When I first became head cook of my family of allergy sufferers, I had absolutely no idea how to go about baking for kids who could not eat egg or dairy. I loved baking. But baking without egg and dairy seemed a formidable task. It took me a lot of trial and error, and serendipitous comments to work out what the options were.
Firstly, dairy free margarine. I had no idea what to use. Every thing I picked up, however much it promised to be made of olives or similar, seemed to contain milk solids. An acquaintance mentioned using Nuttelex. This of course was the one brand I had never picked up – after all, why on earth would I use something that seemed to scream “nuts” to me, when nuts were yet another thing I needed to avoid at all costs. This poorly named product, however, has become a staple in our house because of course it has absolutely nothing to do with nuts. Made with cholesterol free vegetable oils, it even comes on holiday with us!
Secondly, milk alternatives. There are quite a few milk alternatives out there. Here in Australia we are lucky that all the rice and soy milk on offer appears to be fortified with calcium. In the UK, you have to actively search for calcium enriched options. We tend to use rice milk, because my son was allergic to soy to start with, and the kids are now used to the taste. There are a number of rice milk options, some nicer than others, but (key to getting kids to like it), is they all tend to be very sweet. Which makes it great for baking too. As part of my ongoing efforts to make sure they get enough calcium, I also buy the small cartons of chocolate soy milk (oh, how I wish someone would make a rice milk version) which the kids take to school in their lunch boxes.
Finally, egg-replacer. This is a key ingredient and is brilliant for baking because it means, in general, that you can take your regular recipes and merely substitute the egg for the egg-replacer. I add in a table spoon of vegetable oil, along with the egg-replacer and this seems to work very well. I have a cake recipe from my mother which has four eggs, and I make it with egg replacer to good effect. (Okay, its not light and fluffy, but its tasty!) As far as I know there is only one brand here in Australia, Orgran’s No-Egg. Its an excellent pantry addition and once you discover it, baking becomes a breeze. Okay, maybe not quite a breeze, but certainly less daunting and more achievable than before. Incidentally, No-Egg is also gluten free.
But if you don’t have any to hand, no worries – chia seeds soaked in warm water also work well as a binder and my latest discovery is that banana works well as an egg replacer too. (I know put a mashed up banana into cupcakes, which makes me feel they are at least a little virtuous!)