Baking used to be one of my favorite pastimes…until I started weeding out the sugar, wheat, gluten, and dairy from my diet. Now, thanks to newly discovered allergies and food sensitivities, I’ve got dusty bookshelves full of recipes I can no longer use. I’ve started collecting new gluten-free, vegan recipes, but the fun I used to have experimenting with cakes, cookies, and breakfast treats isn’t there anymore. Frankly, baking has started to feel really boring. But Colette Martin, author of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, says it doesn’t need to be this way. A baker herself, she’s found that if you have the right tools and ingredients–and start with the right recipes–you can experiment with recipes and try new things, even without gluten, dairy, or other allergens.
WHY MAKE YOUR OWN?
As food allergies become more common, the food industry has been quick to make put plenty of gluten-free, dairy-free, and even nut-free products on grocery store shelves. So why spend time and effort making your own? Martin says there are a few good reasons to get into making your own allergen-free baked treats:
There certainly are a few really great off-the-shelf products, and there are a handful of producers who are truly concerned with allergen-free products. But some of the larger manufacturers that just have a gluten-free line tend to run into issues of cross-contamination.
And some people have to make their own out of necessity. Depending on someone’s specific food allergies, what you find off the shelf may not necessarily work. For example in my son’s case, he’s allergic to wheat, milk, eggs, soy and nuts, it’s really hard to find an off-the-shelf bread, because most of them contain eggs. So you run into issues like that.
The third reason is simply to be able to control the ingredients. Sometimes a lot of the stuff you find off the shelf is really pumped up with sugar or preservatives—for good reason, because it needs to be shelf-stable—but when you make your own, it can be exactly with the ingredients you want and you can use fewer ingredients, typically.
DO NEW ALLERGIES MEAN YOU HAVE TO THROW OUT YOUR OLD RECIPES?
Martin says that, although it’s helpful to find some new recipes or books that cater specifically to your allergies, you don’t need to toss your old favorites: “I do think it’s helpful to have at least a few [books] that do cover gluten or allergen-free baking because you’ll learn something by looking at those recipes,” she explains. “But I do think it’s possible to adapt pretty much any recipe.”
Experimenting with your own recipes can be daunting, especially when you’re baking with new ingredients and recipes. But Martin says the payoff can be huge:
I encourage people to experiment and try different things. When you’re allergic to food, especially a long list of foods, the challenge is really finding great new foods that you love as opposed to mourning the loss of foods you can’t have.
Here are a few of her top tips, tricks, tools and ingredients to help you get started: