Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let's Make a Trade: Dairy Edition (with Sugar Cookies)


Hello everyone!

So as I mentioned in my last post, I tend to do a LOT of baking over the holidays.  I’ve already shared my dairy-free chocolate chip cookie recipe, so now let’s talk about dairy-free sugar cookies!

I have to admit that sugar cookies were never my favorite.  I don’t know if it was the lack of chocolate chips or the crumbliness of the cookie that didn’t appeal to me, but as a child, I would always take a chocolate chip cookie over a sugar cookie.  But, after experimenting for a few years with my own recipes, and spinning off of grandma’s recipes, I’ve finally got a sugar cookie that I enjoy, and thankfully, my whole family enjoys!

The thing that I think really makes this recipe great is the use of shortening instead of butter – for both the cookie and the icing.  The shortening will make these cookies VERY light and soft, and will pretty much retain whatever cookie cutter shape you make, rather than having the cookie spread and expand until you can’t recognize its shape.  So all that being said, let’s get to the cookies!

The Allergic Baker’s Sugar Cookies
Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes

-    2 ¾ cup flour (if you need a gluten-free cookie, use white rice flour)
- 1  teaspoon baking soda
-    ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-    1 cup of all vegetable shortening
-    1 egg (for an egg-free cookie, 2 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon veggie oil + 2 teaspoons baking powder for the 1 egg)

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, combining with a fork.  Mix it as much as you can with a fork, then knead the dough by hand. (Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before doing so!)  From here, you can either scoop the dough in rounded teaspoons onto a cookie sheet, or you can spread the dough on a clean surface and use your favorite cookie cutters to make fun shapes.  Since we have a few martial artists in my family, I chose to cut out these cookies using ThinkGeek’s Ninja Bread Men cookie cutters.  Let bake for 10-12 minutes, then let cool completely.

Now I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but I love icing.  And I mean LOVE icing.  But, most frosting and icings are made with butter, right?  Well not on this blog! :D Here’s my recipe for dairy-free icing that I used on my ninja sugar cookies!

The Allergic Baker’s Dairy-Free Icing

-          1 ½ cups powdered sugar
-          1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
-          1 tablespoon water

Mix all these together with a fork with vigorous strokes until they’re all combined.  If you want your icing to be thicker (like a buttercream frosting), then add powdered sugar by the tablespoon until you reach the desired thickness.  If the icing seems too thick for your tastes, or if you find that you’re having a hard time getting all the ingredients to combine, add water by the teaspoon until you reach your desired thickness. 

Also, if you want to have chocolate icing WITHOUT the dairy, add Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa Powder by the teaspoonful until your desired level of chocolate-y-ness has been reached!  Now I know alot of allergic families out there may be saying, "Wait - dairy-free CHOCOLATE frosting can be made with Hershey's?"  And the answer is YES.  According to Hershey's customer service, their unsweetened cocoa powder, which can be found easily in the baking aisle of your local grocery, contains no dairy.  Cocoa powder is actually made from cacao beans, and you can find more info about that process here.  But again, Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder has NO DAIRY, so it's safe to add to this icing/frosting recipe to make a chocolate-y treat!
In the case of our ninja sugar cookies, I used the regular icing to cover the cookies, and then chocolate icing to outline/decorate the cookies.  Here’s how they turned out!

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and keep kicking-butt in the kitchen! ;)

Happy Baking,
The Allergic Baker

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Let's Make a Trade: Dairy Edition (with Christmas Cookie Solutions!)

Hello Everyone!

Everyone has a special tradition for the holiday season, and mine is baking.  My grandmother on my mom's side of the family was apparently the resident baker in the family, and though I never got the chance to meet her, my mom carried on that tradition when I was a little girl.  I specifically remember making chocolate chip cookies from grandma's recipe with instant Jell-o Vanilla Pudding.  As I grew up, I started taking over the baking for the holidays, and now, I make anywhere from 250 to 500 cookies of all kinds between December 15th and New Years Eve.  This year so far, I've made about five different types of cookies:  chocolate chip, chocolate peppermint, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookie pops, and mini ginger pumpkin biscuits; and also some fudge.

