Allergen-free Holiday Tradition

Gluten-free, allergen-free, vegan cookies

Last week Chris shared her vegan holiday tradition, so I wanted to share mine too. When Mauro and I bought our house, I thought it would be nice to give our closest neighbors some yummy baked goods for the holidays. Throughout the years we’ve exchanged everything from pies, cakes and bread to chocolate and cookies. And so it became a tradition.

In all these years neighbors have moved, some bonds have become weaker and others stronger, lifestyles have changed, and although we’re only a trio now, the tradition has morphed and evolved. Since Mauro and I became vegan it’s obvious that my recipes have changed a bit, substituting dairy and eggs. But it was only this year that I’ve made a bigger shift to gluten-free and allergen-free baking. The main reason is that one of my neighbors has celiac and one of her children has a variety of food allergies.

I decided to start experimenting with allergen-free baking this year and found that I had A LOT to learn. Nonetheless I persisted because I wanted my friends to be able to enjoy what I bake for them. I borrowed books from the library, poured through allergen-free cooking blogs, and after a visit to BabyCakes I bought their latest cookbook BabyCakes Covers the Classics, from which I made all the cookies pictured in this post.

Although I don’t have many allergen-free baking hours under my belt, the fearless substitution queen inside me dared to switch out the rice flour (in both recipes) for banana flour in the sugar cookies and a 50/50 mix of quinoa and coconut flour in the madeleines. With the exception of the banana flour not binding as well as expected, the cookies turned out awesome IMHO. If I didn’t know what the ingredients were, I wouldn’t have known they were gluten-free or allergen-free. My sister-in-law and nephew, who aren’t even vegan, kept raving about how good they were. Success! 🙂

The cookies are all gone (I ate the last one while writing this post), so I’ll definitely be making more. I’m also dying to try some of the cakes, waffles and Irish soda bread recipes from the same cookbook. I’m a big fan of trying different types of flours and not being so wheat dependent. I absolutely love the variety in texture and flavor that alternative flours have to offer.

Just a few tips:

It goes without saying that using good, sound, tested recipes is key to successful baking. I’ve learned my lesson from converting many traditional recipes to a vegan version and having them turn out too dry, too chalky, too crumbly, flavorless, etc. I highly recommend that anyone that is just starting to cook/bake vegan buy a good cookbook to learn how the chemistry of the ingredients work. The same goes for allergen-free baking.

Even with all the research I’ve done and being equipped with a great cookbook, I still tap into my lifeline (my neighbor) to make sure I’m using the right ingredients and following proper procedures to avoid ingredient contamination. I always bake the allergen-free items on their own, make sure all utensils and bowls being used are well washed, line baking pans with parchment paper, and other such precautions.

As I was finishing this post I received an email from my neighbor with the following:

Hands down, these are the best (and I mean BEST) cookies I have ever tasted (EVER)!!!  The family loves them, too.

I’m so thankful our holiday tradition has given me the opportunity to broaden my culinary horizon. We’d love to hear about your holiday traditions, how they’ve evolved, and if you’ve experimented with allergen-free baking.

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