Over the past few years, I’ve slowly learned how to navigate gluten and dairy-free life. So much so, that many substitutions are old hat by now, and I hardly recognize the difference. However, I only have two real limitations – gluten and dairy. (okay, so I also can’t really do chickpea flour, but that’s easy to get around.) When my family comes to visit, I add corn to that list, but again, I can handle the substitutions. But what if you also have to avoid eggs? Soy? Nuts? Each of these allergens are increasingly common, and are so hard to avoid when baking. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Enter Colette Martin, author of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking, and of the blog Learning to Eat Allergy-Free. Colette navigates quite a few allergens in her household, as her son was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, triggered by allergies to wheat, dairy, eggs, soy and peanuts. She had to learn how to bake cakes, cookies, breads, and other foods taken for granted by so many others without the staples: flour, butter, milk, and eggs. She so wanted her son to be able to enjoy things like normal children – cakes at parties and cookies for an after-school snack. This required some experimentation on her part!
The results of her hard work show in this comprehensive book. She explains multiple substitutes for ingredients, the pros and cons of those ingredients, and how to best utilize them in recipes. Colette spent a lot of time understanding the science behind the average cake and cookie, and conducted many a trial before she gave us the goods – those long sought-after recipes!
Most of these recipes call for gluten-free flour mixes. While I lean towards making my own blends (I like to tinker), this is approachable for most allergy-free bakers, which are usually parents that don’t have endless amounts of time on their hands to figure out flour substitutions. I find that appealing. She also shares various brands and suggests how to use each of them, so you can swap one out for another to your liking. Also, these recipes are fairly straight-forward, making your transition into allergy-free baking as easy as possible.
I chose to make her chocolate chocolate chunk cookies. These are great for when you want just a few cookies lying around, as the dough is refrigerated beforehand, and you slice off what you need to bake. (And it’s actually best if you refrigerate overnight) They were intensely chocolate-y, not too sweet, and a little crisp. I enjoyed ours in cookie sandwiches with some chocolate date frosting from The Spunky Coconut Cookbook. The entire family enjoyed them (it’s not often we all agree on food!).
This book definitely is a resource, especially for those of us that are not too familiar with allergy-free baking. Colette definitely is on the ball when it comes to solutions for any food restriction!