Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baking for Allergies

Moo Two, II 
Got Milk?  Nope, we don't.

 While avoiding wheat is not a new thing in this household, we've now got the list of allergens or foods to avoid up to quite a challenging tally:
  • dairy (K)
  • eggs (K)
  • wheat (K, B)
  • corn (K)
  • rice (K)
  • soy (B)
  • millet (B)
  • flax (B)
  • chocolate (D)
  • most nuts (A)
(K = Kate, B = Betty, D = Dave, and of course, for now, much of what Kate is off, so am I)

I've found a lot of useful food ideas from the vegan community, since, by default, they don't use any animal products, and that eliminates any possibility of dairy or eggs in their recipes.  There are a lot of people out there going wheat-free, so that helps too.  But when I can't use rice or corn either, that certainly throws up a further challenge.

Here are some useful things that I've learned.

Baking powder usually has corn starch in it, and may even have wheat or gluten hiding in there.  So you can make your own!  All you need is baking soda, some kind of starch (e.g. tapioca, potato, or corn if you want) and cream of tartar.  Easy to do and it stores just fine.

While we've used brown rice flour for yonks (usually at 1/8 cup less per cup of wheat flour called for) instead of wheat flour, we only recently started using sorghum flour, thanks to the recipes from  I've also played around a lot with flour/starch mixes, and have learned that approximately 70% flour to 30% starch to replace what's called for as wheat flour works pretty well in many applications (I can't remember for sure where I pulled that from, but I know I didn't invent it).  I'm pleased with the  tef grain flour / tapioca or potato starch mix for cookies and muffins; I've yet to try it with cakes, but that'll be next on the list.

What to do about eggs?  Well, for those people who can use soy, that's often an alternative to certain recipes (especially stuff like quiches, I understand).  A half a banana can also replace one egg in a recipe (works for muffins or pancakes, and some more "rustic" cake recipes).  Ground flax meal (best if you grind the seeds fresh yourself) mixed with water (about 1 tbsp meal to 3 tbsp water per egg replaced) apparently gels well and works.  Since flax is one of the things we can't use for everyone here, I thought I'd try chia seed instead.  Same thing: 1 tbsp chia seed (but you don't have to grind it) to 3 tbsp liquid per egg replaced and let it gel.  So far, it's been great in the muffin and cookie recipes I've tried it in.  We've also used the commercially available egg replacer powder; however, I'm enjoying the chia goo more now. Obviously, you can't really replace eggs when it's a true "eggy" dish, like a custard or a sponge cake.

While nothing really replaces butter, I've found that for most of my baking I can get away with olive oil or similar vegetable oil.  Once in a while, though, you need something that will be more or less firm at room temperature, and I've been using palm oil shortening for those situations.  I've not yet tried coconut oil, but since it's usually solid (or at least firm) at room temperature, I think it might work, too.  I did a ginger shortbread recipe using the palm shortening that, ok, wasn't shortbread really, but it tasted fabulous (kind of like the crumble crust on a cheesecake, but with lots of ginger!).

As for milk, it's probably the easiest thing to replace, as long as you can use any one of the milk substitutes, like soy, almond, rice or coconut milk (now also they have barley milk!).  Still haven't figured out how to get around not using full heavy cream, but coconut milk cream does a pretty good job in many situations, and coconut milk is certainly my go-to milk replacement in any creamy-type soup.  And while it's not custard, chia pudding or using gelatin (if you're not vegan) to make puddings with milk substitutes is pretty darned tasty.

Whatever you try, remember, it's probably better than nothing, and sometimes really darned good, but you're never going to get the same results as you would using traditional wheat/dairy/egg in those recipes.  Experiment and see what you come up with - at worst, it's compost, at best, you'll discover a new family favourite!