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With gluten free, all-purpose flour, modifying your favorite (allergy-filled) recipes to gluten-free versions is a simple 1:1 ratio. But when you’re dealing with the rest of the top allergens, baking can get a little bit overwhelming.
The good news is, it’s a lot easier than you think! With just a bit of know-how, and a couple pantry essentials, you’ll master homemade happiness the next time you fire up the oven.
Here’s what you need to get started:
There are plenty of nondairy milks to choose from, and what you use might depend on what you need to avoid. Fattier milks tend to work better for baking, so if you’re top-8 free, seed-based milks (like flax or hemp) do better than rice milk, which has a watery texture. Rice milk also tends to be naturally sweet, which can alter the flavor of the recipe and can increase browning. Whichever you choose, be sure to use unsweetened varieties, which is the most on-par to dairy-filled milks.
Buttermilk is also frequently called for in baked goods, and for good reason: it adds both a complementary taste and tenderness. In the case of gluten-free goodies—especially breads and cakes—this tenderness is essential, increasing the shelf life and creating a texture more akin “to the real thing”. If a recipe calls for 1 cup milk (or buttermilk), measure 1 tablespoon cider vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, then add enough nondairy milk to make 1 cup total.
When it comes to butter, well, sometimes only a buttery taste will do. That’s when a good quality nondairy buttery spread swaps perfectly in the same amount. If you prefer to use oil, the relation changes: for every 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup liquid oil, such as olive or grapeseed.
Eggs are the workhorse in baking, coveting many roles including structure, lift, tenderness, and emulsification. It’s important to know their task for the treat before you start substituting, and once you do, keep these swaps in your knowledge base:
- To add moisture and bind, use 3 tablespoons warm liquid plus 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds OR 1/4 cup mashed banana
- To add moisture, use 1/4 cup mashed fruit, such as applesauce (This Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti recipe uses the equivalent of 1 egg and 1 egg white)
- To provide lift, use 3 tablespoons fatty nondairy milk, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- To help bind, use 1 1/2 tablespoons starch, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 3 tablespoons fatty nondairy milk OR 3 tablespoons aquafaba
Luckily, soy is pretty easy to avoid in allergy-friendly baking. Soy milk can be substituted with other nondairy milks, and most nondairy buttery spreads have soy-free versions.
Tree Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame
If a recipe calls for tree nuts, peanuts, or sesame seeds, they’re most often used as add-ins to add texture or crunch. In these cases, use pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead, or you can omit them completely.
If nut butters, peanut butter, or tahini is called for, jarred pumpkin or sunflower seed butters will do the trick. If you don’t have it on hand, you can easily make your own. Just put the seeds in a food processor fitted with a metal S blade, and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Be patient – it might take up to 15 minutes.
The world of allergy-friendly baking doesn’t have to be intimidating, but it takes a little practice, too. Don’t forget—you can always ask us your burning questions in the comments below – to prevent any burning of baked goods!
About Laurie Sadowski
Laurie Sadowski is the author of three cookbooks devoted to gluten-free, vegan, and allergy-friendly baking. Using baking chemistry as a basis, everything is developed—and guaranteed—to taste ‘just like the real thing’. For more, visit lauriesadowski.com.