I am a mother on a mission. I need to feed my four-year-old picky eater. Creating kid-friendly healthy meals is a task in itself, but some of us have an additional challenge: food allergies. My son, Jack, is allergic to wheat, milk, soy, and nuts.
The hardest part about raising a child without wheat or milk is designing cold portable lunches for school that won't come back home completely untouched by my overly-choosy, and likely hungry and irritable, preschooler. My son starts school next week and he will need to bring his lunch. Most mothers can get by just slapping some peanut butter on store-bought bread. If only it were that easy for the rest of us. Most of the grocery store is off-limits to food allergic kids.
Jack and I have sampled all of the gluten-free breads at the health food store. We have yet to find one that is enjoyable. The bread we've tried takes the joy out of eating. When consuming said bread, I feel like I'm counting down the bites until I finally finish the sandwich. Just 10 more bites, just nine more bites, gag, eight more to go. Jack usually takes four bites and then removes the cold cuts from the sandwich center and eats them plain, leaving the rejected bead remnants looking lonely on his plate.
I have baked gluten-free bread with marginal success. Bob's Red Mill mix makes an atrociously inedible loaf. Bette Hagman's Four Flour Bread recipe, taken from her book, The Gluten Free Groumet Bakes Bread, is better. I've baked it into kaiser rolls and it has a beautiful texture. Unfortunately the garbanzo and fava bean flour taste dominates, leaving the rolls tasting woefully of beans. I've tried adding some garlic, more salt, more sugar. Nothing can hide the bitter taste of beans. The last time I used the recipe, I added so much salt that the resulting bread was inedible.
Today I am attempting a new recipe from the same book: the Casserole Rice Bread. This recipe does not use bean flour. I am optimistic. I followed the recipe as closely as possible, while making some necessary substitutions: organic palm oil-based shortening in place of margarine, So Delicious coconut milk kefir in place of buttermilk, and sesame seed meal (ground in my coffee bean grinder) in place of almond meal.
The rolls are rising now and I am ripe with anxiety. I hate when I waste an entire afternoon and have nothing good to show for it. First I had to go to the grocery store to buy potato flakes. Once I actually started the recipes, it took me an hour to measure out all of the ingredients and get the kefir and margarine at the right temperature (120 degrees F) on my stove. Then once I finally got ready to use the kefir mixture, the temperature had fallen back down to 80 degrees. My overzealous reheating brought the mixture up to a too high 160 degrees, and, having used up all of my kefir, I had to add cold rice milk to get the temperature back down.
Jack has been begging us to take him to Subway, the sandwich shop that markets itself as the healthy fast food choice. It's not healthy for Jack, however, since they do not offer a gluten-free sandwich. The wheat-based rolls are soft, chewy, downright dreamy. My goal is make a gluten-free alternative that is every bit as tender and tasty. If today's recipe doesn't work, I'll have to start over with yet another recipe. I don't want this to be a lifelong quest.