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Learning to Bake Allergen-Free

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An essential guide to delicious baking for multiple food allergies—with over 75 recipes that take the whole family from breakfast through dinner

As more and more parents are discovering, the instant a child is diagnosed with severe or multiple allergies, food can’t be taken for granted anymore. Shopping turns into a frustrating hunt through ingredient lists, and every school lunch and birthday party becomes a potential nightmare. Whether parents love to bake or hate it, with most packaged foods and bakery treats suddenly off-limits, they’ll need to learn. Colette Martin overcame this challenge when her son was diagnosed with wheat, milk, soy, egg, and peanut allergies—and in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, she gives parents the confidence to
embrace new foods that are safe for their children, arming them with:

• Info on how to avoid the top eight food allergens, plus gluten
• Substitutions and techniques to make favorite recipes allergen-free
• Simple tips on how to use new ingredients for the best results
• Over 75 recipes—some from scratch, some from mixes—for Cinnamon Rolls, Spicy Cornbread, Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and more!

With this thorough, accessible manual in hand, parents will be baking allergen-free by the time the oven finishes preheating.

304 pages, Paperback

First published June 5, 2012

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About the author

Colette Martin

6 books11 followers
Colette Martin is a cookbook author, food photographer, food allergy advocate and an expert on how to bake allergen-free. She is the author of the highly acclaimed Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts and The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks, and More without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts. When her son was diagnosed with allergies to wheat, milk, eggs, soy and peanuts in 2001, she had to reinvent how her family ate. Having first learned to bake in her grandmother’s kitchen with wheat, butter, milk, and eggs, Colette understands first-hand what it means to transform her kitchen to accommodate multiple food allergies. Colette is a member of the Kids with Food Allergies advisory board. She believes that everyone should be able to eat birthday cake, and that breakfast is better if it includes chocolate!

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Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Punk.
1,502 reviews242 followers
November 1, 2017
The subtitle: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts.

For busy parents? Like, dude, expand your worldview. There's no reason to limit your audience just because of your personal experience. This is a cookbook, not therapy.

So there's a heavy mom-vibe. Still, I like how Martin is very aware that just because her family can eat coconut or corn or whatever doesn't mean the reader can, and she'll usually suggest an alternative.

The opening section on substitutions is great. It talks about how to replace dairy and eggs, as well as wheat, and how to avoid soy. The closing section is also helpful and covers how to convert recipes to make them whatever-free, and it has a troubleshooting guide and a good index.

The recipes themselves are pretty standard fare—quick breads, yeast breads, and desserts—and call for a gluten-free flour mix. Martin has two all-purpose blends, two multigrain blends, and advice on how to formulate your own. She also recommends seven commercial blends that you can use. Most recipes have xanthan gum in them, shortening (or, less often, oil), and a variety of egg replacers including applesauce, flaxseed slurry, and commercial products like Ener-G Egg Replacer, but she also provides a recipe for making your own chemical egg replacer with leaveners and gum. If you can eat eggs, then you can easily swap out the egg replacer for actual eggs, as she tells you how many eggs it's replacing. There's also a section where she takes commercial gluten-free baking mixes like Pamela's or Namaste and gives instructions on how to make them dairy and/or egg free, which is great.

Only about a third of the recipes have pictures and none have storage advice, but many offer further suggestions for substitutions, and all have a description. Measurements are by volume.

A useful reference that makes it easy to swap out the stuff you can't eat, or add in the things you can. The recipes aren't as useful to me because of the flour blend, but the blends do only make two cups at a time, so trying them out isn't a big commitment.

The more food sensitivities you have, the more useful this book will be.
Profile Image for Sarah.
39 reviews
November 4, 2012
I'm no stranger when it comes to food allergies - I'm not only a nutritionist concentrating in special dietary needs like celiac and allergies, but I'm also someone who has problems eating everyday foods (not the least being dairy, eggs, and nuts). For me, and most of the people I speak with, finding safe food can become a chore that isn't always a tasty one. The most significant challenges are generally when finding or making baked goods without gluten - that don't taste like cardboard. Colette Martin, the author of the website Learning to Eat Allergy Free tackles baking "without" in her cookbook: Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts.

Unlike many other books dedicated to allergy-safe cooking, Allergen-Free is more concerned with embracing what everyone can eat, not what a single member of a family or group can't. The recipes are all wheat, gluten, dairy, egg, soy and nut free, and most of them are vegan (some items like Cranberry-Orange Scones (p. 118) and Cinnamon-Raisin Whole-Grain Muffins (p.95) contain honey). Substitutions for the allergies covered are inserted as seamlessly as possible in the recipes themselves, and with the exception of the blatantly obvious swaps for dairy, unless you knew what the ingredients were for you may just chalk them up to being another ingredient. For those completely new to the realm of hypoallergenic fare (especially those readers picking up this book in order to cook for a loved one) the first 85 pages are dedicated to Key Lessons - how to successfully replace wheat, milk, eggs and whenever possible avoid soy ingredients. Summaries of each lesson are provided at the end of each chapter in a succinct and easy to understand list that is not unlike those in a highschool textbook.

