull-apart?” he asked, as he helped himself to another piece.
a successful gluten-free challah
 No one could believe it was gluten-free!
I also had good success with Pamela’s bread mix, which I made into challah by adding an extra egg. The batter was not cohesive enough to be formed, so I baked it in a loaf pan. It was really good, too, sliceable, and it
froze well. After the oneg, we toasted it for sandwiches all week.
The Chebe mix, based on manioc, was very pliable and cooperative, but couldn’t be made into challah, because in the oven it puffed up and then collapsed in on itself.
Chebe mix is fabulous if you add Parmesan and make it into cheese
puffs the size of a ping-pong ball. Any bigger and they collapse onto gooey centers.
Pamela’s brownie mix, which I prepared using the ‘fudgiest brownies ever’ instructions had a very strange aftertaste. But the Bob’s Red Mill brownie mix, when prepared according to directions and with the fudge frosting recipe on the package, which uses condensed milk, was a very good dessert. So was the gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix I got at Piazza’s.
If you are keeping count, I tried six recipes; Amy Bayersdorfer’s formula, Pamela’s bread mix, Pamela’s Brownie Mix, Chebe baking mix, Bob’s Red Mill Brownie Mix, and Piazza’s gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix. Pride prevents me from counting the recipe where I substituted the sweet potato powder for the rice flour. I served five at the oneg. As the EtzWomen advised, Amy’s recipe made the best challah and the best offering that Saturday.

About Onecakebaker

Author of a memoir called The Girl On the Wall, and working on a novel. Former Synagogue president, gardener, empty nester. Raising bees.
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