Baking Tips for cooking grain-free and nut free (its harder when you can’t use almond meal)
Many recipes that cater to a grain-free diet usually involve nuts – almond meal in particular. It cooks with a beautiful moist texture, is high in protein and tastes great. But lots of people who can’t eat grains also have a problem with nuts – compromised immune systems often have multiple sensitivities and nuts are at the top of the tree for producing nasty reactions.
Almond meal is also high in salicylates so can’t be eaten by anyone with a sensitivity to this natural food chemical.
This is where the recipes at Grain Free Living come in. I cook with almond meal sometimes, but the majority of my recipes are not only grain-free but they are also nut-free and soy-free, so can be eaten by those with allergies to both nut and soy products. I also often use oil instead of butter (dairy-free) and include a number of egg-free options.
I was forced to break away from the common dependency on nut flours when having to come up with food everyone could eat for playdates with a group of friends who have highly allergic children (we needed to be grain-free, egg-free, nut-free AND free of additives, low in amines and salicylates – Now there is a real challenge, but somehow, we did it).
Tips for changing recipes that use almond meal into a nut-free version
- Use a blend of three or more of the grain-free flours – almond meal has a mild flavour that doesn’t over-power and that is one reason why it is so popular. You need to blend your flour mixes as otherwise the strong flavours of buckwheat or quinoa, for example, will overtake the recipe and it will taste, frankly, really gross! You also need to blend your flours to take advantage of the different properties of each which makes for a more balanced texture and consistency than just using one flour.
- Add more oil – Nut meals have a high natural oil content. You need to add a fair whack of oil to make up for the loss of natural nut oils. I use coconut oil, olive oil, ghee or butter. You can get this extra fat content by using more eggs but I prefer to add oil as often I am cooking for people who also have an egg intolerance. If you look at some of my recipes that are nut-free you will notice they nearly all have at least 1/2 cup (125ml) of oil added – this is how I get a really moist texture without the nuts. If you don’t add the oil or extra eggs your cake will be OK when you first take it out of the oven but swiftly become like a dry slab of sand once it cools down.
- Or add more eggs – (see above) Obviously you can’t do this if you can’t eat egg so in this case, also add a “binder” and “riser” of some kind – mashed sweet potato works well in sweet recipes like cakes and add a tad extra bicarb.
Substituting Coconut Flour for Almond Meal/Flour
You can’t swap coconut flour on a 1 to 1 basis – coconut flour absorbs many times its weight in moisture and you will need much less coconut flour than almond meal. So if the recipe uses 1 cup of almond meal, you will only need perhaps 1/4 cup of coconut flour and at least one more additional egg. Look for recipes that use coconut flour rather than trying to use it as a general substitute as the volume difference and dramatic ratio of flour/liquid/fats/sugars will produce very unreliable results.
Some Grain-Free Nut Free Flours
- Cassava Flour
- Coconut Flour
- Potato Starch and Tapioca/Arrowroot Starch
- If tolerated, Quinoa Flour, Buckwheat Flour or Amaranth Flour