Monday, January 25, 2010

Learning to Cook Gluten Free from an actual Professional...It's a Good Thing

This week I took a gluten free cooking class at the Viking Cooking School in South Salt Lake. I thought I would go in there and there'd be one or two other people and someone who showed us how to substitute rice flour for wheat flour and we'd be done. Wow. Was I ever wrong.

First of all, let me begin by saying you are going to have to put up with photos that I took on my phone, because I completely forgot my camera that day. However, you'll get the gist and also see that chubby people like me STILL look chubby when their pictures are taken with a phone. And when they stand next to slender chefs. Moving on...second of all, it was a dream come true to walk into that fully functioning kitchen and play around with all the great equipment. There were 13 Boos Blocks alone in that room! Five ovens! Pans that were so heavy we really should have tag teamed them when we drained our pasta! Super sharp knives! They even had little glass bowls that you measured a teaspoon of baking powder into before you added it to your bowl! And best of all, they had this little piece of machinery:
This is TJ. He got us all our supplies, watched the ovens, whipped cream, and whisked away all the dirty dishes for us. I really wanted to take him home with me. Only because he's such a hard worker, of course, for all you folks with naughty brains out there.

Our instructor's name was Trish. For anyone out there who wants to learn how to cook and bake gluten free, Trish is your girl. She's a fabulous instructor who really knows her stuff. She is a fellow celiac and is basically a food whisperer. She taught us how to make five (5!) different gluten free dishes: a crusty bread, a chocolate tart, a tomato tart, macaroni and cheese, and banana walnut muffins. By the time I was done tasting everything I was so full I could have popped. It was a good thing. To get any of these great recipes, call the Viking Cooking School and ask them when Trish's next class is and then sign up for it that minute. You will never regret it.

Here's some of the things I learned in the heavenly Viking kitchen:

1. Gluten free flours have a slower rate of absorption than regular flours, which is why sometimes they look like great doughs and turn out completely dry and cracked. To compensate for that you not only need more liquid but you need to let the dough mix or be worked longer, and then you can add more moisture if needed.

2. It's easier to mix a tart dough with your hands rather than a pastry cutter. Trust me on this, get in there and mash it up. Nothing works better.

3. Some people bake bread in pans. Other people put a huge mound of dough onto a hot baking stone in an oven and bake it just like that. And it makes divine bread.
4. The more oily your hands are when working with sticky, gloppy, gluten free flour, the better. Make sure to rub it into the crevices and cracks. You'll be glad you did.

5. A gluten free dough should be totally sticky and gloppy because it is slowly absorbing all that moisture as it bakes. So if you can't get it off your hands or spatula, that means your dough is a good one.

6. It's easier to scoop muffin batter using a large ice cream scoop with one of those little things that flicks it out on the underside of the scoop. No lie, I totally had to go and buy one after the class. I'll never drip batter with the underside of a measuring cup again.
7. Some people can get 4 slices out of a tomato, some can get 20. I'm not going to say which one I was. Not the 20.

I learned other things that don't really matter, too, but that were super fun to learn about anyway. Like, for example, there's a guy named Joe Sargentakis who will taste just about anything while you are making it. And his last name is really fun to say, over and over again. And I learned that Jennifer was not only the mother of a young girl who just found out she has celiac's disease and that she knows my neighbor, but that she is a magnet for hot, boiling, splashing water. Maybe we'd better not talk about that part. I also learned that there are people who not only don't eat wheat, but they also eat Living or Raw Foods, and are totally healthy and happy doing it. Joline runs a very affordable class for people who are interested in how to eat Raw Foods, and she actually has a class coming up on February 3. Check out her website, or call 801-8085966 if you are interested. But the most important thing I learned is that it's always a good thing to learn more about what you eat and how you prepare it, and that it's even more fun when you do it with 12 other people. And one day I hope I win a contest where Viking comes and guts my kitchen and replaces it with one of theirs. I'm just saying.
Happy eating!

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