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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dairy Free Fig Newtons

Dairy Free Fig Newtons

here's the most important lesson i've learned about going dairy free -- it affects other people too. it's not just about me. it's about making choices of where to share a meal with people who are not afflicted with lactose intolerance but, because they want to hang out with me, or if i'm lucky, because they love me, they will forgo hitting up the city's awesome pizza joint to go to a generic place with a friendlier menu. it's restricting, having to scan menus and ingredient lists. it's something i know will get easier, will probably become second nature, but until i reach that point, i find myself sighing in exasperation. i also find myself feeling guilty.

because it's affected grocery shopping. it's affected traditional baking. traditional buttercream icing is now wrecking havoc as i try to figure out alternative ingredients for the butter and cream. it just never occured me exactly how much i relied on milk and butter to make the ultimate cakes and cookies, how friggin delicious cream cheese icing is and god help me, how difficult it has been for me to accept that i probably can never have cookies dunked in milk again.


take a moment. let that sink in.

i realize it's not the end of the world. this is what one would call a First World Problem. regardless, it's a been an adjustment. and it will be for the most part, a Lifestyle.

i made these fig newtons some time ago, using fresh picked figs. i can't say that i especially loved the dough, it was hard. i wonder if the 2.5 cups of flour it calls for is too much? in lieu of the butter, i used chilled coconut oil and for the tablespoon of cream, i used coconut milk. i will attempt this again, tho with a different seasonal fruit, probably apples.

we've been snacking on these for a week now... i bring a few in to work to nibble on while i sip my tea and dw had a couple last night while he watched tv. it's not the same as the fig newtons i grew up with and truth be told, i did find some that were dairy free at the co-op (thanks paul newman, rip.) it's just nice to be able to make some beloved treats, my way.


  1. I 100% feel you about that concern, that you're "inflicting" your dietary restrictions and needs on other people. Being 99% vegetarian and also working to overcome orthorexia (talk about First World Problems!), I often feel on the spot when trying to get folks together to enjoy a meal, like they're all waiting for me to pick something "safe." It feels weird; hopefully you & I will both get ... I don't know, more comfortable with it? Maybe it will just become second nature?

    In any event, I recently found a book that's super helpful in eliminating dairy and other animal products from recipes, and maybe it will help you make more awesome fig newtony deliciousness: "The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions"

    It's kind of obnoxiously pedantic about veganism, but if you skip all the banter and cut right to the substitutions and recipes, it's a handy little guide.

  2. We made dairy free buttercream at my externship restaurant, want me to try and get my hands on the recipe? I believe it was something along the lines of Earth Balance instead of butter and then some soy milk, but I know I'm forgetting steps. There may have been an xantham gum type of thickener/stabilizer in there.

  3. Lactose intolerance pills don't work for you? My friend takes one before he goes out for anything that will have dairy.

    I've been trying to pay attention to how my body feels the next day after indulging in things like dairy and wheat and I have to say, I think I do get awfully sluggish and phlegmy so there must be something there.

  4. I love this recipe and the fact that you tackled lactose intolerance in your post! I am vegetarian and sensitive to specific kinds of dairy products and in the past I usually used supplements or just dealt with it in return for ice cream indigence, but now I've learned that living, cooking, and baking without dairy is not all that hard!
    Of course going out can feel like a burden on others, but I've also been pleasantly surprised at restaurants. Not once have I ever asked for a menu item to be altered and been told no. Stay optimistic, there are options!!

  5. There are several things I have found very helpful in baking dairy-free. The first is learning about the ratio of fat to other components in milk products. For example, butter is about 80% fat by mass. Therefore, when making substitutions, you can't replace butter 1-to-1 with coconut, palm, or other oils. But you can use spreads, like Earth Balance, that are roughly 80% fat, or use a combination of your preferred milk substitute and saturated fat. Cream works on similar principles. Different kinds of cream have varying amounts of fat, but you can look at a carton of the kind of cream you're replacing at the grocery store, and figure out how many grams of fat are in serving. To replace, again use milk substitute and saturated fat or spread to get the same proportions. This can be a little much for the math phobic, but once you have the ratios down, it much easier.

    Another help has been a kitchen scale -- very useful with the fat to non-dairy milk ratios, which are mass- based. I also found products like Tofutti cream cheese, which are reasonable substitutes in many cooking contexts.

    The most useful thing I've found, though, is not a thing at all. When I became lactose-intolerant, I was married to a man who was not supportive of my dietary needs at all. It made me feel like I was a horrible burden and put additional strain on our marriage. Since, I have found friends who are much more supportive. My best friend keeps drink boxes of soy milk in her cabinet for when I visit. Another friend recommended an enzyme pill with more than just lactose, so I can eat cheese again, and my roommate, who is also lactose intolerant, taught me that goat's milk is lactose-free. Find out who your allies are, and it'll become much easier.

  6. meister - thank you for the cook book recommendation, this whole new thought process is making me think harder about what ingredients i use, and that's a good thing.

    jen - yes please! i picked up some earth balance soy margarine the other day that i will give a try...

    chi WC - i will eventually try these lactose intolerance pills to see if they'll work. it'll have to be a super free day in case it doesn't work. experimenting and deducting things from my diet can be tedious but it's worth it when i can say for sure something is bugging my system.

    sweet road - thank you for visiting! i've only encountered one issue at a restaurant, they added cheese to a dish and i had to switch my dish with my boyfriend's. it was fine, no big deal.

    anna, thank you so much for your comment. it is thoughtful and has great tips. my recent post for the fudge cake, i realized that margarine has a different consistency than butter and winged it from there. and my darling boyfriend is so very supportive of me, he sometimes forgets as it's new for us, but he really is wonderful & thoughtful. people in my real life and the food blog community has been helpful to me, and i'm thankful.