Do food allergies or sensitivities keep you from eating your favorite foods? Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like converted to allergen-free and/or gluten-free for yourself, your kids, or a friend? I’m ready to meet the challenge!
As an allergen-free cookbook author, I specialize in creating "free-to-eat" versions of traditional favorites. Just leave me a comment about your most wished for recipe you’d like converted to allergen-free and/or gluten-free, and I’ll tackle turning “off limits" into "go-to."
Each week, I will choose one request, and then blog about my attempts to convert that recipe into something delicious and safe.
The idea for this column sprang out of the hundreds of emails I receive from readers wanting allergen-free versions of their favorite foods. In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 9th-15th), I’m opening up the playing field to those of you who don’t have my email address (or who have never heard of me before!).
To get the ball rolling, I started taking requests on my site.
Today, I’m debuting a recipe inspired by an email request from a reader who was dying for allergen-free caramel cupcakes. The challenge on this one: replacing gluten, eggs, and dairy. The solution? Read on to find out!
“Allergy-Friendly” Caramel Cupcakes with Caramel “Buttercream” Frosting
With the heavenly aroma of crème caramel, these tender little gems are like flan in a cupcake! Makes 12 Cupcakes.
- 1/2 cup rice milk
- 3/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups Authentic Foods GF Classical Blend, or my Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix (recipe follows)
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 3/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Spectrum Organic Vegetable Shortening
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 3 Tablespoons rice milk
- 1/4 cup caramel syrup (recipe follows)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a muffin pan with 12 liners.
- Combine ½ cup rice milk with the cider vinegar and set aside.
- Measure out flour mix by spooning flour into a dry measuring cup, then leveling it off with a straightedge, or the back of a knife. (Do not scoop the flour directly with the measuring cup or you’ll wind up with too much flour for the recipe). Combine flour mix with xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine vegetable shortening and granulated sugar. Mix on medium speed 2 minutes.
- Add vanilla extract and egg replacer to bowl of stand mixer. Mix on medium speed 1 minute more. Add caramel syrup, and mix about 30 seconds to combine.
- Using a sifter, sift in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with rice milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing until combined, about 30 seconds. Once batter is smooth, spoon about ¼ cup batter into each liner, filling the liners about halfway full. Do not overfill the liners, or they will overflow and stick to the pan!
- Bake in the center of the oven 10 minutes until tops have domed slightly, then reduce temperature to 350°F and bake 8-10 minutes more until a lovely rich amber color. Resist opening the oven door while baking, they need a consistent temp to rise, and set!
- Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.
Caramel Buttercream Frosting
A light creamy caramel frosting that can be piped, or spread with a butter knife or frosting spatula, creating pretty swirls. Makes enough for 12 Cupcakes.
- 1 cup Spectrum Organic Vegetable Shortening
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup caramel syrup (recipe follows)
- 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 Tablespoon rice milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream shortening and pinch of salt on medium speed, about 2 minutes.
- Add caramel syrup and mix about 1 minute more. Add confectioners’ sugar in three batches, beating after each addition. Add rice milk and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
This syrup can be made in advance. Just be sure to store it tightly covered.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups cool water
- In a small heavy saucepan, combine granulated sugar with ½ cup of the water. Stir well to combine, scraping down sugar from sides of pan.
- Place on burner, over high heat. Cook, stirring, with a wooden spoon, melting sugar and bringing up to a rapid boil. It will foam, turn to liquid, clump, foam again, etc. After about 14 minutes it should turn a dark amber color.
- With caution, add the remaining cup of water to the sugar mixture. Beware, it will act like a bubbling cauldron, sputtering out all over the place, so wear long sleeves and an apron, and be prepared to jump back. Stir water in, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, at a simmer about 5 minutes more, dissolving any lumps. Let cool completely before using. Once cooled, it should be the consistency of corn syrup. If it’s too thin, bring it back up to a boil and cook a couple minutes longer, then cool again. If it’s too thick, add a little warm water and cook over medium heat, until thinned out to proper consistency.
Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix
Makes 6 cups.
The key to the very best gluten-free baked goods is Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour; it is the Cadillac, or cashmere, of brown rice flours and is worth its weight in gold. It is not grainy like other rice flours, and bakes the most fantastic cookies, cakes, pie crusts, and so on. If you can’t find it at your local natural foods market or Whole Foods, order it online.
Both Ener-G and Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flours will also work in these recipes, but they won’t turn out quite as well. The brands of potato starch and tapioca flour or starch are not as important; I find them all interchangeable. (Please see Resources, page 177, of "The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook" for more information.)
- 4 cups superfine brown rice flour
- 1 1⁄3 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
- 2⁄3 cup tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
- To measure flour, use a large spoon to scoop flour into the measuring cup, then level it off with the back of a knife or straightedge. Do not use the measuring cup itself to scoop your flour when measuring! It will compact the flour and you will wind up with too much for the recipe.
- Combine all ingredients in a gallon-size zipper-top bag. Shake until well blended. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Next Week's Food-Allergy Recipe Challenge:
Gluten-Free Flour Tortillas … check back to see if I meet the challenge!
Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix recipe reprinted with permission from The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook: How to Bake Without Gluten, Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, and Sesame. Copyright © 2009 by Cybele Pascal, Celestial Arts, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.
“Allergy-Friendly” Caramel Cupcakes with Caramel “Buttercream” Frosting Copyright © 2010 by Cybele Pascal
(Please note that all my recipes are completely free of all top allergens (wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, and gluten), so as many people as possible can enjoy them. Additionally, all the ingredients are available at Whole Foods, and online at Amazon.com. If you have trouble finding something, let me know and I’ll help you find it.)
SAFETY NOTE: Because each person's food sensitivity and reaction is unique, ranging from mild intolerance to life-threatening and severe food allergies, it is up to the consumer to monitor ingredients and manufacturing conditions. If manufacturing conditions, potential cross contact between foods, and ingredient derivatives pose a risk for you, please re-read all food labels and call the manufacturer to confirm potential allergen concerns before consumption. Ingredients and manufacturing practices can change overnight and without warning.
Cybele Pascal is the award-winning author of "The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook" and the "Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook." She lives in Los Angeles with her food-allergic family: husband Adam, sons Lennon and Monte, and their dogs, Izzie and Carly (who also has food allergies). Please visit her website at CybelePascal.com.