I have been baking as long as I can remember.
It all started when I was about 8 years old and my parents got me an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas.
I remember looking through the small window of the Easy Bake Oven and watching the light bulb bake the miniature cake in the tiny pan. I wondered how mixing such simple and different ingredients like flour and butter resulted in something so fun and delicious like cake. To this day, I am still amazed at the process of baking.
I was first tested for food allergies when I was 5, and diagnosed with gluten, egg, dairy, and yeast allergies when I was a teenager. I have a sweet tooth so I wanted to figure out my own kind of treats that would fit my food limitations. Back in the day, brown rice flour was the most popular alternative flour. It was coarse and grainy and it mixed and behaved nothing like wheat flour. The final product was very crumbly, the taste was not even close to what I remembered, and everything turned to dry, hard hockey pucks the next day. This was the closest thing to 'real' muffins and cookies that I could eat, so I learned to tolerate the different tastes and textures. Dry and grainy was my way of life.
This all changed when our son turned two.
We were on a family vacation and on the second day he broke out in a rash. Each day the rash spread. He became more and more inconsolable during the day, and he was most uncomfortable at night. At one point, I put socks on his hands while he slept to stop him from drawing blood from his itching.
I sensed his rash was a reaction to wheat and milk as he had been eating these items every day while we were away from home, and his rash looked very similar to the nearly constant eczema rash I experienced when I was a kid.
When we returned home we confirmed the suspicion. He was sensitive to wheat and milk as well as peanut.
We found great relief knowing the source of his rash. Now we just had to feed him.
I felt confident - almost cocky - in how to handle our son's new diet. I knew what I was doing when it came to gluten-free and dairy-free baking. Or so I thought.
I thought he would love my tried and true gluten-free recipes.
Nope. He spit them out.
"OK", I thought to myself. "I'll just tweak things with a little more applesauce or a little more sugar and then he'll eat them up."
Nope. He spit them out again.
He made it very clear that what he was eating did not 'look' like what his sister and dad were eating, and he was not happy about it.
Toddlers are great for serving up lessons in humility.
My mission was clear: I must tweak my rejected gluten-free recipes into something that both looked tempting and tasted great.
I started by purchasing gluten-free baking mixes that were available at our local food coop. Some of the mixes were really good and received a big 'thumbs up' from all family members. Others were not so good. Some I would even call terrible. Either the combination of gluten-free flours, the gluten-free baking ingredients like xanthan gum or arrowroot powder, or the combination of all of these plus my egg and dairy substitutions resulted in funky flavors, strange consistencies, or both.
I identified what made a good gluten-free baking mix - easy mixes with simple, straightforward ingredients resulting in great taste every time - and then I started experimenting with how to replicate that for my own use.
I started reading and rereading my own gluten-free cookbooks. I found awesome gluten-free blogs like Gluten-Free Goddess which showed me gluten-free eye candy that made me giddy and gave me words of encouragement that made me feel confident. I attended numerous gluten-free cooking and baking classes and asked tons of questions (you know that annoying person in class that hogs all the Q & A time - that's me!). I then used my husband, kids, and family as impartial taste testers for my various concoctions.
One evening I made pancakes with my newest recipe adaptation. I knew I was pushing my luck when the kids said, "Pancakes, again?!" Despite their initial complaints, everyone loved these pancakes.
The real proof came from my husband. He has been subjected to some pretty awful food 'projects' of mine - like the spinach lentil soup that looked like grass clippings floating on water - a story that happened close to 10 years ago that still gets a chuckle. So when my husband kept eating the pancakes and kept saying, "This is good!", I knew we were onto something.
That night I started thinking about sharing my mixes with others who may be in the same set of circumstances. We decided to take a leap of faith and as they say, 'hang out our shingle'. And that's the story of how Black Barn Bakery™ was born.