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gluten-free cinnamon-pear pancakes

Posted Jun 05 2009 5:07pm

I've been on a gluten-free diet for about a week. Some people have had very good success treating auto-immune disorders with a GF diet, and I'm pretty desperate so I'm finally willing to try it. I've also hoped to treat some digestive problems by eliminating gluten. I'm happy to report that both issues are showing definite improvement. At this point, I can't imagine becoming a common gluten-eater ever again. I may occasionally indulge in restaurants, but I really don't believe I'll return to using wheat flour in my own recipes.

I'm pretty sure that I don't actually have celiac disease, so I haven't fretted over general gluten contamination. Most people with celiac can't even eat regular oats, because they've been contaminated with gluten grains. (Oats are naturally gluten-free, and some oats are now certified free of contamination, but they are staggeringly expensive for a family that eats pounds of them every week.) I've just been avoiding products that explicitly contain gluten - that is, anything with wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, triticale, or barley, and derivatives thereof. The only foods I'm kind of sad to lose are seitan (which can't always be replaced very well) and whole-wheat tortillas (which are very cheap and versatile, and can't quite be substituted with GF tortillas in some recipes).

Overall, it's been easier than I expected. I didn't eat a lot of bread anyway. I did eat a lot of pancakes, though, and muffins and flatbread and pita. I'm surprised by how easy it is to substitute gluten-free grains in almost everything. The real test will be in two weeks, when I try to make a GF birthday cake for Isaiah (who is turning 4).

There are many GF products on the market right now, and more are released every month. But I don't want to take a step down in nutritional content by going gluten-free. Many of these products are comparable to other processed foods in nutritional value, which is to say, they're crappy. They're full of sugar, or chemicals, or dairy products. Or the ingredients are just so far from their natural state that they're hardly identifiable.

I have experimented a bit, with GF waffles and baking mixes. The only product I would buy again is the pizza crust mix by Bob's Red Mill, which I like even better than regular pizza crust.

Otherwise, I'm happy to experiment with my own creations.

I'm hesitant to try many gluten-free recipes because they look so complicated. They contain so many ingredients that can be very expensive or very hard to find, and that's not what my recipes are supposed to look like. So for now I'm mostly just winging it as far as making my same old traditional foods with gluten-free grains.

And I have to wonder, just a little bit, what all the fuss is about, why one must be dependent on these very expensive mixes and flours and binders. Using GF grains in many dishes is very easy, and the final product, while not identical, is certainly palatable and comparable in flavor and consistency.

But perhaps a vegan diet has prepared me for this adventure. I don't expect my experiments to taste exactly the same as the base recipe. I'm not disappointed when I can't create the exact same texture or flavor, or if it doesn't puff up identically or brown as evenly. I simply try to enjoy these new forms and tastes instead of constantly trying to replicate what I used to eat.

This requires a certain level of realism about food. Nutritional yeast in any combination is never going to really taste like dairy-based cheese. And gluten-free flours in any combination are never going to really taste like wheat-based bread. So the best you can do is just relax! and enjoy what you can do with these foods, which is a lot.

These pancakes, made with brown rice and oat flours, are very easy to make. They do need to be cooked thoroughly before flipping because they fall apart easily if they're too wet. The texture is a bit more mealy than wheat pancakes, but they puff up just as beautifully and also reheat pretty well.

Willow found them worthy of stealing one and then running away to eat it in a cabinet . . .

. . . so, ya know, they're palatable.

1 c. brown rice flour
1 c. oat flour (I used a coffee grinder on rolled oats)
2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
pinch of nutmeg

1 1/2 c. plant milk + 1 T. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. plant milk, or apple or pear juice, + 2 T. ground flaxseed
2 T. agave nectar or another sweetener

2 ripe pears, diced

1. Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

2. Stir in the soured milk and flaxseed binder. Add the sweetener.

3. Fold in the diced pear.

4. Heat a skillet over medium until you can feel the heat with your hand a few inches away.

5. Scoop about 1/2 c. of the batter onto the skillet. Cook the pancake until the edges appear dry and the middle is bubbling. They may need to go for one minute longer after that. Then carefully edge your spatula under the edges and flip the pancake. I try to keep the cakes small so they easily fit on the spatula.

6. Cook the rest of the pancakes in the same way, then serve drizzled with maple syrup and dusted with additional cinnamon.
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