It's a classic December tale: the extra glass of eggnog, the second serving of dessert "all in the name of the holidays," and then suddenly, without warning, January materializes out of nowhere. Everyone you know and love is on a green juice cleanse, and you're wondering if you should start one, too. But hopping on a detox diet isn't the only solution; instead, why not start smaller by simply substituting the major food culprits behind that post-holiday bloat with their more nutritious counterparts? Swapping out dairy and white, processed flour from your diet can be an easy, lasting way to improve your overall health without compromising on flavour. Below, we've assembled some pantry improvement tips courtesy of one of Canada's pioneers of alternative baking for dietary restrictions and allergies, Joanna Schultz, the owner of British Columbia bakery Pikanik.
Pikanik, based out of South Surrey in BC, recently won Innovator of the Year from the Canadian Bakers Journal. Its products are all gluten free, nut free, soy free and dairy free, but what keeps Schultz's customers coming back is that her goodies all taste fantastic. She had always been a passionate baker, but she conceived of Pikanik when her daughter was diagnosed with dairy and wheat allergies. Frustrated with the limited (and often flavourless) options on the market, Schultz began experimenting with allergen-free baking. Five years later, business is still booming! Here are some tips and tricks from the expert on building a better pantry in the new year, as well as her sugar cookie recipe:
-Commercial sauces and salad dressings are often loaded down with starches, thickeners, and hard-to-identify sources of gluten. Make your own and freeze the leftover sauce for future use. Homemade salad dressings will keep for weeks in the fridge
-Swap out your usual pasta for a gluten-free blend made with quinoa and rice flour, such as GoGo Quinoa's spaghetti. (Gluten-free pasta is now widely available at your local grocery store in the gluten-free section, as well as any health food store!) The flavour and texture is comparable, but now you'll enjoy the benefits of additional protein and fibre.
-Going gluten-free doesn't mean having to give up on pancakes! You can order the Pikanik custom pancake mix from their online store here.
-There are plenty of gluten-free flour blends on the market these days, but they're each composed of different ingredients and ratios, so don't assume that they will all behave the same way when baking. Test out a few brands until you get comfortable with them.
Dairy and egg substitutions
-Your butter alternatives will depend on how the butter is being used in your recipe. If it's being melted, coconut oil works well in its place; if it's being creamed, try a soy-free margarine.
-Milk can be swapped out with rice milk, which has an unobtrusive flavour. In place of cream, try coconut cream instead.
-Egg substitutions also depend on the recipe for context. For a single egg substitution with a chewy texture (usually desired in bread baking), mix together 1 tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp water and allow to rest for 10 minutes before using. For tender cakes and muffins, swap in a 1/4 cup mixture of fruit puree (applesauce or pureed pumpkin work well) and 1/2 tsp baking powder per egg. Non-dairy yogurt also works well in muffins; just swap in 2 Tbsp of yoghurt per egg.
PIKANIK ORANGE SUGAR COOKIES
Servings: 65 cookies
Hands on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
For the cookies
2 cups margarine, softened at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 tsp orange extract
1/2 cup applesauce plus 1 tsp baking powder, mixed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 2/3 cups brown rice flour
1 1/3 cups tapioca starch
1 1/3 cups potato starch
3 tsp xanthan gum
zest of one small orange
For the glaze
1 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tbsp orange juice
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat softened margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add orange extract and apple sauce/baking powder mixture. Add salt, baking powder, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, xantham gum, and mix thoroughly. Let dough rest 20 minutes or refrigerate for later use.
Scoop the dough into 1-oz balls, flattened slightly. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. (Make-ahead tip: freeze any dough balls you don't want to bake for future use.) Bake in an oven heated to 350F for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely.
Whisk together the icing sugar and orange juice together until smooth. Add more icing sugar and/or orange juice until you reach your desired consistency. Drizzle glaze on cooled cookies and let rest until glaze has set up.