by Elizabeth Winslow
Photography by Andy Sams
The year 1999 was a significant challenge for Janene Peterson. A working mom with five kids, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction to wheat, and any contact with wheat or flour would cause her airways to restrict in a severe allergic reaction.
Suddenly, all of the comfort foods she was used to cooking for her big family were off limits, as well as the busy-mom weeknight family stalwarts such as pasta, pizza and anything breaded.
The gluten-free options available underwhelmed Peterson’s family, to say the least. “Everything out there was horribly expensive and tasted like cardboard…actually, cardboard was a whole lot better,” she says with a rueful laugh. She thought there had to be a better way, and Peterson’s husband, a self-proclaimed science geek, suggested they try mixing their own flour replacement. Over the next three years, the couple perfected a mix that worked brilliantly as a one-to-one replacement for wheat flour in all of Peterson’s favorite recipes, and now they—and their grateful customers—can easily make cakes, pastries, cookies, pasta, pizza and bread using the slightly adapted recipes they’ve loved for years.
Dubbed “Auntie’s Gluten Free Flour Blend,” the Petersons’ blend is a mix of brown and white rice flours, tapioca and xanthan gum, and can be used interchangeably in any recipe that calls for cake or all-purpose wheat flour. Angi Jiles of Austin’s Blue Note Bakery—who was skeptical of the flour at first—is now a convert. “Janene brought some by the bakery and I stuck it on a shelf where it sat for longer than I’d like to admit. All the gluten-free flours I had tried were either gritty or gummy…or somehow both.” Finally, though, Jiles gave the neglected bag a try. “I changed nothing about my recipe or method. When it came out of the oven and I tasted it, I just ran around the bakery screaming like a crazy person. You literally could not tell the difference.” The flour now enables Jiles to offer special-occasion cakes that meet her quality standards to customers with gluten sensitivities or allergies, and allows many to be able to join in on a celebratory slice of cake for the first time.
For Janene, it all comes down to comfort. “It’s not all that complicated…sometimes you just need to bread a piece of chicken! After all the product testing and tweaking and cataloging, what mattered most to me was that we had created something that would allow me to continue to love people through food.”
Find locations to purchase Auntie’s Flour Blend at auntiesfood.com