There is a misconception that we need to eat dairy, especially cow’s milk, to get sufficient calcium. However, green vegetables, such as broccoli and dark leafy greens, pulses, nuts and seeds are all reliable sources of absorbable calcium.
LACTOSE INTOLERANCE AND DAIRY ALLERGIES
Milk allergies or intolerances, also known as dairy intolerance, are especially common among young children but adults suffer from them too. They occur from an allergy to the milk protein, casein, and can cause complaints such as asthma, eczema, sinus issues, acne and constipation. Lactose intolerance, caused by the inability to digest lactose, milk sugar, is widespread and manifests itself in symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, wind and diarrhoea. Dairy is also a source of animal fat, which should be consumed in moderation. If you do consume dairy, choose organic full-fat varieties of milks, yogurts and butters from grass-fed cows, goats or sheep. Raw and unpasteurized varieties can be even better for us, so when possible, choose these over manufactured milk products, which are stripped of a lot of their nutritional value.
WHAT DOES DAIRY DO IN BAKING?
The majority of baking books use butter, cream and milk as key ingredients. Although convenient and easy, I have realized that there is a baking-life beyond dairy products! Yes, butter, milk or yogurt add a nice softness to baked goods, but there is such a vast number of incredibly delicious, diverse and healthful plant-based dairy-free alternatives we could be using instead.
DAIRY-FREE ALTERNATIVES TO MILK
Nut milks and plant-based milks we use nut milks in our recipes. As well as their reliable calcium content, nuts are rich sources of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. We mainly use almond and cashew milk as these nuts create softly flavoured products and their relatively neutral creaminess allows for other flavours to be layered easily onto them.
DAIRY-FREE ALTERNATIVES TO CREAM AND CREAM CHEESE
No more cloying whipped cream and sugary dense icings (frostings) leaving you feeling bloated and tired. Embrace these dreamily light, delicate, flavourful plant-based alternatives. Cashew nuts Their creamy texture and flavour make cashew nuts really useful for dairy-free cooking. After soaking, they can be blended and made into thick cream (see here) and milk (see here) to be used as ingredients in raw and cooked cakes, icings (frostings), thick sauces or drinks. Cashew nuts help to aid fat metabolism and maintain healthy blood-fat levels and are great for keeping our skin, hair, blood cells and bone marrow in good condition.
With a milky smooth flavour similar to cashew nuts, they can be soaked and blended to create milks, creams and dairy-free ice cream, like my Bitter chocolate orange ice cream cake. They contain healthy fats, antioxidants, iron and zinc.
Coconut milk has a relatively light flavour and when well balanced with other ingredients is not at all overpowering. I either use liquid coconut milk, or it can be whipped into a light cream to create delectable mousses, ‘cheesecakes’ and icings (frostings) for cakes or to serve as an accompaniment. Coconuts are one of the most alkaline-forming foods.
This may seem like an odd dairy alternative, but you can blend its rich and creamy flesh to make a wonderfully light purée, which is easy to add flavors to. As it turns brown with oxidization, you need to add ingredients that deter this and complement its color, for example lime or mint, or those that conceal oxidization, such as cacao or coffee. Add liquid or whipped coconut cream, blended almonds or cashew nuts and coconut oil to make flavored creams, icings (frostings), mousses and raw cakes. Avocado is a good source of healthy-heart fats, protein and almost 20 essential nutrients, such as fibre, B vitamins and vitamin E.
DAIRY-FREE ALTERNATIVES TO YOGURT AND BUTTERMILK
My cashew ‘yogurt’
Made from blended cashew nuts, this makes an unctuous creamy base onto which numerous flavors can be layered. Like yogurt, it makes an excellent accompaniment to all my bakes, and is great at breakfast too. I call it ‘yogurt’ due to its yogurt-like consistency, but it does not contain any probiotics. See also cashew nuts (here).
A sublime accompaniment to the recipes in this book, it is so rich that a little goes a very long way so do not be put off by its price. It adds a luxurious creaminess to mousses and icings (frostings) and adds moistness to tea breads and cakes. It is made entirely of freshly squeezed cream from the white flesh of the coconut, rich in minerals and high in fibre.
Almond milk with apple cider vinegar
This makes a successful substitute for buttermilk. The apple cider vinegar replaces the yogurt-like slightly acidic flavor of buttermilk, as well as reacting with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to create a perfect rise, resulting in a light product with a soft milky texture and flavor and a good crust. Apple cider vinegar helps to alkalize the body and aid digestion and metabolism.
DAIRY-FREE ALTERNATIVES TO BUTTER
This is made from the flesh of the coconut meat, while the oil is extracted. Although I prefer to mainly use coconut oil in my cooking, coconut butter, with its buttery consistency as well as no coconut flavor or aroma, is also useful.
Extra virgin cold pressed oil
With a high smoke point and velvety texture, this is the other oil I use for most of my cooking. It has a distinct, light, nutty flavor, is very versatile, adds depth, and is excellent in cakes, cookies, tea breads and loaves. Avoid cheap rapeseed oils that go through harsh extraction methods. Choose cold pressed oils from non-GM crops, as most are in Britain, as they retain all of their golden yellow color and great flavor. Extra virgin cold pressed oil is rich in omega 3 and contains omega 6 and 9, vitamin E and less saturated fat than olive oil. Indeed, more and more chefs are making use of this tasty, heart-healthy oil.