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Kids In The Kitchen: Cutting Down Cross-Contamination in a Shared Kitchen (and Molten Chocolate Lava Cake)

Yes, this is wheat flour on my blog...but let me explain...

This weekend, Brittany wanted to make molten chocolate lava cake. She’d had a version of it at a restaurant for her birthday, and wanted to recreate it at home. I researched and found several gluten-free recipes and was confident we could make a tasty version. But during this past week, she stated that she wanted to make it “with gluten”. I explained to her that it’s very likely it would taste just as good gluten-free, and that since I had zero molten chocolate lava cake experience, gluten-free or not, that gluten would not necessarily guarantee good results any more than gluten-free. But it was her decision. She insisted this was what she wanted to do. I agreed. (After all, the reason for the kids in the kitchen is to teach them cooking skills. Since they are not gluten or dairy-free, it is their decision whether they want to make their recipe gluten-free and dairy-free or not.) I started to make plans.

Some background: our kitchen is not 100% gluten-free. I know there are varying opinions on this out there in the gluten-free community. However, I do imagine that there are as many people out there with celiac disease that have to share kitchens with gluten-eaters as there are people with entirely gluten-free kitchens, maybe even more. Regardless, those of us with sensitivities to gluten must take steps to ensure they remain healthy if there is a decision to keep gluten-containing ingredients in the home.

For those new to a gluten-free diet, the idea of cross-contamination is often overwhelming at first. Cross-contamination is a term usually reserved for things like keeping raw meat separate from other foods and the like, not gluten. But even residual amounts of gluten can wreak havoc on the health of someone sensitive to it. So in an effort to remain healthy, steps must be taken to reduce or eliminate the risk of cross-contamination of gluten in food.

One solution is to make the kitchen entirely gluten-free. If there are gluten-eaters, they can get their gluten “fix” outside the home in restaurants and such. On one hand, this is a simple solution from a cross-contamination perspective. But many times, not everyone in the family agrees this is the most feasible.

We opt to keep some “gluten-y” foods around the home, mostly in the form of packaged bread, the occasional cracker, and beer. It’s all kept on one shelf in the pantry (with nothing underneath, in case somehow crumbs were to fall into other food). There are separate condiments in the fridge for gluten foods (such as mayonnaise, peanut butter, etc.) and the gluten-free versions are clearly marked on the lids. (Why have separate condiment jars? Well, if you’re like most people, when spreading something such as mayonnaise on a slice of bread, you will dip the knife in the mayo, spread it on the bread, and stick the knife back in the mayo again to repeat. Once that knife touched the bread, it’s VERY likely crumbs were clinging to it, and you then put crumbs into the mayonnaise jar. Crumbs = gluten = bad! Hence, the separate jars.) While I have heard that some people have opted to dedicate a counter space for the gluten foods to be prepared, our kitchen is too small for me to give up any space. Instead, the counters are thoroughly cleaned, and gluten-free items are never laid directly on the counter unless I have cleaned the counter immediately beforehand. If something with gluten needs to be cooked (occasionally, someone makes a grilled cheese sandwich or a frozen pizza in our home), there is a drawer below the oven that contains the “gluten-only” cooking utensils, such as a frying pan, spatula, pizza cutter, etc. There is a separate sponge used exclusively for cleaning the “gluten” dishes so no residual gluten is transferred from one plate to another. 99% of the time, this works for us. Other than my husband’s beer, gluten isn’t even consumed more than about once a week in our home, so while this sounds like a lot, it’s rather routine for us and not something we have to deal with every day.

But when Brittany brought up the molten chocolate lava cake, I knew this was time for that additional 1%. While I knew I needed to take extra steps to ensure that there wasn’t flour everywhere in my kitchen (Flour can stay airborne for many hours, and could settle on just about any surface. Not to mention, I didn’t want to breathe flour for any length of time.), I will admit, I was stressing a bit on how to best accomplish this. I needed to get a game plan together, because I didn’t want to be overly stressed during the time we were baking – this was about teaching Brittany to cook (and enjoying each other’s company!), not “freak out” time for yours truly. So I reached out to some of my best gluten-free friends, and they gave me a wonderful idea. So great, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself.

What was the idea?

Just take it outside.

Duh. It seemed so obvious. There wouldn’t be any flour in the air in the kitchen, no flour on the counters, no obsessive-compulsive cleaning (although I did do a top-to-bottom cleaning of the kitchen the following day, but that was just because it needed it!). Best of all, no worrying. I could be calm and relaxed and enjoy our time together.

And so we did. After dinner last night, we gathered all of our “gluten-only” cooking utensils (measuring cups, spoons, wooden spoon, whisk, etc) and began. We started in the kitchen, melting butter and chocolate in the bowl, and stirring in powdered sugar and eggs. When it came time for the flour, though, we headed outside.

whisking the last bit of flour into the batter

(Forgive the less-than-ideal photos – it was 8 PM when we were working on this treat last night!) Only once we had the flour fully incorporated into the batter did we come back inside, where Brittany immediately washed her hands well to get the flour off. The ramekins were set on a piece of foil inside the “gluten-only” baking sheet, so that in the chance there were drips of batter, the batter wouldn’t be all over on the counters or in the oven.

The dishes were all washed with the “gluten-only” sponge, and the table outside washed down and cleaned. And as for the molten chocolate lava cakes? They were enjoyed by the gluten-eaters in the home – they were described as tasting brownie-like on the edges, and while different than the ones at the restaurant, they were delicious.

forgot to take a shot of the molten lava inside, but trust me, it was there!

One day soon, I’ll attempt a gluten-free version. (I do have this part of me that wants to prove that a gluten-free, dairy-free, even refined sugar-free version can be just as delicious!) But until then, I’ll share that we used this recipe over at Tasty Kitchen. It’s a really easy recipe, so it was perfect for Brittany.

What about you? If you have someone with food intolerances/allergies, do you eliminate that item entirely from the home? If not, what do you do to ensure cross-contamination issues don’t occur?

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Filed under Baked goods, Quick and Easy