As a home baker, whether or not you yourself follow a special diet, sooner or later you’ll probably find that you want to bake something for someone with dietary restrictions. I began to really get into baking after graduating from college. Before I became a professional baker, I lived with a good friend who was vegan; my friends and I did a lot of vegan cooking and baking in those days. Baking for special diets is a great example of how external constraints can inspire growth and creativity!
My main gig at Willy Street Co-op is in the bakery. The bakers at the production kitchen are as familiar with Earth Balance and canola oil as with butter, and as comfortable with rice flour as with wheat. Gluten-free and vegan delicacies comprise many of the bakery’s mainstays. Top-selling vegan products include the perpetually popular chocolate-topped Sheba Bar, as well as vegan chocolate chip cookies and breakfast favorite Nothing Muffins. Gluten-free superstars include the Pumpkin Bar with brown sugar icing, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Pumpkin-Apple Muffins with their sumptuous buttery streusel topping. In recent months, we’ve introduced several products that are both gluten-free and vegan, such as the Peanut Chocolate Chip Layer Bar and the Morning Glory muffin.
For your home baking endeavors, you’ll find an abundance of resources these days. Of the countless books on baking and cooking for special diets, I’m happy to point you to some of the ones I’ve discovered!
You’ll notice a fair amount of overlap between the categories below. For example, some people want to bake without dairy because they’re vegan for environmental or health-related reasons. Others want to bake without dairy because they keep kosher and want to make a dessert to accompany a meat-based meal. Some folks want to avoid wheat because they have celiac disease; others because they follow the paleo diet, or a low-FODMAP diet for irritable bowel syndrome. Nut flours are good for low-GI diets as well as for gluten-free diets.
No single diet is right for everyone, and people have different reasons for consuming (or forgoing) what they do. I love being able to bake for people who can’t always eat whatever’s put in front of them, and I am excited to help you do the same for yourself, your friends, and your loved ones!
There is a huge array of books available on baking sans eggs, dairy, and other animal products. I recommend anything published by Post-Punk Kitchen, such as Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. They also have an online resource with tips on how to substitute vegan ingredients in conventional recipes, at www.theppk.com/vegan-baking-the-post-punk-kitchen-shows-you-how/. In particular, this resource includes suggestions for replacing eggs, possibly the biggest challenge of converting a recipe from conventional to vegan. Try one of the following options for egg replacement that I’ve gathered from several sources (each of the below is the equivalent of one egg):
2.5 Tbs. flax seed meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water
1/4 c. blended silken tofu
Ener-G Egg Replacer (from a box), according to directions
1/4 c. banana blended or mashed—in things you don’t mind tasting like banana
1/4 c. soy, rice, or coconut yogurt
1 Tbs. applesauce
1 Tbs. white chia seed meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water (let sit for a bit)
Check out the following article with tips on substituting for other ingredients in your vegan baked goods: www.thekitchn.com/vegan-substitutions-for-8-common-baking-ingredients-171165. For dairy, this article recommends soy milk because it’s thicker than other non-dairy milks; if you’re going to use another non-dairy milk like rice, almond, or hemp, use slightly less of it.
Vanilla Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache
Try out this vanilla cupcake with chocolate ganache recipe featuring real vanilla beans! From http://www.theppk.com/2010/11/vanilla-bean-cupcakes-with-chocolate-ganache/
For the cupcakes:
1 c. unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. canola oil
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
For the ganache:
1/3 c. almond milk
1/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs. pure maple syrup
Directions: Bake the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix. Beat together the almond milk mixture, oil, sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla bean in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until no large lumps remain. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
In the meantime, prepare the ganache. In a small sauce pan, bring the milk to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and add the chocolate and syrup. Mix with a rubber spatula for about 30 seconds. Turn heat off, continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and the icing is smooth.
To assemble: Let ganache cool for about 10 minutes. Dip the top of the cupcake in the ganache and then set them on a cooling rack. Spoon the remainder of the ganache over cupcakes. Let set in a cool room for an hour or so, or place in the fridge to set. Serve to happy people!
For those who need to avoid gluten (a protein naturally found in wheat, rye, and barley), a number of naturally gluten-free flours serve as good alternatives. Rice flour, tapioca flour, potato flour, almond meal, chickpea flour, and buckwheat flour are some common substitutes. Many recipes call for a mix of flours; some vendors, such as Bob’s Red Mill, sell pre-mixed gluten-free flours for baking.
Swapping gluten-free flours for wheat flour isn’t as simple as, for example, swapping margarine for butter. Gluten is often a key component to the structure of a product, both in helping it rise (particularly with cakes and bread) and with helping it hold together when it’s finished. For that reason, gluten-free recipes also often include additional ingredients to help with structure, such as xanthan gum or guar gum. Eggs are also useful as a binder.
Gluten-free baked goods run the risk of being crumbly and dry; there are a few ways you can counteract this, such as adding some mayonnaise (believe it or not!), and simply letting your batter sit for 30 minutes before baking it. Many more tips for gluten-free baking are available at www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09376.html.
Willy Street Co-op baker Heather Rivérun came to our kitchen with a history of specialty baking, having previously managed a gluten-free, vegan, and generally allergen-friendly bakery in Seattle, in addition to working as a recipe developer for a gluten-free food importing company. If you’re just beginning with gluten-free baking, Heather recommends starting simple. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by options for flours; consider using a pre-mixed gluten-free flour blend. While you can use a single type of flour, for most purposes, a mix is preferable. Most of the gluten-free flours available have a very strong flavor individually, but this can be alleviated by combining flours. If you don’t want to use a pre-mixed flour, Heather recommends mixing up a 3:1 ratio of rice flour and a bean flour (such as garbanzo bean). This combination has a similar protein level as wheat flour—another advantage over using just one of the flours.
