I’ve been meaning for a while now to post reviews of some of the gluten-free products I’ve been cooking with. Celiac disease and gluten-free eating are really rising in the public consciousness these days, which is wonderful because there are so many more options now, from convenient snack foods that return easy choices like cookies and crackers to our pantries, to guaranteed-gluten-free oats. Oats, which don’t even naturally contain gluten, have had in the past such a likelihood of contamination that they used to live permanently on the “no” list. But now, at last, several companies are making the effort to ensure that their oats are processed in a gluten-free environment, returning oats to the “safe” list for many people.
But this proliferation of choices means what it always means – some of these new products are awesome, and some are so-so, and some are just, well, gross. Some don’t deliver what they promise, whether that’s bread you can enjoy without toasting or cake mix that makes something actually resembling a cake. And some are so good that they by far transcend the category of “gluten-free substitution” and can (and should!) take their rightful place on any table, dietary restriction or no.
Tinkyada brown rice pasta is one of these heavenly foods. I sang its praises in an earlier post; its perfect texture and creamy flavor actually brought pasta back into my life after maybe a decade. It’s interesting to me looking back now – there are a lot of foods other people seem to love that rate with me from indifference to loathing on the likeability scale. Pasta, cake, cookies, sandwiches, and pancakes are all things that I can generally do without. But now that I know gluten and I are very much not friends, I have to reevaluate my distaste. Have I unknowingly come to dislike these foods because they’ve made me sick in the past? Have I come to unconsciously associate their particular textures and mouthfeels with fatigue and gastrointestinal distress? Or do I genuinely not like them for themselves? I certainly continue to adore well-made bread pudding and really good French baguettes.
Okay, enough speculative musing, time to get to the point. Duck and I made a rare shopping trip last weekend to Trader Joe’s. While we were there we came across their Trader Joe’s Gluten-free Pancake Mix, which I had never seen before. Breakfast has been a real struggle for me lately – I can’t eat bagels, and I’ve stopped eating eggs until I can source them from a place where the chickens aren’t killed after two years. Duck very sweetly asked if I thought I might eat gluten-free pancakes if he made them for me. Even though I generally shy away from pancakes, who could resist such an offer? (Which, in addition to being incredibly sweet, isn’t even a rare occurrence; Duck makes breakfast for me several times a week.)
The mix itself was vegan, but it called for two eggs and milk in the preparation. Duck used Ener-G egg replacer and rice milk, and brought the first pancake out to where I was bundled on the living room couch. It was lovely and perfectly golden-brown, dotted with Bonne Maman Four Fruits jam. “I think the pancakes came out sort of… funny,” he said, handing me a fork. I dug in. The pancake was elastic, almost gooey, as I cut into it.
The first bite was heaven. I love mochi, which is sweet glutinous rice pounded until it becomes soft and pliable and, in my opinion, perfectly textured. There’s nothing quite like it, and I often dream of making it at home, but I’ve heard it can be quite complicated. Well, I’m here to tell you, making mochi is a snap if you have Trader Joe’s Gluten-free Pancake Mix! Or, if not exactly mochi, then something close enough that even as I enjoyed my “pancakes” with berry jam I was already dreaming of a future experience with them involving sesame oil and scallions. I don’t know if the effect will be the same if you use actual eggs, or if the whole recipe became something of a binder overload between the arrowroot, tapioca, and other sticky things attempting to replicate the cohesion of both gluten and egg.
I feel like I was given an unexpected gift today. A gluten-free pancake mix that yielded fluffy, doughy pancakes would have been a passable way to get my morning calories. Instead I got something surprising and wonderful, a new treat made with one of my favorite textures of all time. They say gluten-free cooking opens up new possibilities, and right now I am definitely feeling it!