Happy Allergen-Free Holidays
Baking and cooking for those with food allergies is getting easier all the time – here are a few tricks of the trade
Celebrating holidays with store-bought cakes and cookies can be out of the question if you experience one or more food allergies or are sensitive to certain ingredients.
But now you can prepare and enjoy sumptuous and even healthy treats even if you have food limitations, thanks to inventive cooks whose recipes avoid common allergens and to the greater availability of non-allergenic products.
If you wonder whether cakes and cookies without such familiar, basic ingredients as wheat flour could taste good, it’s a non-issue, says Amy Fothergill, a cooking instructor and cookbook author in the San Francisco Bay area.
“My big motivator is taste. I want things that taste good,” says Fothergill, author of “The Warm Kitchen,” (The Family Chef Publishing, 2013), a book of gluten-free recipes that include suggestions for dairy and egg substitutions when feasible.
Eliminating gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, nuts and sugar while keeping the deliciousness was a challenge for Debbie Adler, owner of the popular, allergen-free, vegan bakery, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes in Los Angeles.
Adler wanted to avoid allergens, both for her family and her customers. Her son has life-threatening allergies to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame seed, flax seed and shellfish.
“I decided to start from scratch with every ingredient, even chocolate chips,” she says admitting that making tiny chocolate drops wasn’t the easiest thing to do.
However, she’s pleased and reassured by the results.
“It’s not only healthier but safer to prepare non-allergenic substitutes from scratch,” says Adler, author of “Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats” (Harlequin, 2013).
Fothergill also had a family motivation to cook without some key ingredients. When her daughter was 20 months old she was diagnosed with sensitivities to gluten, egg and dairy.
Like Adler, she faced culinary puzzles.
“I think the number one hardest thing with gluten-free is the texture of bread,” she says.
“With almost everything else I can replicate the texture. I do a gluten-free piecrust that’s awesome and easy,” Fothergill says.
If you’ve been wondering how to substitute non-allergenic ingredients in some of your favorite sweets, here are some tips from the authors.
Fothergill recommends using a combination of 1/4 cup applesauce mixed with 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon water to replace two eggs in a dessert.
You’ll have to experiment to see which recipes work best with the applesauce alternative.
If dairy milk is a problem, Fothergill recommends a commercially available milk substitute such as soy, rice, coconut or almond milk.
Adler calls for plain rice milk in her recipes.
The bakery owner uses guar gum to replicate the adhesive properties of gluten and replaces sugar with stevia powder.
“I always had a sweet tooth. My passion was nutrition, but I couldn’t find healthful sweets without sugar. I wanted sweets that were more healthful,” Adler says.
Although you can find allergen-free chocolate chips in the baking section of many supermarkets and specialty food stores, you can also make your own.
Here is Adler’s recipe:
Dark Chocolate Chips (From Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats)
- 4 ounces 100 percent cacao unsweetened chocolate bar
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 6 tablespoons coconut nectar
- ¼ cup powdered erythritol (a non-caloric sweetener in health food stores)
- ¼ teaspoon stevia powder
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Line a 15-by-13-inch cookie sheet with parchment paper. Chop the chocolate into chunks, place them in a medium-size microwave safe bowl with the coconut oil and microwave 30 seconds at a time until the chocolate melts.
Add the coconut nectar, powdered erythritol, stevia and salt and stir to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.
Cut off the small tip of a disposable pastry bag or the corner of a gallon-size resealable storage bag. Place the bag upside down in a tall drinking glass and fold the top edges of the bag around the rim of the glass to hold the bag up.
Fill the bag with the melted chocolate. Remove the bag. Twist the top to prevent leakage.
Squeeze little chocolate teardrops onto the parchment paper until the bag is empty. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer until the chips harden, about 1 hour. Store the chocolate chips in the freezer in an airtight plastic bag or freezer-safe glass jar until you’re ready to bake with them. Makes about 8 ounces chocolate chips.
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