Cybele Pascal shares what all women should know about substituting ingredients to accommodate those with an allergen-free diet.
Hi. I am Cybele Pascal and I am an allergen-free cookbook author and allergen-free lifestyle expert.
My focus has been from the beginning to sort of concentrate on what you can eat, not what you can’t, and I think that there has been a history in this sort of world of allergen-free eating of thinking of what you are limited by, what you can’t eat anymore, how restricted you are.
So I went about it in the opposite way, which was like, “Oh my god, let’s think about all the things that there still are out there for us to eat,” and I started experimenting with alternatives to wheat flour like quinoa and amaranth and millet and brown rice flour and I realized there was this whole wealth of foods that I had never eaten before, that all of a sudden my world was actually expanded. It wasn’t shrunken. My food, what I was eating was actually more extensive because I was experimenting.
So there are two things that I focus on in my cooking. One is exploring the whole wonderful wealth of foods out there that you can still eat. So it’s about the positive. It’s about trying to experiment with ancient grains like millet and quinoa and amaranth and then brown rice as I mentioned. But then there’s also this food alchemy that goes into it, which is you do have to make some substitutions and the primary things that you are substituting in allergen-free cooking are eggs, dairy and wheat.
You can sort of omit things like nuts; you can omit shellfish and fish. You can just avoid them, right? But the basis of western cuisine is eggs and dairy and wheat, right, if you think about it, especially for baking. So, over the years, and I have now been doing this for nine years, I feel often like a mad scientist in the kitchen where I am sort of figuring out how to recreate the chemical reaction that you would have from eggs or from dairy or from wheat from the gluten in wheat with alternatives that are not allergenic, so allergen-free alternatives.
So for example, for eggs – eggs are very important in baking, right? They create structure; they create moistness; they create the rise. So I have figured out many different substitutions for eggs. For example, I use what’s called a flax egg where you mix one tablespoon of flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of hot water and when it comes together it creates this sort of goopy egg-like consistency that when you have the final product, a baked good, it creates that structure and that moistness that an egg would create. It’s not going to create the rise. So for example, for the rise of an egg I have several others tricks.
I do what, it’s an old world war II trick from when eggs were rationed; you didn’t have eggs very often so you had to figure out other ways of creating a rise in your cake. So they would add baking soda to the dry and a cider vinegar or lemon juice to the liquid and once those two come together, once you combine your dry and your liquid ingredients the baking soda and the acid of the cider vinegar or the lemon juice creates an explosion, a rise in your baked good. So this is just chemistry essentially.
There are a lot of other tricks for eggs – applesauce, bananas, yogurt, do like a vegan yogurt, a dairy-free, soy-free yogurt – so that’s that. I mean I have many other, I could go on actually for hours probably about the way I substitute allergens.
About Cybele Pascal:
Cybele Pascal is an award-winning author of "The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook" and "The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook". When her son was diagnosed with severe food allergies in 2001, Cybele learned about allergen-free cooking and made it a priority to transform this cuisine into a delicacy. In addition to recipes she learned to prepare from her family, she spent fifteen years working in restaurants.