by Liz Gagnon, Executive Chef at Nature’s Temptations, Ridgefield, CT
When I started pondering the idea of simple solutions for allergy free cooking, I quickly had this vision of me with 10 bags of strangely named flours strewn about my kitchen. The result was terrible-tasting cookies, tough, flat bread, and a tension headache. Really? What’s simple about allergy-free cooking?
Being a working mother, not to mention, a whole-foods organic chef for a living, someone might as well tell me to learn Chinese.
I never thought in a million years my daughter would have been born with food allergies. By the time she was tested she had over 26! And they were big ones: soy, yeast, oats, egg, dairy, wheat, coconut and rice – to name her top 8. That pretty much ruled out every packaged food on the market, whether it was cereal or a snack – natural or organic.
Being addicted to bread myself, I quickly decided after trying one time to bake bread, I would not bother making any bread ever again. What’s the point of trying to duplicate a slice of bread whether it is wonder bread or “whole grain” bread from the health food store?
All of that bread has a base of something processed; we cannot duplicate that at home no matter how hard we try. Sure there are some mildly good-tasting substitutes, and bread machines are sold by the 1000’s.
However, when it comes down to it, If we are trying to heal our children’s guts and following basic principles of food combining, giving someone a sandwich is never the best food choice anyway.
Okay, that’s my soapbox on bread. Sorry, I will not ever have a bread recipe for you. That’s the bad news. The good news: we can cook and nourish our families with delicious, organic whole foods that are simple and not too time consuming; I promise.
It seems the big focus for allergy-free foods are breakfast, snacks, party food (when you send your child to a party), and baked goods.
To keep baking simple, my favorite flour blend that is allergen free is Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Baking Flour. It seems to be overall allergen-free for most. I like this product for the nutrition make up: 3g fiber, 3g protein and it has a rich flavor and no €œgritty€ after-taste.
It can be used for muffins, waffles, cookies, muffins, and cakes. And it’s affordable. The only addition to this mix will be xanthan gum and on the back of the flour package is a list of how much xanthan gum you need for the different items you will be baking.
If bean flours are not for you, some general guidelines for substitutions work well:
- Flours should be looked at based on weights. And a good combination of flours can contain a mix of heavy, light and medium textures of flours. Add a starch to help lighten and create a gluten-type of tenderness as well as help bind the dough.
- The “heavy” flours would be wheat and the gluten free alternatives would be the higher protein flours like quinoa, millet, cornmeal, nut meals (almond, coconut, chestnut), and bean flours.
- The medium flours would be the traditional fine rice flours: brown rice or white rice. Sorghum flour has gained some attention. I believe it to be better than rice, and most people are not sensitive to sorghum.
- The binders and tenderizers are the light flours: arrowroot, cornstarch, tapioca, potato starch (NOT POTATO FLOUR).
Based on these principles, you can create flour mixes:
For cakes, muffins, cookies and cupcakes a blend might look like:
- 2 cup sorghum flour
- 1 cup chestnut, coconut, millet, or almond meal
- 2 cup tapioca, potato starch or arrowroot
- 2 teaspoon xanthan gum
This creates a lighter batter.
For heartier baked goods such as waffles, pancakes and fruit breads:
- 1 cup sorghum flour
- 1 cup quinoa, fava bean, or millet flour
- 1/4 cup chestnut or almond flour
- 3/4 cup potato starch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
This mix will create a heartier batter.
Allergic to eggs? Although there is nothing that compares to eggs and what they can do in cooking, here are a few ideas for binding.
- My favorite egg reaplcer is ENer-G Egg Replacer. The recipe is on the box and they include many recipes on the outside of the box as well. It works very well in vegan baking. If more volume is desired in a recipe you can add about a tablespoon of the light starches such as arrowroot or tapioca.
- 1 egg = 1 Tbsp tapioca + 3 Tbsp water. Also add ¼ – ½ tsp baking powder if needed.
- If you want to use a seed like chia or flax, these are called seed-based gels.
A basic formula for replacing an egg for binding:
1 egg= 2 Tbsp ground flax or chia seed + 1/4 tsp baking powder mixed with 3Tbsp of water
NOTE: I am not a fan of these €˜gels’ as they tend to make a recipe sort of gummy.
I was inspired as I was writing this, and I created an Allergy-Free Biscuit.
- 2 cups Bob’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- ½ teaspoon salt (I use REAL salt, found in health food stores)
- ½ cup butter or ghee
- ¾ cup milk (rice, soy, hemp, almond, cow, goat, potato. If you can’t use one of them, it’s OK to use water.)
- 3 Tablespoons butter or ghee, melted (save for baking)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Add flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt to the standing mixer. Mix for 1 minute to blend together. (You can also do this in a bowl.)
- Add the butter or ghee, mixing on low speed until it is completely mixed in and looks like coarse meal.
- Slowly add milk, mixing on medium speed until dough pulls from side of bowl. May need to add a little more flour.
- Turn out onto a floured surface, gently pat or roll dough out to 1-inch thick tube. Cut biscuits with a butter knife about 2 to 2 ½ inches thick and place on ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven. With pastry brush, brush the biscuits with melted butter or ghee. Return to oven and bake for 3-5 minutes longer. Biscuits will start to brown around edges.
Yields 1 dozen
I am not sure when it happened, or how the evolution took place, but who decided anyway that we should only feed our children peanut butter and jelly, chicken fingers, french fries, hot dogs, bologna and cheese sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese?
How great would it be that from the beginning we start feeding our kids real, whole food? Whole-grain cereals where we blend the grains? Fresh roast chicken or turkey, broiled fish, some fresh vegetables, or lentil soup not from a can?
I love to create simple wholesome recipes. Email me at [email protected], and let’s start cooking whole foods for our kids from the start.
A mom once said to me, “I want my child to be like every other kid in school at the lunch table”. “Me, too”, I thought. And with many kids on all different diets – diabetes, nut-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free – I believe for right now, maybe we are the “new normal” while we heal our kids and make them strong with whole foods and unrefined products. I believe we are teaching a new generation how to heal and be healthy with what they put in their bodies.