Glorious Gluten (and Allergy!) Free Baking
It’s all over menus, market aisles and the blogosphere - gluten-free foods, soy-free spreads, nut-free butters, even replacements for eggs and cow dairy in baked goods. Though elimination diets may seem like the latest health craze, consider for a moment that true allergies and food intolerances do exist, and seem to be on the rise.
Thankfully savvy companies are responding, making gluten and allergy free baking and cooking easier, tastier and much more enjoyable than it was just a few years ago. Read on for our review of gluten free baking mixes and cookbooks to get you started.
Bread, Pizza & Baking MixesPamela’s Wheat-Free Bread Mix***** (five stars) This remains a family favorite. Makes a hearty loaf of bread, tasty pizza crust and is even useful for pie crust, rolls and bagels. It’s wheat, nut, soy and dairy free - so perfect for those with multiple allergies or intolerances. A kitchen staple.
Namaste Foods Pizza Crust Mix *** (three stars) Namaste’s pizza crust is yeast free, making it super quick for workday dinners. The mix is seasoned with an Italian herb blend, so the flavor is good. We didn’t love the texture as much as Pamela’s, but if you’re hungry for pizza and short on time, this is a solid choice.
Cookies, Brownies & CakesCherrybrook Kitchen Chocolate Cake Mix ****(four stars) I made this for a dinner party when I needed a dessert in a pinch, and none of my guests could believe it was gluten, dairy and soy free! It came out very moist, with a delicate crumb, not unlike bakery chocolate cakes.
Cherrybrook Kitchen Sugar Cookie Mix ***** (five stars) Without gluten, rolling out dough is a thing of the past. Nevertheless, these sugar cookies were a tasty replacement for the ‘real’ thing. Sweet and vanilla-scented with a melt-in-your mouth crumb, my gluten, dairy and soy sensitive one-year-old didn’t care that they weren’t shaped like stars, trees and stockings!
Namaste Chocolate Cake Mix **** with Namaste Chocolate Fudge Frosting **** (four stars each) We tried the zucchini version of this mix, which used applesauce in place of oil and added shredded zucchini. It was very tasty, if not as rich as it otherwise might have been. A healthful treat for kiddos and their parents. The Chocolate Fudge Frosting was a bit tricky to spread (being without butter), but worth the effort for it’s ganache-like flavor and texture.
Namaste Spice Cake Mix*****(five stars) Making this cake filled the house with the warming spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. I baked it in a Bundt pan and skipped the icing altogether. It came out moist and flavorful, a perfect autumn treat.
Pamela’s Chocolate Brownie Mix ***** (five stars) I whipped these up to take to a potluck and no one guessed they were gluten-free! They were every bit as rich and moist as ‘traditional’ brownies made with wheat and butter. I used coconut oil, because I love the flavor, and added walnuts. Superb!
Pamela’s Chocolate Cake***** with Dark Chocolate Frosting*****(five stars each) Super moist, deeply chocolate, and totally satisfying is how I would describe this cake. I served it to my husband and our chef friend, both came back for seconds. Again, neither could tell it was gluten and dairy-free. Yum.
Pancakes & WafflesCherrybrook Kitchen’s Pancake & Waffle Mix ****(four stars) Though not the traditional texture or flavor of buttermilk pancakes, this mix turned out light, fluffy, vanilla-scented pancakes that my kids gobbled up. The vanilla flavor made it easy to go light on maple syrup - these pancakes were even good plain!
Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix***** (five stars) Pamela’s earns five stars for it’s incredible versatility - and for having multiple uses and recipes on every mix bag. These pancakes are similar in texture and flavor to classic buttermilk pancakes, and indeed, these do contain buttermilk powder - which makes them off limits for those with dairy sensitivities. This mix can also be used as a base for cookies, waffles, muffins and more!
CookbooksAllergy-Free Desserts: Gluten-free, dairy free, egg-free, soy free and nut free delights by Elizabeth Gordon (Wiley Press, 2010)
This is THE baking book for those with multiple food allergies. Gordon, the founder and owner of Betsy & Claude Baking Company (My Allergy Free Life ), walks you though the dizzying array of seemingly exotic ingredients needed to bake allergy-free, and provides enough sweet recipes to get you through every occasion - from bake sales to birthdays, weekday breakfasts to weekend brunches. She also provides you with two all-purpose allergy free flour mixes, so you can help transform some of your own favorite recipes. Favorites include the Banana Chocolate Chip Cake (about which my daughter’s best friend declared, “This is the best cake I’ve ever had!”), Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Free Form Raspberry Scones. In all, Gordon proves that living with allergies doesn’t have to mean living without dessert!The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free by Anne Byrn (Workman Publishing, 2010)
In case you’re not familiar with the Cake Mix Doctor, Byrn has made a career out of taking everyday store-bought cake mixes and turning them into cake masterpieces with a few additional ingredients. Now she has brought her kitchen wisdom to Betty Crocker’s line of GF Cake and Brownie Mixes (yhttp://www.bettycrocker.com/products/gluten-free-baking-mixes?WT.mc_id=paid_search_300103_636117&WT.srch=1&esrc=11162). The results are stunning, delicious, and oh-so-easy for you on the go bakers. From fancy layer cakes (even a wedding cake) to classic bundts, Byrn guides you through doctoring up that plain ol’ yellow or chocolate cake to get made from scratch results. Sidebars are included for making most of the recipes dairy free, so you can have your cake and eat it too!Gluten-free girl and the chef: a love story with 100 tempting recipes by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern (Wiley Press, 2010) Shauna Ahern (http://glutenfreegirl.com/) is one of the original gluten-free bloggers who helped guide hundreds, if not thousands of Celiac and wheat allergic folks toward better cooking and better eating. In the course of her journey, she met and fell in love with a chef, Daniel Ahern, and their book is the sweet story of their courtship (largely though food) as well as an education in gluten-free cooking and baking. And it’s full of luscious recipes, from the simple - Apple Rosemary Muffins, to the sublime - Seared Sea Scallops with Boulangerie Potatoes and Bacon Butter.
Since Daniel runs a restaurant, this book is a foodie’s paradise. Even if you’re not gluten-free, if you love to cook and don’t mind taking your time in the kitchen, the Aherns can teach you a lot. If you happen to have friends with Celiac Disease or anyone else in your life who has to avoid gluten, this book is a godsend. In the handful of months that it has graced my shelf, I’ve referenced it weekly, and have even been caught reading it for fun. I will say that it is neither vegetarian nor low-fat, but the emphasis is definitely on eating locally, organically and enjoying every bite. Sounds like a decent food philosophy to me.