Is there anything worse at a holiday party than staring at treats you can’t eat? Allergies and food sensitivities can make seasonal eating a challenge for those trying to watch what they eat.
Saint Louis University’s Todd Parkhurst, a pastry chef and instructor of nutrition and dietetics at Doisy College School of Health Science, has created gluten-free and allergen-free versions of some favorite holiday treats. Parkhurst demonstrated some of his recipes at the December meeting of the St. Louis Dietetic Association, an affiliate of the American Dietetic Association. The group met at Doisy College of Health Sciences at Saint Louis University.
Molly Platt, a dietician with Chartwells, also offered advice on safe eating habits, noting those with food allergies must completely avoid allergens that may trigger a reaction. She shared tips from Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) for baking without the three most common allergens. They are:
Milk: Milk can be substituted in equal amounts with water or fruit juice. For example, substitute one cup milk with one cup water.
Eggs: For each egg, substitute one of the following in recipes. These substitutes work well when baking from scratch and substituting 1-3 eggs.
- 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tbsp. liquid, 1 tbsp. vinegar
- 1 tsp. yeast dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
- 1 ½ tbsp. water, 1 ½ tbsp. oil, 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 packet gelatin, 2 tbsp. warm water. Do not mix until ready to use.
Wheat: When baking with wheat-free flours, a combination of flours usually works best. Experiment with different blends to find one that will give you the texture you are trying to achieve. There are many gluten-free, wheat and soy free flours readily available in grocery stores.
Parkhurst says the goal of gluten-free baking is for those eating the dessert not to be able to tell it is gluten-free. There should be no discernable taste difference between the original recipe and the gluten-free version.
“Holiday baking is a great time to experiment since you bulk up on the spices, the fruits, the butter,” Parkhurst said. “You aren’t going to find a cookie that covers all manner of allergens (milk, nuts, eggs) but you can create different versions of your favorite cookies.”
Parkhurst calls the Moravian Christmas Cookie (recipe attached) one cookie that gets as close as possible to perfect for those with food sensitivities. The recipe calls for flour or gluten-free substitute, shortening and spices. The dough for the crispy, spicy cookie needs to be paper thin.
Other favorite holiday recipes tweaked by Parkhurst include gingerbread cookies and coconut macaroons. Watch Parkhurst demonstrate how to prepare his coconut macaroons.
Gluten-Free Brown Rice Mix
- 6 cups Brown Rice Flour (extra fine)
- 2 cups potato starch
- 1 cup Tapioca flour
Mix to combine. This recipe can be halved for a smaller batch.
Gluten-Free Coconut Macaroons
- 15 oz. sugar
- 9 ½ oz. desiccated coconut
- 1 ½ oz. corn starch
- 1 ¼ oz. rice flour
- ¼ oz. baking powder
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 6 oz. egg whites
- 1 tbsp. vanilla or peppermint extract
Mix first six ingredients together in 5 quart mixer with paddle until combined. Slowly add egg whites to dry ingredients. Add extract to mixture. You may have to adjust consistency by adding more coconut if it is too thin or adding more egg whites if it is too thick.
Pipe cookies onto a sheet tray using a pastry bag with a large star tip.
Let rest 20 minutes.
Bake at 325 until the ridges are brown and inside is barely set.
- ½ cup vegetable shortening
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tbsp. molasses
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1 ½ cup brown rice flour mix
- ½ cup sweet rice flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 3 ½ tsp powdered ginger
- 1 tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp salt
- Beat shortening and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer until light and creamy. Beat in egg yolks, molasses and honey and mix until smooth.
- Add flours, baking soda, xanthan gum, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt; mix to form soft dough. Roll dough between two sheets of wax paper to about ¼-inch thick. Refrigerate until well chilled (at least an hour).
- Preheat oven to 350. Position rack in center of oven. Lightly grease cookie sheet with cooking spray.
- Use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out gingerbread men; place on cookie sheet ½ inch apart. Chill cutout cookies on cookie sheet until very cold before baking.
- Bake 6-9 minutes until cooked through; check cookies after six minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool. Decorate as desired.
*This recipe was adapted by Parkhurst from a gingerbread cookie recipe in Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts (2008).
Moravian Christmas Cookies
- 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour substitute
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ginger
- 1 ½ tsp gloves
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brown sugar (packed)
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 cup light molasses
- ¼ tsp baking soda dissolved in ½ tsp vinegar
Sift the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and mix well. Work in the shortening with your fingertips, as for pie crust. Add the molasses and baking soda; mix thoroughly. Chill for several hours or overnight.
Divide the dough into four portions. Work with one part at a time, keeping the remainder refrigerated. Roll out very, very thin on a lightly floured board. Cut into fancy shapes with cookie cutters.
Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Immediately slide the cookies from the sheet onto a rack for cooling. Makes about six dozen cookies.