A few weeks back, Publishers John Wiley & sons sent me a copy of Elizabeth Gordon’s Allergy-free Desserts to peruse. Gordon, a sister social worker, came on the food allergy food scene with Betsy & Claude, an online bakery that is now "...available for wedding cakes and special events. Prices available upon request". Her book is beautifully produced, easy to read with enticing pictures. I can be a sucker for a coffee table baking cookbook: it all looks scrumptious.
However, before I could dive in and bake there were two glaring issues that stopped this newbie allergen-baker in her tracks. Gordon's recipes rely on Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Huh? Lyle’s Golden Syrup, a lovely product I used when I lived in England but even then sparingly, is pure cane sugar syrup. OK. But buying it here in the US means buying an imported product i.e. increasing the cost for allergen-free goodies which are already costly. I don't love (nor understand) that choice for many of these recipes.
Additionally, Gordon relies upon Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour mixes for her cookie recipes. Bob’s Red Mill, although, a lovely product as well, may not be appropriate for every allergen-free baker and eater (as of now, as far as I know, Bob’s Red Mill still processes tree nuts in their gluten-free facility-I've spoken with them directly). Gordon assumes you have alternative or personal gluten-free, allergen-free mixes with which to make the cookie recipes. (I don't.) Later in the book, for cakes only, she gives two basic flour mix recipes, which begs the question: why not do that for all recipes?
A third issue (more on my end probably) is that my I need an allergen-free baking book that offers a list of suppliers, resources and substitutions for ingredients. I think Gordon's book assumes that we have all of those things in place. Because I don't, and couldn't proceed to test any recipe without some substitutions, I emailed Gordon, who kindly sent me the following ideas. NB: Gordon's recipes were not tested with these substitutes. Bake at your own risk.
Readers could try any manufactured gluten-free blend that DOES NOT contain a leavening agent. There are several on the market-- usually people have their favorites.
I have used corn syrup in place of Lyle's (not the healthiest, but it is cheaper and it keeps the recipes very white). One reader just wrote that she used agave in the peppermint patties and they turned out very well. I have not tested the recipes with the agave, but I always encourage readers to try it out and let me know how it goes.
I love to use Better Than Milk powdered, vanilla rice milk instead of prepared rice milk. It saves money since it's shelf stable even after being opened, and I love the flavor.
I just found that Sunspire is now making a "bittersweet" chocolate chip that people could use instead of the Enjoy Life brand or kosher chocolate chips. They will be very intensely, dark chocolate, but I see this brand in the stores more often than the others.
There are peppermint patties on the back cover that require no baking and no flour mix of any kind. To test drive the book, I made a version of her version, substituting light organic agave for Lyle’s golden syrup. Here’s a copy of the recipe and a picture courtesy of Wiley Publishing:
COOL MINT PATTIES
Makes about 3 dozen patties
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
5 tablespoons organic palm fruit oil shortening
21⁄2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup (I USED LIGHT AGAVE)
12 ounces gluten-, soy-, dairy-,egg-, and nut-free semisweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, 3 tablespoons of the shortening, and the peppermint and vanilla extracts. Add the Lyle’s Golden Syrup and mix thoroughly with a large spoon.
With a very small ice cream scoop or tablespoon measure, scoop out the dough and roll it into balls. Place on a wax paper–lined baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and press the balls with the bottom of a glass to form 1⁄4-inch-thick patties. Return the patties to the baking sheet and chill for another 30 minutes.
After the patties have chilled, combine the chocolate and the remaining 2 tablespoons of shortening in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Allow the chocolate mixture to cool for 10 minutes. Dip the patties in the chocolate mixture so they are completely coated, then place the patties on wax paper–lined baking sheets. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator and let the peppermint patties dry for at least an hour before serving.
Store the completely dried patties, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.
They came out pretty darn fabulous, as in "please stop me from eating 12 in one sitting" good. The recipe is a fun easy project for kids on a rainy day (or an adult during a rainy Erev Passover). A non-food-allergic eater test tested them for me and proclaimed them, “Yummy”. I served them at a party to a roomful of non-allergic omnivores who were impressed that I made "Peppermint Patties". Eyes-rolled in happiness as they enjoyed a second and third. What is it that Michael Pollan says? You can eat junk food if you make it yourself. That's what this recipe is: candy (not so junky) you make yourself.
Gordon's Peppermint Patties have entered my canon of recipes.
Upshot: unlike other baking books that are for the newbie allergen baker, Allergy-Free Desserts seems like a baking book for a more experienced allergen-free baker, one who has their favorite suppliers and whose shelves are stocked with specialty flours, sugars, syrups, gums and chocolates ready to go. I'm not that baker, yet: I'm a newbie who needs resources, suppliers and substitutions.
What is most thrilling is that the trade marketplace is meeting our allergen-free cooking and baking needs with beautifully published tomes for all baking and cooking levels. Allergy-Free Desserts happily joins the bookshelves.