Alternative baking 101

When allergies raise their ugly heads, baking is one of the first things to go out the window. For anyone who enjoys a good muffin, misses the mid-winter piece of toast, or just wants to have their cake and eat it too, there’s good news: not all baking involves gluten, yeast or even sugar.

‘Baking’ covers a broad range of foods, and the many alternatives available are too numerous to list here. To cover some of the most sorely-missed foods for those looking for yeast, gluten and sugar free food, here are some options:

1. Potato bread. When yeast becomes a problem, finding the right bread becomes a major hassle. Potato bread provides a great alternative. Even better, it’s a yeast free bread that can easily be made at home. There are a number of recipes out there, but generally they involve mashed potato, flour, water and baking powder for leavening. All recipes take a little practice to get right, but the end result will be a light and fluffy bread.

The dough for potato bread can be used for a stunningly broad number of things including pizza bases, rolls and even gnocchi.

2. Banana bread. There’s nothing like being on a sugar free diet to make someone crave cake. Banana bread is a satisfying substitute. Increasing the number of bananas in any recipe will make up for a lack of sugar, but there are also plentiful recipes which use honey or dates as a sweetener. Most recipes produce a dense, rich banana bread which is really more of a cake. Substituting dairy-free margarine for butter in these recipes turns the end result into a lactose free bread as well.

3. Gluten-free biscuits. While most on a gluten free diet are aware of their bread options, they often turn to health food shops when looking for something sweet. It should be comforting to know that there are many, many gluten free biscuit recipes available, from quinoa-based coconut macaroons to heavier, oat-based slices.

By using a mix of rice, quinoa, arrowroot and buckwheat flours, gluten-free bakers can craft biscuits that are indiscernible from those made with regular flour. The only thing to remember with non-gluten flours is to follow the recipes exactly, as the mix tends to be a little more sensitive.

Bonus: icing

Yes, it is possible to have icing that is sugar free. Not only is it possible, there are quite a few options available for sugar-free toppings of baked goods. Sugar-free set custard mixes can be combined with cream to create a butter-cream icing, and sugar-free chocolates can be melted and mixed with cream into a ganache topping.

Many people on sugar free diets harbour concerns about sugar substitutes, but there are plenty of variations that use all-natural ingredients. Cream cheese that’s been sweetened with a little agave nectar, then mixed with vanilla essence and cream makes a delectable cake topping.

Allergies often come in groups, and for those who are doing without dairy or sugar, there are still some alternatives to try. Finely-ground date or coconut sugar can provide the base for icing, especially tasty when mixed with butter.