Gluten & Casein Free Christmas Baking

For many, baking treats is just as big a part of celebrating Christmas as writing letters to Santa Claus or watching It’s a Wonderful Life. But for some with gluten and/or casein allergies or sensitivities, finding baked goods sans these ingredients can be a difficult task.

Gluten is the protein that is found in many grains, like wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Allergies to gluten prohibit people from eating these grains. Regardless of how it may seem, gluten-free Christmas baking is not impossible. Gluten-free flours are widely available and most of them are difficult to distinguish from regular wheat-based flour. There are bean based flours made from soy or chick peas, as well as nut flours. Flours from grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, white and brown rice, cornmeal and millet are gluten-free.

When attempting to substitute your own blend of gluten-free flour into a baking recipe, it is usually best to mix at least two flour types along with a bit of starch. Using two types of flour gives the baked goods a nice texture while the starch will help bind the batter more effectively. It is also important to note that different types of flour absorb moisture differently, so the amounts of liquid ingredients used might have to be altered a little. Alternatively, there are gluten-free mixes that contain a number of different flours and starches and are ready-to-use for baking. Using these is a good alternative for someone just beginning to bake in the gluten/casein-free world.

There are many places on the internet that have gluten-free Christmas baking recipes. These recipes are posted by people who have decided (either by choice, or by necessity) to adopt a gluten-free and casein-free way of life. An excellent website that contains a number of holiday recipes (along with other recipes to use throughout the year) is http://www.glutenfreebaking.com/.

For those not wishing to venture into the world of alternative flours, candy is a good way to go if you want to bake for Christmas. Chocolate does not contain gluten. Milk chocolate may contain some casein, so dark chocolate and white chocolate options are best unless you specifically purchase casein-free chocolate (which is available). Peppermint bark, for instance, is a wonderful holiday candy containing only white chocolate, crushed candy canes, and peppermint extract.

Milk products can be difficult to avoid in baking because they can be less apparent in baked goods than are grains. Coconut milk is a good option for substitution, as is soy milk or rice milk. Perhaps the most difficult ingredient to substitute is butter which contains casein but adds a rich distinctive flavor to so many different baking recipes. There are several types of shortening that can be used in place of butter, and some of these can be flavored with butter. It is important to check labels to see if casein has been added to these. It is also important to check the water content when finding a butter substitute. Many margarines and whipped butter substitutes have a lot of water in them and will add too much moisture to your recipes. Vegetable oils, or light olive oil (make sure it is light, or it will add too much flavor) can be substituted for melted butter in many cases.

All in all, it might take some experimentation what ingredients work best for the recipes you enjoy. But, having the ability to enjoy Christmas baking is well worth the effort.