Cooking Nutrition Recipes

Baking and Adapting with Friends

From low-FODMAP diets to vegan and oil-free, recipe testing is always more fun with friends around. The next time you feel like baking, try two healthy versions of this uniquely flavored recipe, “Turmeric, Buckwheat, Blueberry breakfast loaf.”

Despite recently covering the “Cook Together” event at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, I’m not usually one to cook or bake with other people. I tend to use baking as a form of stress-relief when I need a break from school, or I bake to satisfy a quick craving for something sweet that isn’t going to make me feel guilty (for buying it or eating it). But when I learned that a couple of my classmates, Allie and Katrina, were also into baking, I thought it might be fun to get together to see what tricks they had up their sleeves. When I tossed the idea to Allie, she seemed enthusiastic and sent me a link to a recipe she’d been wanting to try: “Turmeric, Buckwheat, Blueberry Breakfast Loaf.”

Okay, I thought, this looks interesting. The top of the recipe proclaimed, “A gluten free and FODMAP friendly breakfast loaf, full of good stuff.” According to Wikipedia, FODMAP is an acronym “derived from ‘Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols.’ They are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.” I scanned the page and saw the dry ingredients were half nuts and seeds and half gluten free flours. I’ve worked in several gluten free bakeries, so I’m not new to the world of xanthan gum and starchy flour mixes, but I still tend to favor whole wheat for baking. Other than hearing a friend recently mention his FODMAP diet, I wasn’t really sure what that part of the recipe would entail, but the turmeric and blueberry combination intrigued me, so I was in.

baking 3
Photo by Katrina Sarson

My one hesitation was that I’m vegan and don’t use concentrated fats in my cooking at home, but this recipe called for eggs and two different kinds of oil. Thinking back on my favorite bakery activity – recipe testing – I proposed we try two versions of the recipe. The first could be true to form with all ingredients exactly as they were listed on the recipe, but the other could be a whole food plant-based (WFPB) version using some of my favorite ingredient swaps. Allie was on board, and when I shared the idea with Katrina, she was eager to join us. On a designated Saturday afternoon, my classmates arrived with their share of ingredients, and we headed to the kitchen to embark on our baking adventure. Since I had two sets of bowls, measuring utensils and cups, spatulas, and loaf pans, we made both recipes side-by-side.

We started by curdling some almond milk with a little lemon juice, and yes, that really does work. This trick for creating a non-dairy buttermilk substitute was already written into the recipe, and it was one I knew well. A teaspoon or so of apple cider or white vinegar will also do the trick, and this creates an acidic solution to activate the baking soda in the recipe. The non-dairy milk is a low-FODMAP ingredient, as lactose tends to cause problems for people sensitive to FODMAPs. Lactose free milk would be another option for those who include dairy in their diets. Katrina got a picture of the curdling almond milk, then we moved on to the long list of dry ingredients.

This part took a while. To make our loaves low-FODMAP friendly, we used a flour mix based on nuts, seeds, oats, buckwheat flour, and a gluten free flour mix. The measurements were mostly in grams, as the recipe came from a UK-based low-FODMAP blogger, so I pulled out my digital scale, and we got started. We broke down the walnuts, sunflower seeds, and oats in the food processor then added the gluten free flour mix. I had ground turmeric and cinnamon on hand, but I like to buy my cardamom whole and grind it as needed. This keeps it extra fresh since I go through it slowly with only a few of my recipes calling for cardamom. Usually, grinding a little by hand with a pestle and mortar is no problem, but this recipe called for a whole teaspoon of ground cardamom, and we needed to double that for the two versions of our recipe. Katrina took to the job like a champ, but in the end, we decided that half a teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom per recipe would probably be enough.

The wet ingredients presented some challenges of their own. The regular recipe calls for 80 mL of olive oil, which I planned to replace with freshly pureed apples. Upon hearing that apples are high in FODMAPs, however, I figured we could use pureed sweet potato instead. Fruit and vegetable purees are some of my favorite ingredient swaps for oil, although depending on the recipe, I might use a nut or seed butter or a combination like applesauce and almond butter instead. I usually roast a big batch of sweet potatoes each week and keep them on hand for use in recipes like this or for a favorite breakfast in my house – maple sweet potato oatmeal with toasted pecans. Yum! Luckily, I had enough sweet potato on hand for our recipe, so that went into the food processor with our curdled almond milk, two very ripe bananas I had been saving just for this day, and some maple syrup.

The original recipe called for three eggs, and I like to use flax or chia “eggs” as a healthier alternative to the starchy egg replacement mixes available at most stores these days. For every egg in a recipe, I use one tablespoon of finely ground seeds mixed with three tablespoons of warm water which combined makes ¼ cup (the equivalent of one large egg). After the mixture rests a few minutes, the ground seeds absorb all the liquid and become gelatinous with a consistency much like an egg. This works as a great binder in most baked goods that call for eggs, but I have also used it successfully in my lentil “meatballs,” veggie burgers, and really anything else that calls for eggs as a binder. A bonus of using flax or chia seeds is their contribution of fiber, protein, and the all-important omega 3 fatty acids to a recipe.