Here's the thing - my niece is allergic to dairy.  Not just milk - we're talking cream, butter, casein, whey, milk powder, cheese, yogurt, etc.  If it's made from milk from a cow (or I think any animal, really), my little niece CANNOT eat it. And, as anyone with food allergies knows, milk or milk protein is in a LOT of foods.  And, it can be difficult to figure out how to substitute or compensate for dairy products in a recipe.  So, after some experimenting in the kitchen this year, I've figured out how to make some of my favorite cookie recipes dairy-free so that everyone, including my niece, can enjoy the holidays.  But before I share the recipes, let’s talk about some substitutions for dairy that you can use. 

If a recipe calls for milk, here’s a list of things you can directly substitute:
- Coconut Milk
- Soy Milk
- Rice Milk
- Potato Milk
- Oat Milk
- Almond Milk

Now, with some of these suggestions you have to be careful because some of these are allergens all their own.  For example, pretty much everyone in my family is allergic to tree nuts and peanuts, so almond milk is not a viable substitute for me.  But, I’ve used coconut milk and rice milk instead, and have had great success!  Given that my niece is so young, I try to stay away from soy milk.  And as far as the coconut milk goes, I prefer the “So Delicious” brand because it tastes great and isn’t chalky.

The next main dairy item that is usually called for in baking recipes, especially cookies, is butter.  I love butter just as much as the next person, but let’s face it – even if you don’t have food allergies or restrictions, sometimes its really nice to cook or bake without butter because of what large amounts can do to your cholesterol.  Besides, if you can bake holiday cookies without butter, then there’s less guilt too! 

The best things I’ve found to use as a butter substitute are either all vegetable shortening, or coconut butter.  I’m sure there are other substitutes out there as well, but I haven’t ever needed to use anything else, so I just stick with these.  One thing I should note if using either of these options – your cookies will not really spread when using them.  In fact, your cookies/cakes will be VERY light, and will pretty much retain whatever shape you leave the dough in.  So all that being said, let’s get to some actual recipes! :D

The Allergic Baker’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes
      Makes about 6-7 dozen cookies

      -   2 1/4 cup flour (if you need a gluten-free cookie, use brown rice flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup of all vegetable shortening
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract (or a little more for flavor - be generous!)
- 1 package (4 serving size) Jello instant vanilla pudding mix
- 2 eggs
- 1 (12oz.) bag of chocolate chips (can buy dairy-free chips to use)

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Sift together all the dry ingredients, and then add in all the wet ingredients.  The dough will be a bit thick, so I tend to not use a mixer; rather, I mix as much as I can with a fork, and then I just knead the dough with my hands (make sure you wash them thoroughly before doing this!).  Then, knead in the chocolate chips.  Once that’s done, scoop the dough in rounded teaspoons onto a cookie sheet and pat down slightly.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes.  Let cool, then enjoy!

Quick note about the Jello Instant Vanilla pudding mix: according to the packaging and what I’ve seen online, it seems to be milk-free (even “Go Dairy Free” lists it as a dairy-free product).  And, I’ve been able to use it in mixes without my niece having a problem.  But, if you feel uncomfortable using it, or feel that it’s too much of a risk, you can always add a little more vanilla extract and an extra tablespoon of veggie oil to compensate. 

The wonderful thing about chocolate chip cookies is that they can be enjoyed any time of year.  So I hope you enjoy this cookie recipe with your family!

Happy Baking,
The Allergic Baker

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let's Make a Trade: Eggs Edition Follow-up

Hi everyone!

I was having a conversation with one of my friends yesterday after my last post, and they asked a very good question that I'd like to share.  They asked me, "Well, what if my recipe calls for a lot of Pumpkin puree anyway...should I still use that as my egg substitute, or will the cake turn out too pumpkin-y or fall apart?"

