by Ingrid Gulliksen, WSGC Staff
Once again, December is here, and even for those of us who are not fans of winter (myself included), this most festive time of year is still full of fun and excitement. Regardless how each of us celebrates, one holiday tradition that many of us share is the pleasure of baking for our families and friends, as well as for our own enjoyment. Holiday time is baking season!
If your holiday baking plans require ingredients tailored to special diets, Willy Street Co-op is here for you. We have a wide selection of baking ingredients for a variety of special diets: vegan, vegetarian, organic/whole-foods, gluten-free, wheat-free, sugar-free/low-sugar, and many others.
Willy Street Co-op baker Life Molitor advises those with special diet baking requirements to first, and foremost, consult a good-quality cookbook aimed at their particular needs. She states that most if not all standard baking recipes were originally designed to be used with classic European pastry ingredients: butter, eggs, cream, milk, wheat flour, and cane sugar. Fortunately, nowadays adjusted and adapted recipes are widely available for all types of special diets. For example, individuals who do not want to bake with any type of cane sugar can easily substitute honey, maple syrup, or other sweeteners. However, in some instances the liquid content of the recipe needs to be reduced (see table at right).
To begin with, our outstanding, almost entirely organic Produce Department has a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables for your sweet and savory baked goods. Not to be outdone, our Bulk aisle is brimming with baking ingredients: flours including very low gluten and gluten-free varieties, grains, nuts, seeds, sweeteners, and spices. We’re equally proud of our Bulk aisle’s “Willy Pack” dried-fruit selections; some of our offerings are yellow, golden, and black raisins, figs, cranberries, cherries, bananas, mango, papaya, and coconut. In addition, there is a cooler located in the bulk aisle, containing Willy Pack baking ingredient products that need to be refrigerated. (Please remember to keep them refrigerated after you bring them home.) If, like me, you prefer to bake with as many organic ingredients as possible, you’ll be glad to know that the majority of our bulk and Willy Pack products are organic; all items are clearly labeled.
We offer both organic and non-organic dairy products and free-range eggs, as well as a large selection of soymilk, soy yogurt, and soy cheeses. In addition, we carry the very popular Earth Balance, a non-dairy, non-hydrogenated solid shortening that is perfect for baking. In fact, our Co-op bakers use Earth Balance in many of their vegan recipes. The well-stocked and beautifully-organized Cheese department has a wonderful variety of both domestic and imported selections. Many cheeses (especially the domestic choices) are vegetarian: they do not contain animal rennet as a binding agent. (These are marked in the cheese case.) Significantly, some of our cheese selections are made from raw milk: this is important to individuals like myself who do not like to consume homogenized milk or milk products. And last but by no means least, our exceptional Grocery department offers a cornucopia of packaged goods for your baking needs. These include vanilla and other extracts, a large assortment of flours, sweeteners, cornstarch, baking powder, sea salt, and oils, among many others. The majority of these selections are organic—check labels to make sure.
Although we don’t, unfortunately, have room for a large Housewares department, we do have a nice assortment of some basic baking necessities including wooden mixing spoons, measuring cups, measuring spoons, whisks, and smaller size mixing bowls.
Here are two recipes for holiday baking—one sweet, the other savory. Thanks to the bakers at our Willy Street Co-op Bakery for sharing their recipe for the always popular and much-requested almond thumbprint cookies. This recipe is vegan, wheat-free, gluten-free, and contains no added sugar. It is sweetened only by the unrefined, naturally occurring sugars found in maple syrup and fruit. I love these cookies—they’re really scrumptious, and look so festive!
Vegan, Organic Ingedients, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Wheat-Free
Directions: Preheat oven to 350º F.
Form dough into 2 1/2-ounce-size balls. Place each ball of dough on cookie sheet, and slightly flatten them. In the center of each one, make a small indentation with your thumb. Fill each indentation with 1/2 teaspoon raspberry fruit spread.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack to room temperature.
And from Patricia Mayo’s classic The Sugarless Baking Book, here’s her recipe for savory cheese bread. This recipe is suitable for individuals who, like myself, are vegetarians who consume dairy products but not eggs. (The step requiring egg white to be brushed on the tops of the loaves can easily be omitted.) Although I haven’t tried this recipe yet, it looks delicious, and I’m planning to use it for baking holiday gifts.
Sugar-Free, Egg-Free Option, Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, Organic Ingredients
Directions: Place the milk in a saucepan and scald over medium heat, heating to approximately 180º F, or until a ring of bubbles forms around the edge of the milk. Do not boil.
Pour the scalded milk into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, oil, and honey, and stir well. Allow the mixture to cool.
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. When the milk mixture has cooled to warm, stir in the yeast. Add 2 cups of the flour and stir until smooth. Add the cheese and mix until well blended. Add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition, until the dough is too thick to stir. Fold in more flour until the dough forms a firm mass and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, but is still moist.
Scrape the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured board. Knead the dough for 10 to 20 minutes until dry and elastic. There may be some cracks in the surface from the cheese; these will smooth out during rising and baking.
Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a warm, moist towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 1 to 2 hours, until double in bulk.
Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured board. Cut the dough into 2 or 3 equal portions, depending on the number of loaves desired. Form the portions into loaves and place in either three oiled 7 7/8” x 3 7/8” loaf pans, or two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pans. Allow the loaves to rise in the pans for 1/2 hour. Brush the top of each loaf with egg white diluted with a little water; sprinkle with sesame seeds. (This step can be omitted if desired.)
Preheat oven to 350º F. Allow the loaves to rise for approximately 15 minutes more, until again double in bulk. Bake the loaves for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until evenly browned and hollow-sounding when tapped. Carefully remove the loaves from the pans and allow to cool thoroughly on wire racks.
Attractively wrapped loaves of your homemade cheese bread would be most welcome as holiday gifts. Sliced and served warm or at room temperature, with a mug of cider or mulled wine, this bread would also be perfect for your holiday gatherings.
We’re in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season now, and both the winter solstice and the first day of winter will soon be here. One fun way to fend off winter’s chill is to roll up your sleeves and get creative in the kitchen! No matter what your particular dietary needs and requirements are, there are baking recipes available just for you. Your local public library or your favorite bookstore are two excellent resources for finding exactly the baking recipe that you are looking for. And remember to check out the Co-op’s cookbook shelves located at the far end of the Health and Wellness Department, across from the salad bar. Space limitations do not permit us to stock a large number of cookbooks, but we do offer a small but interesting selection of baking books. Happy baking, stay warm, and enjoy the holiday season!