Monday, December 2, 2013

Gluten Free Vs. Vegan Baking?

Understanding people's needs is a serious issue. More and more people are becoming allergic to common household pantry goods such as flour and dairy products.

I'm sure you've heard of "gluten-free" and "vegan" baked goods.

As a part of the service industry, American bakeries and cake stores have been slowly accommodating and serving people with sensitive diets. In fact, it's getting more and more popular to a point where you have to be flexible enough to produce such baked goods.

Gluten Free Baking

The gluten free diet is for people who are gluten intolerant or those with coeliac disease and basically it excludes food with gluten in them. Gluten is associated with wheat because when wheat (which is found in flour) is mixed with liquids, gluten proteins form.

These gluten proteins are what makes the dough elastic and stretchy. So if you're making a bread dough, the more you kneed, the more gluten proteins develop, the more air gets trap in the dough which makes an airy and fluffier product.

There are gluten free flour mix available in most major supermarkets and they can be used as substitutes for regular flour. Grocery stores now sell cup-for-cup gluten free flour made out of rice, nuts, corns, or beans. The gluten free flour mix almost always have xantham gum in them but if they don't, it's always good to include a little to help with the consistency of the batter and structure of the baked good.

Xantham gum might sound chemically and alien but it's basically a plant based thickening and stabilizing agent. It helps to blend liquids that don't usually blend well together and it helps to produce a thick batter consistency and creamy texture.

Vegan Baking

Simply explained, Vegans do not consume animal products. Be it from a religious point of view, or just wanting to stay healthy by embracing a new diet, it's a food/lifestyle choice which is slowly growing in number.

What does it mean for us bakers? It means that we need to eliminate the use of animal products in our baked goods. There is a difference between vegan and vegetarian diets though. Vegans excludes eggs and dairy products in their diet. Yup that means, no eggs, animal milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt in their desserts!

Since eggs are so important in the baking process, there are powdered egg replacers that are available in supermarkets. Cow milk can be replaced by using soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, or any plant based milk. Butter can be substituted for 100% dairy free vegan margarine. You can also use applesauce or avocado to replace butter. 

Tofu can be used instead of yogurt. There's a product called Tofutti that can also be used to replace cream cheese. I made a Tofutti cheesecake once and it was surprisingly tasty! 

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