By Allergies Québec
Chemistry plays a huge role in the kitchen. Whether it’s how certain ingredients react when they come into contact, or the transformation of molecules because of high temperatures, or the chemistry of flavours, there are tons of examples of this phenomenon. This is especially true in baking, where each ingredient has a specific role to play, and a mere imbalance in traditional ingredients can lead to a disappointing outcome.
Can you still make delicious desserts even when living with someone who has one or several food allergies requiring the substitution of certain key ingredients? Of course! Here is a practical guide with our best tips and tricks for replacing certain priority food allergens when baking.
The role of priority allergens in baking
Priority allergens are at the heart of several dessert recipes, and they each play a very specific role. Take wheat, for example. Wheat flour is used to thicken dessert creams, such as pastry cream, or to structure cakes. Milk provides water to cake mixes to cook the starch, and butter is used to retain the air pockets when beaten with sugar at the beginning of our recipe. Finally, eggs also contribute to a cake’s structure and flavour, and provide an amber colour. They also help dessert creams thicken through the coagulation of proteins.
Substitutes for these allergens
What flour : buckwheat, chickpea, white rice, tapioca, corn, or potato flour.
Since they contain no gluten, the result will be different from products prepared with wheat flour. A combination of gluten-free flours usually yields better results.
*Trick : Remember to always sift your flour by stirring it with a spoon before placing it in a measuring cup, and then level it with a knife blade. This helps ensure you get a more accurate measurement.
Milk and cream : Several plant-based drinks on the market make a great substitute for cow’s milk in recipes. To replace cream, you can use a plant-based cream or canned coconut milk.
Butter : Coconut oil, plant-based, allergen-free margarine, vegetable oil, lard (for a more pronounced flavour).
Eggs: There are various options for replacing eggs when baking.
- Incorporate 15 ml of ground flax seeds into 45 ml water and set aside a few minutes before using it as a substitute for one egg.
- You can also make flaxseed gel.
– Commercial egg substitute: Comes in powdered form, to be mixed with water as per package instructions.
– Fruit purée: 60 ml replaces one egg in a recipe.
– Aquafaba: This is obtained using the liquid in a can of chickpeas, used as is or beaten until stiff peaks form. You can replace one whole egg with 45 ml of aquafaba, or 30 ml for one egg white.
*Trick : Opt for baking recipes that require no more than 2-3 eggs, as it can be difficult to substitute larger quantities of eggs in a recipe.
Replacing allergens in standard recipes
Chocolate ganache : Instead of whipping cream, use a rice or soya cooking cream. Bring to a boil before adding your chopped (allergen-free) chocolate. Set aside for 1 or 2 minutes, and whip the mixture until smooth, silky, and creamy.
White sponge cake : You can use aquafaba (whipped with sugar until stiff peaks form) to replace foamed eggs that add a maximum of air pockets. Wheat flour can be substituted with a basic wheat-free blend (4½ cups of white rice flour + 1½ cups of potato starch + ¾ cup of tapioca flour). And replace butter with an allergen-free plant-based margarine.
Dessert creams (English cream and pastry cream) : These creams are typically made with milk or cream, eggs, and sugar. You can replace the milk or cream with a safe plant-based beverage or cream. You can use a thickening agent like cornstarch, agar-agar, arrowroot, or xanthan gum as a substitute for egg yolks. Pastry cream is very similar to English cream—it’s simply thicker. Half of the liquid is generally used to achieve the desired texture. Give it an exquisite taste with a fresh vanilla bean.
Whipped cream : For a smooth whipped cream, use standard canned coconut milk. Place the can in the refrigerator for at least six hours beforehand to allow the cream and water to separate inside the can. Once you open the can, only use the “cream” portion. Simply beat the coconut milk and add vanilla and a drizzle of maple syrup or another sweetening ingredient to taste.
Meringue : Aquafaba is perfect for making egg-free meringue. Simply add sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Next, use a piping bag with a plain tip to shape your meringues and cook in the oven.