Blogger and cookbook author Colette Martin is the Vice Chair (I’m Board Chair) for Kids With Food Allergies Foundation. So when she sent me a copy of her book, “Learning to Bake Allergen-Free” (published by The Experiment) I was happy to receive it, and promised to review it.
The forward is written by Stephen Wangen, a naturopath who runs the IBS Center in Seattle. He asserts as a lot of naturopaths do, that “There are hundreds of different symptoms cause by food allergies…headaches, heart disease, cancer and canker sores”. From what I know, and I’m not a doctor, Stephen is not referring to IgE mediated food allergies; later on in the forward, Colette explains that her son does not have IgE mediated food allergies or anaphylaxis.
In the first eighty-five pages of Colette’s book, she copiously and systematically explains, in separate chapters, how to replace wheat, milk, soy, and eggs. Covering everything from applesauce to how to make flaxseed gel, she also has a chapter on avoiding contamination, how to read labels, and how to organize your kitchen for safety.
Thankfully for me, she also has broken down a “crash course” on proofing yeast. I’ve never had a lot of success with yeast, and through her book, I discovered why. Those of us who started out years ago – in my case it was fifteen years ago – baking allergen-free, are a rogue group of crazy bakers. We had to experiment since there were no books that covered eliminating wheat, eggs, soy, AND dairy. Through Colette’s book, and some discussion with her, I discovered that there is no experimenting with yeast. There is only precision. One must be precise with the proofing, the salt (too much salt, Colette reminds us, and your bread won’t rise), and pay attention to the temperature of the liquid.
Colette’s English Muffin sets this book apart from other allergen-free books on the market, and it made me feel as if I had come upon a little gem. My child had never had English Muffins (white potato allergy has kept her from anything on the gluten-free shelves) and therefore, I hadn’t had them for years either.
I dove into making those English Muffins (Colette’s recipe with my changes in a forthcoming post). I made them five times before they came out right. I was determined. The four batches that didn’t rise because of “user error” still were eaten by teenager and myself, since the taste was there. My gluten free flour blend is a bit different than Colette’s master blend, since I don’t use Millet, but I do use a basic sorghum blend (I use a combo of corn, rice, sorghum, and corn starch). And we don’t use hemp milk, but rice milk. Rice Milk is thinner than hemp milk. I found that I definitely needed 3 tablespoons of warm water in the recipe (it says as needed). I placed the english muffins in the oven as Colette suggests at 110 degrees and they rose perfectly. After I reported to Colette that they had risen and I finally had a successful batch, she admitted to me that the English Muffin recipe was the hardest in the book.
I then tried the Basic Chocolate Cupcakes. I had to omit the coconut oil since that is an allergen for us, and instead added Spectrum Organic Shortening. I also used Hershey’s cocoa powder instead of the “unsweetened natural cocoa powder”. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 Cups gluten-free flour blend, which I found curious since most recipes call for 2 1/4 cups flour blend. The cupcakes were a bit bland (probably needed the coconut oil), and the recipe made 11 cupcakes.
Next I made the Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Cake. I subbed olive oil for grapeseed oil. Teenager calls anything with apples “Apple Pie” and she was happy to have this as a breakfast treat. I made a double batch, and the recipe doubled well. The apples would probably do a little better cooked down a bit as the top was a bit ‘wet’ from the liquid, but the topping of apples mixed with lime juice, brown sugar and cinnamon was delicious and it was a nice addition to our arsenal of cakes, especially when we have tons of apples from apple picking or the CSA.
As a seasoned allergen-free baker, I highly recommend Colette Martin’s book “Learning to Bake Allergen-free”. Through the book, I finally discovered that baking with yeast is achievable with gluten-free, egg-free, wheat-free, soy-free and dairy-free baking. Thanks to Colette, I have a solid recipe for English Muffins. Now where’s that jam….