Perhaps my favourite portions of "Part 1" are Martin's pieces on Redefining Healthy Eating (p. 12), Eating Together (p. 14) and Breaking the Rules (p. 15). These speak to the heart and soul of those with restrictions and those who love them, as they bring to the forefront the true worth of food - not simply a matter of feeding, but an experience that should be relished in every part. Allergen-Free's introduction also includes a portion on The Allergen-Free Baker's Pantry (p. 67), which is like the preamble to any good baking book (containing lists of recommended tools and "stock" items to have on hand) in addition to safe shopping and organization to avoid contamination. For even more insight on the capabilities and varieties of store bought allergy-free baking mixes (such as brownies, muffins and cakes) the last chapter provides a lengthy, but easy to read how-to manual of sorts that also features innovative twists on the standard preparation methods. A convenient staple to have on hand, especially with a busy life and family, these boxed mixes occasionally call for dairy or eggs - however Martin also has answers for those ingredient needs. As not many of these pre-made mixes are commonly available in my area (though in larger Canadian cities and definitely in the United States they are in regular grocery stores), but if I had a special occasion such as a birthday or function with food-allergic individuals I would certainly source a suitable mix to make the Favourite Chocolate Cake (p. 241) or Raspberry Brownie Bites (p. 250).

The recipes in Allergen-Free are all found in the second half of the book - although given the length and depth of the appendicies and notes at the end it may be more appropriate to term it the middle! Martin organizes the offerings into Cakes, Muffins and Quick Breads (p. 89); Scones, Doughnuts and Other Yeast Free Standbys (p. 111); Cookies, Tarts and Pies (p. 127); Breads, Rolls and Pastries Made with Yeast (p. 151); Chocolate 1-2-3 (p. 187); and Bars, Cookies and Stovetop Delights (p. 209). Thanks to a neighbour's over-producing zucchini garden, the Zucchini Bread (p. 103) was a logical first choice for my testing. I mixed my own flour blend from chickpea, brown rice and sorghum flours (Martin simply calls for a "gluten-free flour blend") and substituted a home-made, thick rice milk for the hemp milk. The resulting loaf was incredibly moist and fluffy, with a texture identical to any cake I've had. I'd hesitate to call it a real "quickbread", though, as it is nowhere near as hearty or dense as one (conventional or allergen-free). It's also hard to clearly classify it amongst the ranks of zucchini bread due to the distinct lack of spice in the recipe - it tasted more like a "white" or "vanilla" cake that happened to have zucchini in it. In fact, when I served it to my taste testers, they told me that though they'd never know it was allergen-free if I hadn't said anything, the only indication of the vegetable were the green flecks. While this is a good thing or not is a personal preference, but parents could certainly use peeled zucchini and picky children would gladly eat the "cake" as an afternoon snack.

I also made a few batches of Martin's Baked Doughnuts (p. 119) for the office crew at my mom's work. As written, I found the mixture to be very problematic - the directions called for "rolling a ball of dough back and forth between your hands" to make the "ropes" which would become the doughnut rings, but what I wound up with was so wet and sticky (even after adding extra starch) that it was all I could do to get 5 circles before giving up. Thankfully, I opted to put the remaining batter-dough in mini muffin tins and was rewarded with fluffy, moist doughnut holes that were far better in consistency and flavour than the flat, spread-out attempts. Like the zucchini bread, there is no spicing in this recipe, which struck me as odd since all the old fashioned doughnuts I've made or eaten have contained at least a touch of nutmeg. The second batch of doughnut holes I made (which you can see here on my food blog) used mashed banana and not the applesauce in the original, plus extra binders and spicing. This round was much closer to a "dough" than the previous one, but I still opted for the doughnut hole format and was not disappointed - especially after glazing with a powdered sugar-cinnamon mixture. With my notes on that recipe, it will be one I continue to make over the years.

Many of the recipes in Allergen-Free call for hemp milk, which cooks who are making one or two of the recipes for a friend or loved one will, like me, find hemp milk prohibitively expensive and not that tasty on its own. There are many other allergen-free alternatives on the market including rice and coconut, and obviously, where soy, dairy and/or nut allergies are not a concern those respective drinks can also be used without issue or conversion. The Zucchini Bread also calls for Ener-G Egg Replacer powder, which is a specialty ingredient but one I find indispensible in my kitchen - per serving it is less expensive than eggs (one $7 box replaces up to 100), and as an egg-allergic person I would wind up with half a carton spoiling before I could use it. Luckily, for those loath to purchase a box, Martin often notes in her recipes what ingredient replaces eggs, and how many are being substituted - the reader need only flip to the chapter on Baking Without Eggs (p. 53) to select another.

The final portion of Allergen-Free is mode of a series of appendicies: Troubleshooting Recipes (p. 253), Substitutions (p. 257), A Blueprint for Adapting a Traditional Recipe (p. 259), Metric Conversions and Weights (p. 263) and a list of Resources (p. 267). These nuggets of information are invaluable for the fledgling cook in general, not the least one beginning to bake allergy free. Even as a long-established baker of both "standard" and allergy-free items, I appreciated the wealth of information organized in this portion of the book.

