Gluten Free Baking with Ella Bella

IMG_0416For folks with celiac disease being gluten-free is essential, eating gluten can make them very sick.  This is a different thing than the wave of gluten-free eating that has become a huge trend in the last couple of years.  A lot of people who do not have celiac are choosing to be gluten-free because they feel it is healthier.  It’s been described to me by some friends as an intolerance to processed foods and flours which has created a gluten intolerance.   When these folk eat gluten-free they feel better.  I’m all for eschewing processed foods and flours which is why I cook at home and buy locally grown organic stone ground flour from upstate New York.

I do however have some resistance to food trends, my response is usually, well why not try moderation?  Or how about stop eating processed foods?  But why does it always have to take the guise of some new way of eating: Paleo! Vegan! Gluten Free! Raw!

Certainly I understand the appeal of the new I just think the actual old way of cooking and shopping seemed to work just fine before everything was mass-produced and real ingredients started getting replaced by chemicals and things you can’t pronounce. Maybe if we just focused on eating and shopping around the seasons, supporting farmers and not buying processed corporate food we would all be healthier for it?

The reason I am writing about gluten-free eating today is because a friend of a friend has a gluten-free company that sells baking mixes and a proprietary gluten-free All Purpose “flour”.  As you can well expect I had some reservations when I got my box filled of Ella Bella gluten-free mixes and flour.IMG_0380Mandy Groszko who started Ella Bella, want to fill a gap she saw by creating high quality baking mixes and an all-purpose gluten-free flour that focused on using local, organic and free trade ingredients.

This journey for her started when her daughter Elizabeth turned out to have a gluten intolerance, which they discovered when she was a year and half old.  Mandy’s mission from that point on was to make gluten-free baked goods that tasted as good as the originals. IMG_0395 As much as I was skeptical about the whole gluten-free thing I was even more skeptical about making a “mix”.  Regular readers know how insistent I am about making everything from scratch, but hey I’m game, if nothing else, so the very day I got the box of goods from Mandy I made the brownie mix.

The generous amount of chocolate chips included in the package is impressive.  The mixes usually need you to add butter and sometimes eggs.  When the brownies finished baking and I took them out of the oven they look almost identical to the ones I regularly make. IMG_0406It was the perfect balance of chewy, slightly crunchy on the edges and gooey with melted chocolate in the center.  They tasted great, just like “real”  brownies!  IMG_0413Then I made the chocolate chip cookies. Everything about them from the cookie dough to the finished product were exactly what you would expect in a chocolate chip cookie. Ditto the sugar cookies.IMG_0427She suggests icing them, I opted out for sprinkling them generously with sugar before baking, they were yummy.

I was totally sold by Ella Bella’s mixes. They make gluten-free baking a breeze. And the biggest compliment I can give them is: you would never know they were gluten-free! I also think for the quality of the ingredients that they’re reasonably priced.

I made one item with the gluten-free flour, an apple carrot loaf which was not so successful, but that had to do with me not doing my research before I made it.  I didn’t realize that you can’t swap out regular flour for gluten-free flour, so a word of warning, only use the gluten-free flour in recipes that are for gluten-free flour. There are lots of recipes on-line also on EllaBella.com

My other word of warning, which most of you already know, is don’t refrigerate bake goods! Wrap them up well and keep at room temperature or better yet eat them warm out of the oven!

When I walk down the baking aisle at Whole Foods here in NYC I notice that so many of the large companies have gotten on the gluten-free band wagon and are making a large choice of products. I think it’s because it’s the big city that we’re lucky to have such a large range of products, I don’t think this is true across the country (feel free to chime in on this obviously in Ohio Mandy felt a need to create her own for lack of good options).

Luckily, if you live in a place with few choices you can order Ella Bella’s products online and support a small business that’s trying make celiac and gluten-intolerant people’s lives a bit sweeter.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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