Food allergies are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for the 4 to 8 percent of kids and 2 percent of adults who have them, life can be challenging because it's tough to eliminate common allergens from your diet. A new cookbook by food writer Cybele Pascal, The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook (Celestial Arts), aims to help these folks enjoy cake, cookies, biscuits, and cobblers—without experiencing an allergic reaction. Published this month, the book offers 100 recipes that use substitutes for foods that commonly cause allergic reactions: cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, and wheat. U.S. News talked with Pascal about her approach. Here are some edited excerpts:
Why did you write The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook?
In my family, we have multiple food allergies, so we eliminate many different common allergens from our diet. The recipes in the book are a way for me to make baked goods that all of us can eat safely. I also wanted to write it for other people, too, so that no one is ever deprived of sweets and baked goods. All of the recipes in the book are [also] good for people on a vegan diet. The recipes are also free of hydrogenated fats. So they're really delicious and healthy for everybody.
Tell me about some of the food substitutions you make.
I tried to find ingredients that people can usually find easily at Whole Foods or their local health-food store or online. For eggs, I often substitute applesauce. I also like to use vegan yogurt, which is a really great way to provide the structure and moisture that eggs provide. I also use vegan yogurt instead of cream. For [cow's milk], I substitute rice milk.
Besides vegans and those with food allergies, how might the recipes be helpful for people with other dietary requirements?
[The recipes are] cholesterol free and low fat. Thirty percent of the recipes are free of refined sugar. And they're good for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
What about taste? Can you tell the difference between these and regular treats?
I give these treats to everybody in my neighborhood. They have no idea, and they say [they're] so delicious. No one has to forgo taste at all. For example, I took brownies to my son's end-of-year picnic last year and put them out on the table but didn't say anything about how they were baked. My brownies were the one thing that disappeared off the table.