Lovers of classical baking will find no lack of treats to make in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts - regardless of whether they're afflicted with a food allergy. Colette Martin is approachable both to novice bakers and old pros, with a writing style that is direct and descriptive without coddling the reader, and though the recipes are mild in flavour they are a blank canvas to experiment with. Any bake sale, dessert table or brunch buffet will benefit from this book, and when everyone can share a meal we can all feel free to enjoy.
Profile Image for Alina Vincent.
18 reviews
August 26, 2012
Learning to bake allergen-free by Colette Martin : I won this book from firstreads on this site goodreads. I was very happy I won this because my niece has a gluten allergy and cannot have a lot of things, and this book is a godsend for her. These recipes are amazing I can hardly believe they are allergen free! So I recommend this to anyone who struggles with having such allergies that prevent them from being able to enjoy every day food loves and cravings. Thank you Colette for coming up with such a great book it has helped us so much! This book gets a 5 out of 5 stars due to the recipes being easy to follow and the food coming out soooo tasty.
Profile Image for Jenn.
105 reviews6 followers
February 4, 2017
Great information on avoiding cross-contamination and finding ingredient substitutes.
Profile Image for moss .
5 reviews
April 17, 2022
I learned *so* much from this book. It really is a total crash course in learning the in’s and out’s of allergy-free baking. Each chapter has a mini crash courses that takes a deep dive into a specific ingredient or process. This books answers many of the infinite “why’s” that my über curious inner-child is always asking. It goes into the science of everything, why and where certain ingredients make a difference in specific recipes, and all in accessible and understandable writing.

I’m a professional allergy-free baker and have tried several of the recipes from this book and they’re pretty good. Not a huge fan of the cookie recipes, but the breads, pie crusts, scones, and such are solid starting points for anyone wanting to learn more about and experiment with allergy-free baking. This is a great book to have in your home or to use as a professional who might be noticing that their client base is requesting more and more allergy-free options. This book offers the tools for any baker to be able to eventually create and experiment with their own recipes!

I’m not a fan of how much palm oil shortening this author/baker uses, but it can be easily substituted for coconut oil or other options. Same goes for some of the seed oils. But those are nitpicky issues and ones for which the author does offer some substitution advice. She also uses products with soy lecithin in them, but, again, explains why she’s does and offers options to avoid it.

A solid book for allergy-free baking.
Profile Image for Ianna.
75 reviews
August 16, 2013
I am looking for a vegan cookbook and have found that allergen-free cookbooks are actually far more inventive than standard vegan cookbooks. A bit like a text book with lots of information interspersed in the recipes, but it has great explanations for various substitutions, which was an excellent introduction to the concept of vegan baking. Recipes aren't quite as appealing to me, tho: basic breads, a few basic cookies. Many recipes use Egg Replacer and Earth Balance Shortening, though a handful use flax seed or xathan gum.
Profile Image for Whitney.
420 reviews43 followers
December 26, 2013
This book is designed for parents baking for their allergen-free children. I don't have children but me and my husband have to eat gluten free so I found it very helpful. It's not just a cookbook. It contains valuable information about allergies and how to make recipes work with lots of substitutions. The recipes look very delicious and simple. I can't wait to try some.
Profile Image for Brittany.
104 reviews
November 9, 2012
This book if filled to the brim with helpful and good to know information! The perect book for anyone with allergies or even someone who wants more options than the regular grocery store fare. A wonderful source to have on hand!
Profile Image for Tracey.
2,744 reviews
September 7, 2016
great advice for making substitutions (and avoiding big mistakes--the potential for clumpiness is good to know about the xantham gum!) Also a nice assortment of recipes for baked goods--muffins and cakes, pizzas and sandwich bread.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
293 reviews
November 13, 2012
This cookbook has some good information for allergen-free cooking. There were a few recipes that I would want to try but not enough to purchase the book.
Profile Image for Jeri Strickland.
68 reviews
February 6, 2013
In our family we have many allergies. A top notch cookbook eliminating gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and nuts. Also addresses using existing over the counter gluten free mixes. Very informative.
Profile Image for Pinky.
6,544 reviews14 followers
September 17, 2021
Want to try the Strawberry Tartlets, English Muffins, and the Cinnamon Roll recipes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
373 reviews
September 3, 2013
I don't like the recipes (since I also avoid corn, soy and rice) but I like all the cooking tips and pages marked "Crash Course." I learned a lot about baking powder and eggs.
1,328 reviews
September 10, 2016
This book is full of good information to have but unfortunately the two recipes I have tried so far haven't been stellar:(
Profile Image for Ietrio.
6,614 reviews25 followers
December 10, 2016
This is one creative cookbook. It really deconstructs and rebuilds the recipes. A true progress from the other books on baking that just copy century old works.
February 23, 2019
Wonderful and well-written to explain how to substitute foods and add more to my diet. I was so afraid I would not be able to make a lot of the things I used to bake/cook. As someone who is diagnosed with EoE, my doctor has prescribed a Four Food Elimination Diet. This book greatly helps me avoid allergens and eat healthier. So great to have this on my bookshelf.
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews

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