With our wet and dry components ready to go, we lined two miniature loaf baking trays with papers, combined our wet and dry ingredients, and folded in lots of fresh blueberries. Right away, we could see the difference in our mixtures. Due to the moisture from oil and eggs, the regular batter was thin like a cake batter, whereas the WFPB version was thicker like a banana bread batter. We divided our mixtures among the trays then topped them with more blueberries and an oat crumb topping. The regular recipe called for coconut oil mixed with oats and maple syrup, so for the alternative version, I replaced the coconut oil with walnuts that I ground into a quick nut butter. The walnut butter topping was thick and sticky, which made it a little difficult to crumble over the tops of the loaves, but it tasted good, so I didn’t mind having some stuck to my fingers when I was done.

baking 2
Photo by Katrina Sarson

With the miniature loaves in the oven, we cleaned up and finally took some time to ask the questions we’d all been thinking about since we got started. Why low-FODMAPs, and why doesn’t Kelly use oil?  My friend who follows a low-FODMAP diet told me that some people have trouble digesting these short chain carbohydrates, and if they stick to foods low in FODMAPS, they can avoid stomach cramps and other digestive discomforts. As to why I am oil-free, I follow a diet centered around plant foods in their whole form with minimal processing. This excludes (or at least minimizes) food derivatives such as concentrated fats and sweeteners, but it doesn’t mean my diet is fat free or sugar free. It just means that where a recipe calls for butter or oil, I might use a nut butter made from ground whole nuts instead. Or if a brownie mix calls for half a cup of sugar, I might use half a cup of date paste made from whole dates soaked in water then blended. By utilizing the whole food rather than isolated parts of the food, I get the full benefits of a plant’s fibers, vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients like carotenoids and flavonoids which can be removed, lost, or damaged during processing.

After half an hour, the timer went off and brought us back to the task at hand: taste-testing. Out of the oven, the loaves from both versions of the recipe were bursting with blueberries, beautifully browned, and fragrant with spices. Since they weren’t completely cool when we broke into them, the WFPB loaves were still a bit gummy on the inside. That tends to happen if the chia “eggs” haven’t had a chance to fully set. My classmates informed me they could taste more of the turmeric in the loaves from the original recipe, but we all agreed the crunchy crumb topping made from walnut butter was delightful.

After they packed up samples to take home and I finished cleaning up the kitchen, I sat down with a fully cooled loaf and found the texture much improved. With a small glass of soy milk to wash down my last bite, I reflected on our experience and was thankful to have shared the afternoon baking with friends. We all learned some new tricks, got to taste a new recipe, and were left with a lot of interesting new dietary ideas to consider. This recipe, whether in its original low-FODMAP format or as a WFPB adaptation, is one to keep around. I might even try it with some whole wheat pastry flour next time. No matter how the ingredients may change, or how our diets may shift and adjust over time, I am certain I will always think of my classmates, my friends, when I bite into a piece of “Turmeric, Buckwheat, Blueberry Breakfast Loaf.”

Serves: 10

Dry ingredients
• 25g sunflower seeds
• 25g walnuts
• 100g rolled oats, gluten free if needed
• 90g buckwheat flour
• 55g gluten free plain flour
• 1½ teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
• ½ teaspoon sea salt

Wet ingredients
• 160 ml (3/4 cup) almond milk
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 80 ml (1/3 cup) mashed roasted sweet potato, flesh only
• 2 ripe bananas
• 5 tablespoons maple syrup
• 3 tablespoons ground flax or chia seeds mixed with 135 ml (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) warm water
• Large handful of blueberries, frozen or fresh

Oat topping
• 50g rolled oats
• 3 tablespoons walnut butter or other nut or seed butter
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Add the lemon juice to the almond milk and set aside to curdle. This will make your buttermilk.
2. Add the sunflower seeds, walnuts and rolled oats to a food processor, and pulse into a coarse flour. Transfer to a large mixing bowl together with the rest of the dry ingredients.
3. Add buttermilk mixture, sweet potato flesh, bananas and maple syrup to the food processor (no need to clean) and pulse until smooth. Make a well in your dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture, along with the flax or chia seed “eggs.” Use a spatula to carefully fold everything until combined.
4. Pour the batter into the lined loaf tin and gently push down the blueberries on top. Mix together the oat topping in a small bowl and sprinkle it on top of the blueberries.
5. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. A skewer inserted should only emerge with a few crumbs stuck to it.
6. Enjoy the loaf warm from the oven, pop a slice under the grill to toast or wait until cool, then slice and put in the freezer for later.

Kelly Cara is a first-year graduate student in the Friedman School Nutrition Data Science program. Her research is focused on health outcomes related to various levels of food processing found in specific dietary patterns. She comes to Tufts after working for eight years in the field of experimental psychology and higher education research and four years in the culinary field as a health supportive chef, bakery manager, and instructor.

The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

2 comments on “Baking and Adapting with Friends

  1. Charlotte

    I love this post! It’s so fun to read and also informative 🙂 The recipe sounds great too.
    This motivated me to try new things with my friends more often as some of them are interested in veganism but don’t really know how to approach cooking/ baking together might be a good way to help them out!

    All the best,

    • Kelly Cara

      Thanks, Charlotte, for reading and for sharing your thoughts. Many of us are afraid to try new things in the kitchen for fear having something turn out “bad,” for wasting good ingredients on an experiment, or simply because we aren’t sure how to make a new technique or recipe work. Baking with friends in a low-risk environment may be the best way to get over these hurdles. I hope you all have fun together and bake up something wonderful!

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