Discover more from Intolerant-a newsletter about eating superbly with food intolerances
Holiday Treats with Histamine Intolerance? YES.
with links to some more-than-edible (but not that kind of edible) celebratory desserts
I have some extraordinarily bad news for you if you have histamine intolerance. I mean there’s already bad news right there. You can’t just willy-nilly eat through the holidays like you’re some kind of histamine-tolerant superhero. You just can’t.
Unfortunately the “Christmas spices” of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg are not necessarily your friends in histaminelandia, though you may have to play around a bit to see what your actual tolerances are. I personally do ok with a little bit of nutmeg and also allspice, but cloves and cinnamon make my body a kind of angry I would not wish on anyone.
Enter cardamom! The good news, aside from the fact that you can probably (anaphylaxis notwithstanding) eat a bite or two of some of your favorites without full-scale chaos is this delicious green pod. It is generally well-tolerated, famously used in Indian and Swedish cooking and baking, and tends not to cause snafus of any sorts. I frequently use it to flavor my favorite oat pancakes, and it is great in apple sauce and other wintry sweets. I’ve even had it in blackberry jam, though I can’t say I could easily discern the cardamom among all the delicious blackberryness. It tastes a little piney, a little citric, oh heck, just try it. It’s delightful. It’s easier to buy ground or use whole than to grind it yourself as it leaves behind woody little flecks in the coffee grinder. Oh! It’s also good in coffee. But I digress.
So this can be a very hard time of year for those of us with food intolerances. Believe me, I feel you. Watching other people pile their plates high with foods that you are not sure about for yourself, or which you know will make you sick is a great way to enter in terrible self-pity, especially in the desserts department.
And to soothe that self-pity, or to avoid it altogether, I make the following suggestions for cookies and cakes that, provided you do tolerate the ingredients, may be a happy addition to your hopefully heavily-laden (Covid-safe) holiday buffets. These are cookies and cakes that other people will actually enjoy, without feeling like they’ve been sat in the sweets penalty box (what?). Though many people with histamine intolerance can eat wheat flour (and I make a point of eating it about once a week so I don’t develop an intolerance), all of these recipes are wheat-free (provided you use gluten free baking powder), so hopefully you can share them with friends and family of many ilks.
Please see below for some selected recipes:
Nigella Lawson’s Clementine cake (has clementines in it, so if citrus is not your friend, move along) is gluten free, and made with almond flour. It does not taste like a punishment. It tastes celebratory (though I personally would like it baked a touch longer, or my oven runs cool (Spoiler, my oven does not run cool). Make it as is, no subs needed.
NYT flourless carrot cake (has those evil evil spices in it, suggestions: reduce and replace with allspice and/or cardamom which should be ok, also almond-based, so not good for you no-nuts people. This one of two recipes here I have not yet made, but I have it on good authority that it is divine.
The Spruce Eats’ Tarta de Santiago (St. James Cake). This one is on my short list of cakes to try, seeming slightly less fussy than the Nigella cake above (no 2-hour fruit boiling) and looks like it would check many boxes for me. My sister asked if she had to put a stencil of a sword on it and I said yes, but I don’t think anyone will check.
Detoxinista’s coconut flour chocolate chip cookies These cookies are cakey in texture, and if you’re thinking “but wait, isn’t chocolate fermented and a histamine liberator,” well then, yes. If you can tolerate only small amounts, don’t eat these to excess and for a switcheroo that kids will hate but which I find delightful, switch out the chocolate chips for cacao nibs.
Real Simple Good’s almond coconut flour lemon shortbread cookies. Something funny happens for me with these cookies that I always have to add more coconut flour to get the right consistency, but they are very lemon forward and have a nice texture, if not quite as crunchy as flour-based shortbread. They age very well.
What’s Cooking America’s cornstarch cookies. These are a cookie that you will not have to explain away to guests, with a “they are gluten free” apology. They taste and feel like cookies that you’d expect to eat, though a slightly more starchy vs. buttery feel, and are nut-free. I made a version of these from the Swedish cookie cookbook called Sju Sorters Kakor (Swedish Cookies Cookbook) that I was gifted by a friend, but it seemed wrong to scan the recipe since it’s not on the internet. The last time I made them (pictured) I made them with potato starch, which made them even a bit squeakier. I’d bet you could mix and match the starches, as well.
Of course there are lots more recipes that can work for those of us with food intolerances. Maybe some of the sweets that already appear at your holiday spread work for you, or can easily be adapted with a gluten-free flour mix, which is something I don’t really dabble with. Ice cream is a good option for many of us (check ingredients!), as are candied nuts (depending on nuts, and obviously no cinnamon), macarons, not to be confused with macaroons, but also macaroons, rice krispie treats (really!), pavlova with fruits that won’t bite you, fruit crumbles with oats on top, and even that peppermint white chocolate bark that people like to gift should be a safe bet, and I wish I could get some, because the candy canes here are fruit flavored, and this is wrong. Please do not spam me with hate for white chocolate. I know it is disgusting. I also love it. Also, don’t sleep on the many Latin desserts like rice pudding, leche nevada, flan, etc, which are sweet and creamy and gluten free (some of them are even in my Chilean cookbook, where the texts are mine but the recipes are not).
I hope that despite the challenges these next weeks may bring for you that you feel free to explore in the kitchen if that’s your jam, or at the cookie exchange or cozied up by the fire or whatever your holiday celebrations take place. I would love to serve up more handy recipes that I’ve tried or that you’ve tried as we move along this journey. I may or may not be working on a project to compile some of my own recipes, but that is a ways off, and I’m still not sure what form it will take. I am open to suggestions for other recipes and/or project ideas.
Wishing you all well, and hoping for a 2022 with substantially more to celebrate, and also, many tasty eats.