Does the idea of going gluten and/or dairy free scare the bajeezees out of you? Me too!
In the early 2000s my mom and I co-authored a series of recipe collections and entertainment guides–one for each season. And if you have ever read the cookbooks you will notice that the dessert sections make up more than 50% of each book. My mom had a catering company and custom baking company before she passed away and there wasn’t a gathering that either of us was invited to that the host did not request us to bring a dessert.
So…. when we found out that our family had to go gluten and dairy free (my oldest son is intolerant to both), I was at a loss. I had just launched this site and all of the most popular posts to date had been sweet in nature and I was perplexed on how I was going to continue to keep my mom’s recipe collection alive when my own family couldn’t partake in the crucial ingredients of each recipe. I trolled our cookbooks for a recipe that was inherently dairy free and/or gluten free and there wasn’t one–not one!!! So I figured that, unless we wanted to go dessert-less for the rest of our lives (yeah right!), I was going to have to figure this whole gluten and dairy thing out on my own. So this is what I’ve learned (so far).
Baking Gluten Free with Ease
There are some great sites, magazines and cookbooks out there that claim to have perfected gluten free baking and have, in my experience, complex recipes consisting of different varieties of gluten free flour alternatives including, i.e. potato starch, brown rice flour, almond flour, tapioca, xantham gum, and the like. So that’s where I started. What I found is that I had a pantry full of half used (fairly expensive) ingredients and a lot of baked goods that were grainy that no one would eat. Yeah… that wasn’t going to work.
I myself am not a test kitchen chef. I am the mom of a very busy family with a pension for dessert that now happens to need to be gluten and dairy free.
So I went a new route. I put my faith in the professionals–I tried all the various off the shelf gluten free flour blends that I could find. These flour blends all tout the ability to substitute one to one for regular flour–great, I can do that! I tried everything that I could find from small independent companies to the biggies, but my family could still tell that it was gluten free. But at least they were eating it–something was better than nothing.
But then I tried Cup4Cup and they had nailed it! I do not have any affiliation with Cup4Cup, so this is just my opinion, but their blend truly is a flour alternative that I have found that goes completely unnoticed. While it is supposed to be a cup for cup substitution I typically add one extra heaping tablespoon to the recipe for every one cup the recipe calls for. So for example, if the recipe calls for 2 cups flour, I use 2 cups and 2 tablespoons of flour. That is a tip I got from the cookbook Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski, which has a ton of great recipes. They also have the No Gluten/No Problem blog that I would recommend. One disclaimer on the Cup4Cup flour however. It does contain milk powder, which for my particular dairy intolerant child it does not bother him, but for others this may not be appropriate.
When baking gluten free, you may find that the dough/batter is stickier with gluten free flour. You do not want to over mix as it will only make it worse, and to prevent this, I will increase the liquid at times in the recipe a bit to assure that it doesn’t get too thick.
Also to help keep your baked goods light, I will, for many recipes, beat the egg whites until they are stiff and then fold them in. For my recipes on the site, like my Cinnamon Waffles and Dover Pound Cake, I will let you know if I did that. But as you are experimenting with your own recipes you may want to try that.
For me, I’ve found that I’m more comfortable converting my own tried and true “traditional” recipes to gluten free with a flour blend (the most popular is our Carrot Cake!), versus trying new gluten free recipes published by others. This also gives me a point of reference since I know what it tastes like “fully leaded” so to speak. Or I will troll the gluten free magazines, books and sites and use Cup4Cup in place of their flour blend from the recipe. And a testament to the success of this option, is that everyone still requests me to bring dessert to their houses, even knowing they will be gluten and dairy free!
Dairy Free…No Problem!
There was a period of time that Zain was only dairy free, which in retrospect was a heck of a lot easier than the combination of gluten and dairy free. But at the time, it seemed crazy hard as well. While I have yet to find a dairy free alternative for sweetened condensed milk (bummer!), pretty much everything else I have covered!
When a recipe calls for butter, I use Earth Balance’s buttery sticks. I would liken the use of these sticks to unsalted butter, so you may find you need to increase your salt in some cases. I also use coconut oil. The Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookie recipe utilizes Butter Flavored Crisco. This does include soybean oil, which many may want to avoid, so this recipe can just as easily utilize the soy free butter sticks or coconut oil.
For sauteing I use coconut oil.
For “buttering” vegetables and waffles I use Earth’s Balance Coconut spread. They also have other varieties that are more butter like–some with soy, some without, but I like the overall health benefits of coconut.
For cream cheese, I use the alternative from Kite Hill, which is excellent! And makes the best cream cheese frosting! But it is made of almonds, so not a good choice if you have a tree nut allergy. Daiya Cheese makes a great alternative as well.
When a recipe calls for milk or evaporated milk, I use almond milk–cup for cup. I have also used culinary coconut milk (not the one in the dairy case) in place of milk or evaporated milk.
If it calls for buttermilk, I add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup and then fill it up the rest of the way with almond milk (one tablespoon per one cup of milk) and let it sit for 5 minutes and then use it in the recipe.
For whipped topping, we use the So Delicious coconut whipped topping.
If it calls for sour cream or yogurt, I typically use plain coconut milk yogurt.
And if it calls for cheese, we are all about Daiya‘s line of cheeses.
The bottom line is that you can’t be intimidated and you can’t be scared to experiment.
Take your favorite recipe and make the substitutions with confidence and the rest will come!
Trust me when I tell you that no one ever complains that my baked goods are gluten free and dairy free. I’m always scared to mention it because I don’t want them to go looking for a difference, but I find that there are so many more people will partake when they do know since there are a lot of people these days avoiding both. Have fun!
Another note, is to always read the labels/ingredients to be sure that it does not contain another allergen you might have an issue with.