That's a great question!  Here's what I would say:  when choosing your egg substitute, you should consider not only the flavor and texture of your recipe, but also the purpose of why eggs are called for in a recipe.  If there's only one or two eggs called for, the eggs are meant to hold everything together, or act as a binder.  If there's more than two eggs called for, the eggs are meant to make your batter lighter.

If you're afraid of flavor overload, with pumpkin or any other fruit, try a different and less flavorful egg substitute, such as 2 tablespoons potato starch per 1 egg called for.  That way you still have your substitute, but maintain the balance of flavor in your recipe.  

However, if you're afraid that your recipe will be too heavy or may fall apart if you use a fruit or liquidy substitute, try using 2 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon veggie oil + 2 teaspoons baking powder per 1 egg called for.  Baking powder is a great binder that is also a rising agent, which will help make your batter be more light and fluffy.

Thanks for the question!  I hope that answer is helpful, and that you all look forward to my next post!

Happy Baking,
The Allergic Baker

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let's Make a Trade: Eggs Edition

Hello everyone!  Let's talk about Substitutions for Allergy-Safe Baking.  In this post, let's talk specifically about eggs.

So eggs are usually a main ingredient in baking - especially holiday baking.  You'd be hard-pressed to find any traditional Christmas cookie, fruit cake, or streusel recipe that doesn't call for at least one.  But, if you have a food allergy to eggs, or if you choose not to eat eggs for other reasons, then that can prevent you from enjoying a lot of holiday goodies.  So, what can you do if you're trying to bake while being allergy-safe?

A lot, actually!  Egg may seem like an impossible thing to replicate, but it's actually not.  I know from talking to others with food allergies that there are a lot of very expensive egg substitutes out on the market.  I'm sure they're lovely to use, but let's face it - dealing with food allergies can be trying enough without having to spend extra money at the same time.  The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of common grocery items that can be substituted without adding on a lot of extra cost.

When it comes to substituting anything, including egg, ideally your substitute has (1) a similar quantity, (2) a similar texture, and (3) a similar amount of liquid.  Consider things like:

   - 1/4 cup of applesauce per 1 egg called for
   - 1/4 cup canned pumpkin per 1 egg called for
   - 1/4 cup canned squash per 1 egg called for
   - 1/4 cup pureed prunes per 1 egg called for
   - 1/4 cup mashed potatoes per 1 egg called for
   - 1 banana per 1 egg called for
   - 1/4 cup soft, unflavored tofu (pureed)
   - 1/4 cup soy milk
   - 2 tablespoons potato starch per 1 egg called for
   - 2 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon veggie oil + 2 teaspoons baking powder per 1 egg called for
   - 1 tablespoon ground flax seed simmered in 3 tablespoons water per 1 egg called for

If you're baking something sweet like cookies or cakes, things like the fruit substitutes can be best.  For savory or spicy dishes, or things like squishes, veggies or starches tend to work best, and can enhance that savory flavor.  Substitutes that don't really add different or additional flavors, the veggie oil, baking powder, and water substitute works great.  I haven't ever personally used flax seed as a substitute, but others that I know have and they say it works great. :)  

One note though: keep in mind that many people with nut or latex allergies are also allergic to banana.  Tofu and soy milk are not a good idea for those with soy allergies, of course.  So, please be conscious of any other allergies that may prevent you from using any of the ingredients above.

I hope this list helps!  Please look forward to my next post on more baking substitutions for other things like nuts, gluten, etc.

Happy Baking!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Let's talk about Holiday Parties and Allergies.

Hi everyone!

Around this time of year, people are baking cookies and cakes, preparing for parties, and eating a lot of food - more than we may normally eat during the rest of the year.  But, for those with food allergies, pot-lucks and catered affairs alike can require a little more navigation. 

