Baking From Scratch

Hi!  I’m Dan.  I occasionally cook things, I like to share those things that I cook with other people, and after enough people asked me for recipes and suggested I put them online, I created

In late 2011 I decided to try following a gluten-free diet.  There were a few reasons for this, partly sheer curiosity but also in support of someone was doing the same for physiological reasons, which was not a constraint for me.  I found fairly quickly that I missed my cookies and brownies because what I found on the shelf for gluten-free substitutes just weren’t satisfying.  I had never been a big baker beforehand, and my skills in that respect were limited to buying a boxed pre-mix, adding oil and maybe and egg, and throwing it in the oven.  In order to overcome the lack of satisfying gluten-free products I realize that I had to learn how to bake from scratch!

In early 2014 the experiment ended and I reverted back to consuming wheat products, again for a variety of reasons, though perhaps curiously not because I missed things that I used to be able to eat.  If not for those two years, though, I might never have learned the basics of baking, and that would have meant a great lacking in my life that I wouldn’t have even known I was missing!  I have learned that it is immensely satisfying to take individual ingredients, throw them all together in some semblance of order, and produce something that’s so good that other people will fight over it.  Homemade from scratch trumps a product on a shelf wrapped in a plastic and cardboard any day.

Another thing that I leaned is that baking from scratch is not particularly difficult.  My earlier impression was that it was too complicated, too delicate, for me, because I was used to cooking meals by throwing together whatever I felt like in vague quantities that approximated what I thought would work.  To be fair, you can’t quite do that with baking, but I’ve learned that there is flexibility in nearly every recipe and you can experiment and play around with the ingredients.  Just like with cooking, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but either way you’ll be having fun.  It’s the hands-on aspect of crafting something whole from disparate constituents that most appeals to me, as it is satisfying and superb stress-relief.  The great part about baking, and the second reason I do it, is because what you create can be readily shared with other people and makes them smile.

Over the course of my time on the gluten-free diet I acquired a variety of explicitly gluten-free recipes, and also experimented with taking some wheat-flour recipes and adapting them to gluten-free flours.  I also quite often found some cross-over between gluten-free and vegan recipes.  One of my all-time favorite cookie recipes, and this opinion is backed by a legion of people who at the mere mention that I’m bringing them light up with unparalleled enthusiasm, are the vegan Orange Spice Cookies.  I don’t personally follow a vegan diet, but I know some people who do and I’m curious about some of the substitutions that get involved, so once in a while I’ll try another vegan recipe to see about adding it to my collection.

You’ll find a handful of vegan recipes here, and I have a page dedicated to them.  You won’t find a dedicated gluten-free page because in this day and age, gluten-free substitute flour blends get very close to producing the same result as wheat flour.  One challenge that gluten-free recipes still face is making fluffy cakes and muffins, it’s the gluten itself that makes that consistency happen, but for something simple and hardy like cookies, or something moist and soft like brownies, substitutions tend to work just fine.  If you’re using a commercial flour blend, look for something that has a wide variety of flours in it.  For example, if the blend is just two kinds of rice flour, you won’t get a good result, but if you find some combination of rice, sorghum, tapioca, potato, and nut flours (assuming you don’t have an allergy!) you should be in good shape for a 1-1 substitution.

If you have any questions about my recipes, baking, going gluten-free, or what the weather’s like today, feel free to drop me a line!


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