Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cleveland Cheaper Gluten-Free Ingredient Sources

One of the things that nearly any of us gluten free types has experience with is the exaggerated prices of various gluten free ingredients (and foods). It is a challenge to locate a cheap, let alone reasonably affordable, source for the ingredients used in your gluten free baking.

If you live in the Cleveland, Ohio area, I have a suggestion for you that may be worth following, especially if you are just wheat-free or gluten-sensitive. Why especially for these two groups? Because the source of the supplies I am about to suggest, although quite cheap compared to elsewhere, is not likely to certify any of the ingredients (flours, starches, etc) as gluten free, even though there is a fair chance they are gluten free.

The place I suggest giving consideration to is the local Asian market, or in the case of Cleveland, our local Chinatown (there really is one - small, but there). This is located in downtown Cleveland around the East 30th and Payne Ave. area. There are a few Asian grocers there, with one of the largest being Tink Holl (Tink Holl 1735 East 36 Street, Cleveland, OH 44114 (216) 696-1717 ).

I buy white-rice and glutinous-rice flours by the 24# case down there, and get the stuff as low as $.39/pound; tapioca as low as $.33/pound (i.e., 3# for $1), potato starch is usually around $.59/pound. These low prices made it possible, and affordable, to experiment with a lot of recipes as I perfected various GF baking. It would have cost me a mint to buy RedMill or something for the hundreds of pounds of ingredients I used getting my recipes to perform exactly as I wanted.

Though the Asian markets flours are likely never going to say "gluten free" on the packages, I have been fine with them thus far. Another good source is Trader Joes, and there are two currently in the Cleveland area (one out in Westlake in Crocker Park, and one at
28809 Chagrin Blvd. in Woodmere). They carry sweet/glutinous rice flour in GF-labeld 2# bags for $1.49 (i.e., 75-cents/#), which is rather good. The only issue I have with TJs is they are so popular around here they have a hard time keeping the shelves stocked, so you have to buy the stuff in large lots when they have it.

I love that Asian rice-flour and the fine-grind (and the low price). I haven't noticed too much difference between the glutinous rice I get there and what I get at Trader Joe's (grind wise). My wife baked up various cakes and cookies using both just to make sure the recipes in our book worked well either way. One thing is for sure though, you can not use *stone-ground* varieties in our cakes -- the texture is just ruined, much too course of a grind. Finer grind = better texture by far for cakes and that sort of thing. The results we get are as good as wheat-versions according to our taste testers. Although the Asian stuff isn't, and probably won't be any time soon, certified GF, I have not had any issues with it thus far. Now, if anyone can get an Asian supplier to verify and certify that their flours are GF, that'd be tremendous (sorry, I don't speak Mandarin so I have no idea where to start).

So, keep these options in mind, especially if your allergy to wheat or gluten is one that would not be considered drastic enough to merit avoiding the affordable Asian option. I hope my gluten free blog entries like this help others at least discover potential options.

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