I choose all organic, unrefined ingredients. Not only do they taste better and contain more nutrients, but their production is beneficial to the earth we live on. I do my best to buy local ingredients whenever I can. I want what I do to contribute to a better world.
I am lucky to live in Marin County, CA, where I have access to amazing, locally grown, organic foods from apples to beef. The quality of the ingredients I start with contributes to the quality of the outcome.
Here is a short guide to the ingredients that I use and some possible alternatives if you cannot find them where you live.
Brown Rice Flour
This is the main flour I use in most of my recipes. One of the great things about brown rice flour is that it is a whole grain flour but it looks a lot like white flour. That is why people often don't realize that my baked goods are gluten free and whole grain. It is relatively easy to find in natural grocery stores, and many conventional grocery stores in a gluten free or natural foods section. I grind my own using a grain mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer. I generally start with a medium grain organic brown rice, but if I am looking for a special flavor for a particular recipe, I might choose a brown jasmine or basmati rice. I prefer to grind my own because I can control the fineness of the grind, and customize it for different recipes. In addition, it, of course, fresher and more flavorful.
Arrowroot is the second most important flour I use. It is from the starch of a plant called maranta arundinacea. It functions similarly to cornstarch and tapiocal flour. You can substitute tapioca starch flour in all my recipes. I choose arrowroot because, according to Sally Fallon, in her book Nourishing Traditions, arrowroot is nutritionally superior and creates a calcium ash.
This is an essential ingredient for making many GF recipes work. It acts as a binder to create stability and loft. It allows you to create cookies and pie crusts you can roll, and breads that will rise. It is produced by bacteria from a substrate. According to wikipedia, it can sometimes have traces of gluten if it was derived from wheat, so know your source. Bob's Red Mill has a gluten free xanthan gum.
I always use celtic sea salt in my recipes. Unrefined salts contain trace minerals in addition to just sodium and chloride, and therefore contribute nutritionally to your food.
I prefer to use organic cultured butter. Any true butter will work, but I do not recommend substituting margarine or vegetable shortening. It is not a healthy food, and won't have that rich buttery flavor that makes things so good! I have, however, on occasion, used lard as a substitute for butter. It works quite well. I like a pie crust that used half butter and half lard. Many people are concerned about the health impacts of lard, but I am not. Each fat has a different make up of molecules that give it its particular qualities. Interestingly, the most common fat in lard is the same as that in olive oil: monounsaturated fat.