First and foremost, if you're going to any parties where food is being served, don't be afraid to ask the party host what will be served AHEAD of time!  By asking what's being served, and by notifying your host of food allergies and dietary restrictions ahead of time, you increase the odds of you being able to safely eat!  Also, if the party is being catered, catering companies are required to provide full ingredient lists upon request - so ask away!  If, for whatever reason, you can't get an ingredient list ahead of time, you've at least given yourself the time and opportunity to come up with an alternate food plan for the evening.

Second, if you're going to a party that's pot-luck, take a few minutes to write down your ingredient list for your dish, and place it by your dish at the party.  Chances are you're not the only person with dietary restrictions in the room, and by providing a FULL ingredient list for your dish you're (1) helping other people with allergies know what's safe to eat, and (2) planting a seed.  Once others start to see ingredient cards included next to dishes, they will probably be more inclined to do so themselves.  Whether you have a food allergy/dietary restriction or not, you have the right to know what you're putting into your body, and doing something as simple as including an ingredient list can empower everyone in the room to make a more informed decision about what they choose to eat.

To make things even more festive, you can spruce up an ingredient list much like a place-card at a wedding would be.  Here's a quick holiday example I whipped up in Photoshop to illustrate what I mean:

I've also included a link to a full-sheet of ready-to-fill-in cards (in case you don't have Photoshop, or the time to make one):  Holiday Allergy/Ingredient Cards  Simply print this sheet on a piece of paper or card stock, fill out the information, cut it out, and you now have a stylin' way of communicating important information!

Third, if you are going to a pot-luck, contact your host and ask if any of the party-goers have food allergies, and then cook/bake accordingly!  Whether you have allergies or not, being contentious of others will make the party a happy and safe one for everyone.  (i.e. You wouldn't appreciate it if I put arsenic in the cookies I expect you to eat, so please don't put peanut butter in the cookies you expect me to eat!)

Last, but definitely not least:  make sure you bring your medication with you!  Always having your Epi pen, benadryl, etc. will not only give you peace of mind, but it will also ensure that if you do accidentally eat something you're allergic to, you can take steps to address the reaction immediately!  Also, make sure you tell your host/a trusted person at the party where you have these meds - that way if you need them but need help administering them, you have a helper who is already in the know.

That's all for now!  Please look forward to my next post, where I'm going to start getting into the nitty-gritty of allergy-safe baking, entitled:   Let's Make a Trade:  Safe Substitutions for Allergy-Safe Baking
Happy Baking,
The Allergic Baker

Welcome to the home of The Allergic Baker

Hello, and welcome to my little corner of the internet!

My name is Cheri, and as you can probably tell from the title of this blog, I'm a baker with food allergies. I love food (probably more than I should!), but as anyone with food allergies out there knows, sometimes food can inspire a love-hate relationship. People with food allergies (or who live/work with people who do) love the wonderful nourishment and fabulous tastes that food can give us. But, these same people are sometimes fearful that the very things that we eat to keep us alive may hurt, or in severe cases, kill us.

For those who don't have food allergies, it can sometimes be hard to understand how food can be "the enemy." And for those who do have food allergies, it can be hard to find accurate information without experiencing a fear of food, or fear of having an abnormal life due to dietary restrictions.

While it's true that I don't know all there is to know about food allergies, I do know one thing:
I am a near-30-something individual, with severe (and some fatal) food allergies. I'm allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, beets, onions, bananas, and certain berries. I used to be allergic to even more (including fish and shellfish), and I'm currently going in and out of a dairy allergy. But even though I have these allergies, I've lead a pretty normal life and happy life when it comes to food.

Sure there are certain things I can't eat, and certain foods I have to be vigilant about, but that just means I get to take more control of what I put into my body while being more creative with the things that I can eat. Now I'm combining that creativity with the baking hobby I love, and have created this blog to share the ideas and information I've found while trying to bake with dietary restrictions.

I hope you find this blog fun and useful!
Happy Baking,
The Allergic Baker