I've been baking since I was 5 years old, a passion which started when my grandparents gave me an Easy Bake Oven. This tiny oven, with a 100 watt light bulb, helped me turn out copious amounts of cakes, pies and cookies. When the Betty Crocker mixes included with the oven ran out, I started experimenting with whatever scraps came my way. Those happy memories, cemented a long life passion for baking and eventually, through various twists and turns, lead to my owning a bakery, becoming a cookbook author and a product developer.
When my daughter was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, I was at first, horrified by the prospect of not being able to bake with her. I remember going to the supermarket in search of gluten free goodies for her lunch box and the bitter disappointment of seeing all of these expensive items ending up in the bin. The sandy, gritty texture, over sweet and rock hard and the long list of preservatives and additives was a real eye opener.
I turned to my first cookbook for inspiration, and slowly began to learn through a process of experimenting, how to bake without gluten. Some of the results were not great, but to my surprise, through trial and error, I started to produce cakes, cookies, muffins and other baked goods, that tasted pretty darn good. Gone were the rock hard cookies, the crumbly dry cakes and the doughy damp muffins. Light cakes, crisp buttery cookies, perfect muffins appeared on the kitchen table day after day after day. The postman, the neighbours and friends and family, happily lined up to trial the latest creations completely oblivious to the fact these were all gluten free.
Eventually these experiments lead to the publishing of a second cookbook, The Gluten Free Cookbook for Kids. The idea behind this cookbook was to make gluten free food more accessible. I became aware, through my very own gluten free journey, how daunting cooking and especially baking can be. I wanted to take out the fear factor and show people that it is possible to make great tasting gluten free food with store cupboard ingredients.
A few years ago I started teaching people about gluten free cooking. Slowly but surely I started to see a pattern emerging. I would start off with a room of rather quiet and fearful individuals, some of them quite apprehensive and doubtful about what they would gain in a few hours. And then at the end of the session, these same individuals transformed into confident, lively, happy and often ecstatic people who felt that a whole new world had opened up for them. They could at last wave goodbye to the many horrors awaiting them in the free from aisles and take control of their taste buds. Now of course, this is not to say that I am entirely responsible for this awakening, but I did begin to discover a few things about myself. The first is that in addition to a passion for baking, I have developed a true passion for teaching. My greatest joy is to see this transformation and to see the bright shining eyes holding up a loaf of bread and saying….I didn’t think this was possible.
My husband now calls me the evangelist. I have a loyal following of people who regularly email me about triumphs, disasters, queries, hopes and desires. We work through our baking issues together and learn tips from each other. In the last year at least four of my students have started to produce gluten free products commercially and they are paving the way for better tasting gluten free food. And this is really what it’s all about. Handing down knowledge and experience to others, so that they too can develop a passion.
For more information and recipes please visit my website glutenfree4kids.com