Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nearing Normal


Last week was Chanukah, the festival of lights, 8 days on the Jewish calendar reserved for celebration and festivity.  I have been busy making and baking, latkes, donuts, more donuts, and yet more donuts. Donuts, traditionally fried, are a popular treat to commemorate the oil which G-d miraculously made last for 8 days for the Jews in the desecrated Temple in Jerusalem.

This year I was thrilled to pieces to discover a new book called Learning to Bake Allergen-Free by Colette Martin, of the blog I thought I had already "learned" to bake allergen-free when Rosie was diagnosed with multiple food allergies years ago. Out went the eggs, out went the dairy, as for nuts, uh-nope! But I learned a few new things in Ms. Martin's well written tome.

The first few chapters give a detailed explanation of the ins and outs of allergen-free baking. Flours, milk and egg substitutes are explained along with oils and off the shelf gluten free flour blends. She goes into detail of not only the hows, but the whys of egg substitutes. I found it particularly helpful to learn how certain egg substitutes work better for a cake than a cookie, let's say.  I have tried and rejected flax seed gel as an egg substitute due to it's strong flavor, but I gave it another go round thanks to this book. There is also a homemade powdered egg substitute recipe, which is way more economical than the store bought variety.

The book goes on to provide very easy and clear from scratch recipes. It ends with recipes made from gluten free mixes. This is extremely helpful for me, and I think, especially economical. If  you use the mixes you do not have to buy 5 different types of gluten free flours and xanthan gum, only to use a small amount in a particular recipe. She varies the brands enough that one can find their favorite amongst the recipes. 

My only criticism is that she seems to favor hemp milk and coconut oil in her recipes. Although she does devote a whole page to the sing the praises of hemp milk, I've found it still a bit hard to find, and when I have it's been the costliest non-dairy milk alternative. Ditto for coconut oil, whose expense can be prohibitive for many. In addition,  personally don't care to have to melt it before using (as it is a solid at room temperature) when I'm doing a quick recipe. It's not until the very last pages that a chart is provided for substitutes. It is not made clear in the recipes themselves what can be subbed for these items. I used rice milk and canola oil, and all turned out well.  Other than that, I find the ingredients readily available in most chain supermarkets.

Last year I had success making baked cake donuts in addition to fried Jelly donuts, so I decided to try some of her cake recipes as donuts.  I utilized both the from scratch recipes and one from the mix for this purpose.

They could not have come out more beautiful or delicious. I have become very familiar with the egg free cake I refer to as "vinegar chocolate cake", also know as wacky cake, lazy day cake, or 3-hole chocolate cake, and disliked the taste. But, I was willing to give it one more try. Martin's technique is a bit different than others I've tried, first combining wet ingredients and adding the dry second.  Whatever it was it worked and I have an easy new favorite gluten-free and vegan chocolate cake.

Learning to Bake Allergen-Free is a fantastic gift for the allergic and gluten free family or friend. The thanks will keep on coming, along with the baked goods!

Basic Chocolate Cupcakes
from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free by Colette Martin, p. 195

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (leave out if your flour blend contains xanthan gum)
3/4 cups sugar (I felt it needed about 1 cup)
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 1/2  teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted (or canola oil)
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups.

2. Mix the flour, xanthan gum, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl, making sure the cocoa is fully incorporated. Set aside.

3. Combine the coconut oil, vinegar, water and vanilla together in a large bowl, with a mixer on medium -low speed, about 30 seconds.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Blend completely

5. Spoon the batter into the baking cups, filling each cup about 3/4 full.

6. Bake at 350F for 20-24 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Party Cupcakes from Bob's Red Mill*
from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free by Colette Martin, p.240

1 pkg.  Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix
3/4 cup flax seed gel (3 Tbsp. Flax seed meal mixed with 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. warm water; allow to rest 10 minutes before using)
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk (I used rice milk)
 1/2 cup allergen-free candy sprinkles.

1. Follow the package preparation instructions with the above substitutions.

2. Stir in the candy sprinkles last, by hand.

3. Bake according to package instructions.

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

*I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix with good results. I adjusted the liquid in the recipe to match the liquid requirements on the Betty Crocker box.

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