I’ve never had any food allergies. Sure, I’m lactose intolerant, but that’s not a food allergy. It just means my body doesn’t have the lactase enzyme to munch up the lactose sugar that is found in milk. I can have a Lactaid pill and consume most dairy products painlessly. For the first 30 years of my life, however, I didn’t use Lactaid so simply avoided dairy. It has made me sympathetic to those with food allergies.
I’ve mentioned that I have been baking for the upcoming ladies’ retreat for our church. I’m the cook for the two ladies with food allergies. I’ve cooked for them before, and generally it hasn’t been too difficult. On Saturday, Mrs. V. mentioned that she would like to figure out how to make a cereal bar similar to one she purchased at $1/bar. I thought that would be something nice to make for the retreat since everyone else gets some sort of snackages.
Off I went in search of the few flours she can have . . . amaranth, millet, rice. But these gluten-free flours need a little help in baking so I picked up some xanthan gum too. Couldn’t find the arrowroot powder. (This would be crucial later). I bought some walnuts, the only nuts she can have. What you might not realize, if you aren’t accustomed to baking gluten-free foods, is these
weird, different grains and xanthan gum are actually laced with gold dust. At least, that was my understanding as I walked out with a couple of puny bags for about 1/4 of my usual weekly grocery expenses. The reason all those people who shop at Strawberry Fields and in the Natural Food section of the Round Barn IGA are thin isn’t because they ride their bikes and eat beans and soy . . . it’s because they can’t afford to eat more than they do!
I read the ingredient list of the bars she could eat and it seemed like it could be divided into ‘sweet sticky’ and ‘grain’ ingredients. So I went home and mixed together some stuff. I used maple syrup and applesauce for sweet/sticky and flavor and then added in white rice flour, amaranth (let me just interject an ‘ugh’ here — that stuff just stinks. It reminded me of the smell of corn silk that is left to sit and ferment for a couple of days.), ground flax, and some puffed millet that I was hoping I could munch with my rolling pin but I couldn’t so it went in like mini-styrofoam packaging puffs, xanthan gum, and some chopped figs.
I may not have baked it quite long enough but, nonetheless, it came out sticky and gummy. But worse, much worse, when I taste tested one (blech!) my hands swelled up. And a few minutes later when I took a sip of water, my lips and tongue felt swollen and numb. My favorite food scientist and resident allergy expert, Crystal, said, yep. Allergic reaction to either amaranth or millet, since I’ve had the others before. Ironic. Not necessarily funny.
Crystal came and inspected my failure and suggested arrowroot powder to give the funky gluten-free grains some lift, a little less xanthan gum maybe, less applesauce. I told her that I know what to do with flour, sugar, and eggs but this gluten-free stuff makes me feel like I need to start a new blog series . . . ‘Clueless in the Kitchen’. I think that’s her new nickname for me!
And, no, these photos have nothing to do with the recipe failure.