Learning to Bake Allergen-Free

Photo Courtesy of The Experiment.

Last week I baked and read my way through one of the hottest allergen-free cookbooks on the market—Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts.

Author Colette Martin has delivered a masterpiece of a handbook for navigating the world of allergen-free baking.

Colette blogs at Learning to Eat Allergy-Free. She first started baking allergen-free after her son was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis and multiple food allergies, in 2001. "It was a lot of trial and error. At the time, there was very little information available about baking without wheat, dairy, eggs, etc. I've always been a problem solver so I started to create my own recipes. It was just natural to decide to share what I've learned so that the whole food allergy community—and parents who are experiencing that helpless feeling of "there's nothing my child can eat,"—can benefit."

It is this experience that Colette so generously shares in her new book. When baking without gluten, dairy and eggs, successful recipe developers must have a thorough understanding of how alternative ingredients perform and interact. Part I of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free is dedicated to just this. We learn how to bake with store-bought mixes like Pamela’s, Bob’s Red Mill, and Namaste and are given formulas for making your own. We learn how and when to use flax gel, fruit purees, and Ener-G egg replacer in place of eggs. “Crash Course” pages sprinkled throughout the book offer tips and techniques that can be carried forward in your own baking experimentation. Part I, which makes up half of the book, is an invaluable resource.

In Part II, Colette shares some of her favorite recipes for baked goodies. From cakes to muffins to yeasted breads, you’ll find a collection of essential recipes. For the super busy, the final chapter of the book, “ Mix It Up,” offers up 17 recipes that are quick to make using these store-bought brands of mixes:

  • Pamela’s Products
  • Namaste Foods
  • Authentic Foods
  • King Arthur
  • Jules Gluten Free
  • Bob’s Red Mill
  • Gluten-Free Pantry
  • Stonemilled

As far as the recipes go, there are some definite keepers!

This is a soft cover, full-color book with beautiful photos of a handful of the recipes. Instructions are clear and easy to follow and lots of guidance is given. At $19.99 (and quite possibly much less on Amazon.com), this allegergen-free cookbook is a great deal and worth every penny—if not for the tips and advice alone. Well done Colette!

To give you a taste, The Experiment publishing and Colette are sharing this coffee cake recipe with us.

Photo Courtesy of The Experiment Publishing

Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping

Did you know that most coffee cakes don’t contain coffee? They get their name because they are intended to be served with coffee, which makes them the perfect treat for breakfast. My favorite part of a coffee cake is always the streusel topping—just enough sugar to wake you up.

The technique used here to create the streusel topping is one that will be used frequently when making cookie dough and pie crusts.


For the Cake:
2 cups gluten-free flour blend
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (leave out if your flour blend contains xanthan gum)
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (½ stick) Earth Balance Natural Shortening, softened (see tip)
½ cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water (equal to 2 eggs)
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup coconut milk beverage (see tip)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Streusel Topping:
2/3  cup gluten-free oat flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Shortening, cold


1.    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with cooking oil.

Prepare the Cake Batter

2.   Mix together the flour, xanthan gum (if needed), baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set it aside.

3.   Cream together the shortening and granulated sugar in a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, for about 5 minutes, until a textured paste forms. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.

4.   Add the egg replacer mixture, applesauce, coconut milk, and vanilla to the creamed sugar. Blend with a mixer on medium-low speed for 2 to 3 minutes.

5.   Gradually add the flour mixture and blend on medium speed, about 2 minutes.

6.   Pour the batter into the baking dish, spreading it to the sides of the pan.

Prepare the Streusel Topping

7.   In a large mixing bowl, combine the oat flour and brown sugar, using a pastry cutter or pastry fork.

8.   Cut the shortening into tablespoon-sized pieces. Use the pastry cutter to work the shortening into the flour.

9.   Crumble the streusel topping over the batter.

10. Bake at 350°F for 32 to 36 minutes.


  • Note that the shortening for the cake is used at room temperature, whereas the shortening for the topping is used cold. Plan to let just the 4 tablespoons sit out to soften and leave the remainder in the fridge until you need it for the streusel. 
  • If you need to avoid coconut due to an allergy, substitute hemp milk or rice milk for the coconut milk.
  • Use your favorite gluten-free flour blend.

Recipe from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts. Copyright © Colette Martin, 2012. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.