More and more people everyday are being diagnosed with severe food allergies. Watching what you eat can be hard without guidelines, and even then, the rules have changed a lot over the last 10 years. Thankfully, there is a plethora of cookbooks to choose from. One such book is the Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybelle Pascal – if you are looking for a way to bake without gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts and sesame, this is the book for you.
Reading through Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook several recipes jumped out at me immediately, such as the Morning Glory Muffins (page 24), Swedish Cardamom Cookies (page 78), the Chocolate Pudding Tart (page 135), and the basic Gluten Free flour mix (page 19) that serves as the basis for the rest of the recipes in the book.
The pictures are nice though some certainly standout more than others, such as the Chocolate Pudding tart, which looks amazingly creamy, and the wonderfully eye-catching Red Velvet Cake (page111).
I like that the book starts off with information on stocking the pantry for the allergy-free eater; this starting point is often difficult and overwhelming for people who are just learning about food allergies, and this part of the book makes collecting pantry supplies a snap. Pascal also explains what the items are and reminds the reader that when baking gluten free to look for labels that indicate they are made in a gluten free facility.
Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook was a good reminder that applesauce can be used in place of eggs and provides an amazing amount of moisture. Pages 16-18 gives you a comprehensive list of substitution ideas that can easily be used in any number of recipes.
The Gingerbread Muffins (page 26) were the first recipe I tried. I gave some to a friend and he absolutely loved them. For the Peach Blueberry Crisp (page 147), I didn’t have peaches so I used nectarines and plums. It was so good, perfect for breakfast! The topping was crispy and the fruit was sweet and tender. Definitely a keeper.
Next up was the Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. I didn’t use a stand mixer for this dish, instead mixing it by hand. I must say for gluten free, eggless, dairy free cupcakes, that these are awesome. They really don’t take a lot of time and they are super moist. The frosting is really basic and again, I put the ingredients in a bowl and whisked them together. This is fast, simple and easy, a recipe a non baker could tackle with no problems!
Also, I recommend that you use a really good quality of shortening for your frosting. If you are going to use something cheap, don’t bother, as the frosting will not be very good.
- Learn to stock your pantry section with ease that allows you to conquer your allergies
- Easily make substitutions with 3 pages of ‘cheat’s’ that can be used not only for allergy free baking, but for ‘oh my god I ran out of eggs or milk cooking.’
- The gluten free cupcakes are the best I have ever tasted and no one would ever know that they weren’t ‘real’!
- It calls for more steps than are really needed for some of the recipes. That can seem overwhelming to people who are new to baking.
- Also feels a bit dumbed down even for a new baker. Some explanations seem gratuitous.
- The temperature and timing of the Gingerbread muffins was off enough I would worry that other recipes might have similar errors.
The final verdict:
All in all, I think that this is a good book for people with food allergies, but I myself would probably not use it a lot.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
From The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook (pages 90-91)
Makes 12 cupcakes
Ingredients for Cupcakes
- 1 cup rice milk
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1 cup basic gluten free flour mix
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon double acting baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Chocolate buttercream frosting (see below)
Ingredients for Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 6 tablespoons dairy-free, soy-free vegetable shortening
- 2 2/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon rice milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Method for Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan with 12 liners.
- In a small bowl, combine rice milk and vinegar, set aside.
- Whisk together flour mix, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Thoroughly whisk out any lumps in the cocoa powder. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the rice milk mixture with the sugar, canola oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until light and foamy, about 1 minute.
- Using a sifter, sift in the flour mixture in three batches, mixing on low speed. Mix until smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Fill the muffin liners about two-thirds full.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, them transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
Method for Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, which together the confectioners sugar and cocoa powder, being sure to work out any lumps.
- Combine the sugar mixture with the shortening, alternating with the rice milk. Add the vanilla and salt. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You can either pipe the frosting or spread it with a butter knife or frosting spatula, creating pretty swirls.