Technically, there’s no such thing as raw baking, since baking requires heat. However, I’ll talk a little bit here about raw desserts. For a food to be considered raw, it cannot be heated above a certain temperature. For variations on the raw food diet, this maximum may be anywhere from 92ºF to 118ºF. Raw vegan cheesecake is a popular dessert—these tend to be made with soaked nuts pureed in a blender.
The book Everyday Raw Desserts by Matthew Kenney offers a wide variety of recipes, from brownies to cookies to pies.
The paleo diet is based on the concept of eating like our ancient ancestors did, pre-agriculture. New evidence suggests that cavemen did actually have access to grains even before starting to farm; but for the purpose of this article, I’ll refer to the paleo diet as it’s meant in popular culture, which is to say, grain-free, with a focus on consuming vegetables and meat. Adherents to the paleo diet have adapted paleo-approved ingredients for baked goods. Nut flours are common, as is coconut flour. Here in Madison, Paleo Mama Bakery (products available at Willy Street Co-op) has a large array of delicacies available.
Food allergies are common; thankfully, resources are available with ideas and recipes for a huge range of desserts. The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book by Kelly Rudnicki is an exploration of recipes for sweet and savory delicacies minus dairy, eggs, and nuts, with a focus on baking for children.
Glycemic index and glycemic load are measurements particularly of interest to people living with diabetes. Larger pieces of grain have a lower glycemic index than finely milled flour. Baking bread with a high quantity of cracked wheat, for example, will reduce the glycemic index/glycemic load. For desserts, options focusing on fruit are a great idea, since most fruit has a low glycemic index. Nut flours and coconut flour also have a low glycemic index.
The G.I. Diet Cookbook by Antony Worrall Thompson includes a recipe for baked ricepudding:
6 1/2 c. short-grain rice
Pinch of salt
1/4 c. light brown sugar
4-5 c. skim milk
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon
2 Tbs. butter
Directions: Preheat oven to 300ºF. Wash and drain the rice and put in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Add a pinch of salt, the sugar, and 4 cups milk, and stir. Sprinkle grated nutmeg or cinnamon over it and top with pats of butter. Bake in the center or towards the bottom of the oven for about 2 hours. Stir in the skin that forms on the top at least once during the cooking time, adding extra milk as necessary. Serves 4-6.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols —a bit of a mouthful, but the takeaway is that FODMAPs are specific category of carbohydrate that are problematic for sufferers of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and other functional gastrointestinal disorders. If you or someone you know needs to limit FODMAPs, check out this website with baking ideas: www.lowfodmap.com/category/baking/.
Xylitol can be substituted for sugar at a 1:1 ratio by volume, although adding more liquid may be necessary because Xylitol absorbs a lot of moisture. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is lower in calories than regular sugar, and has a lower glycemic index. Important note for pet owners: although there is no known toxicity in humans, it is life-threateningly toxic to dogs, even in small quantities.
Stevia is another natural sugar substitute, but unlike Xylitol, it is very concentrated. If you substitute stevia in a recipe, you will need to add more of another ingredient to make up the volume of sugar, because you will not use nearly as much stevia.
Willy Street Co-op carries both Xylitol and stevia in the baking aisle.
From healingcuisinebyelise.com/2012/10/snickerdoodle-cookies.html, here’s a recipe for snickerdoodle cookies using both of these sweeteners:
2 c. fine ground blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
5 Tbs. coconut oil or raw butter, melted
2 Tbs. raw honey or grade B maple syrup or vanilla honey (makes these cookies nice and crispy!)
30-40 drops pure liquid stevia
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 Tbs. Xylitol
3 Tbs. cinnamon
Directions: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond flour, sea salt and baking soda. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, honey, stevia, and vanilla extract. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stirring until well combined.
In a small bowl, stir the cinnamon and xylitol together for the snickerdoodle coating. Take tablespoon-sized scoops of the cookie dough, form into a circle in your hands, then roll the dough ball in the snickerdoodle coating mixture covering all sides.
Place your coated dough balls onto the cookie sheets evenly. Use the bottom of a canning jar or coffee mug greased with coconut oil to press out each cookie into a perfect circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on the pans for 10 minutes before moving to cooling rack. Let cool completely on cooling rack before eating, as they need this time to set and get crunchy on the edges! Makes 16 cookies.
I am not endorsed by any organization to give religious advice; all of the below is based on my knowledge as a lay person who has learned a little bit about dietary restrictions of some religions.
Kosher baking usually involves avoiding dairy, unless you’re planning a vegetarian meal, since meat and dairy cannot be consumed at the same meal. As a general guideline, a vegan recipe will also be pareve, since vegan recipes include neither dairy nor meat.
Halal rules disallow alcohol. Since vanilla extract is a very common ingredient in baking, halal baking requires a substitute. Some manufacturers offer alcohol-free vanilla flavoring (from real vanilla). You can also buy whole vanilla beans, slice them open, and scrape out the seeds. Save the empty pod of used beans to add to a canister of sugar—you can use this vanilla sugar in place of regular sugar in future recipes. With halal baking, it’s also necessary to steer clear of some other ingredients, including lard, cheeses made with animal rennet, and anything containing gelatin that could come from pork.
It’s possible to combine several dietary restrictions in one product, though, naturally, the more limitations there are, the bigger the challenge. You’re up for it, though! Experiment, look to the internet and books for ideas, and peruse the grocery shelves for ingredients that will help you along the way!