Nuts… and possible alternatives.

nutsNuts, or the true definition, ‘tree nuts’, and peanuts are two separate categories under the European Union food allergy listing. This is shown in a useful guide by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The tree nut allergy listing includes almonds, walnuts, Brazil’s, macadamia… you get the idea.  But it does not include coconut or pine nuts.

Peanuts are also not included under the tree nut category. I will talk more about these and why I and, I believe, other food producers are so scared of them in my next blog. I’m hoping that this will help reduce some of the consumer frustration when we use the term ‘may contain peanut’.

As the FSA advice sheet shares tree nuts can be found in many food items such as snacks, biscuits and in sweet treats such as ice cream and marzipan. I always look for the marzipan chocolate in a box of treats and ice cream that contains nuts is also a favourite.  Lucky me that I can eat them with no problem.

But many can’t. Almonds in particular I think are a challenge to replace as they are a key ingredient in many tarts and cakes where they give a rich, dense finish.  Where would life be without a Bakewell Tart or cake, or flakes of toasted almond on top of a trifle to give a gentle crunch? If you are one of those missing out I may have some solutions to try.

When are nuts not nuts?

Answer, when they are seeds.  There are some seeds which are known to cause food allergies. Celery, mustard and sesame seeds have their own EU listing which I will not discuss here, maybe in a later blog. For now I’m just sharing the awareness that many people need to avoid them.

But, in relation to cake baking, coconut comes into this seed category.  A number of my blogs have talked about coconut and just how wonderful I find it.  Whether as oil, milk or cream I use coconut a lot.  I also am particularly partial to coconut biscuits  (e.g. Mrs Crimble’s gluten free Coconut macaroons, mmm) and chunks of coconut flesh whenever I get the chance of it.

Another seed I use to replace nuts in baking quite a lot are pine kernels.  Lightly toasted pine kernels make a great topping or nut replacement for cakes that would usually have chopped or whole nuts. Or on top of your trifles! Not cheap but very delicious and nutritious as all seeds are.

Back to my earlier almond ‘replacement’ tease…

Seeds also come into their own when looking to recreate the texture obtained by ground almonds in cake.  That wonderful dense, heavy and moist sponge. Pine kernels would be great for this and keep something of the nutty flavour but they are horribly expensive so another option could be sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.

I’ve been meaning to try baking with these as an almond flour or ground product replacement.  It seems very easy to make them as this article by Emily Han shows, so perhaps I should get a move on!

nut free maraconsEmily’s article also includes  (via Emma Christensen) a nut-free, gluten free macaron recipe by Brave Tart.  This step by step recipe uses pumpkin seeds to replace ground almonds and I hope it works for you.  Do let me know if you try it, and like it!

That’s all I have for you this week.  Next time it will be that peanut article I mentioned above.

Do please get in touch to let me know if you found this useful, or if you have any ideas for a future blog at maggie@bakeitfreefrom.com.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

Image by Rosco Weber of Sideshow Photo via Brave Tart.

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