I am always intrigued by books that provide options for people who have allergies to certain foods or choose to make ethical choices about their food consumption. I also find it interesting to know why someone takes the path to an alternative approach to eating.
I was given a book to review by Claudia Lucero, “One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese.” It says, “includes nut-free options” on the front cover. This book promised to provide me with something different, as most of the dairy-free cheese alternatives I prepare are made from nuts.
Claudia Lucero is the founder of Urban Cheesecraft. Urban Cheesecraft started as a business to provide consumers with “Do It Yourself” cheese-making kits.
A book review says, “The author of this book took an unconventional path to becoming a dairy-free maven. A desire to know what was going into her food led her to master the ancient art of cheese making and share her wares with curious friends. She honed her skills at making cheese with dairy. But, her partner’s anti-inflammatory diet motivated her to create cheesy dishes with non-dairy ingredients when she discovered that grocery store options were not to her liking. She started developing dairy-free recipes for cheeses that melted, stretched, and crumbled just like traditional dairy cheese.”
According to Lucero, “My goal was to make the cheese more complex in flavor without necessarily having to age them or make a fermented starter every time. Though I liked using nuts and seeds, I wanted to make my cheeses less dense and nutty, less like hummus. Enter veggies! Fiber, color, texture, flavor — fresh veggies offered so many improvements along with mouthwatering flavor from sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, vinegars, and even wine. I finally knew that I could make dairy-free cheese to be proud of.”
I liked the idea of making these cheeses in one hour. Actually, some of the cheeses take more than one hour, but there are some that don’t and they are clearly marked.
This book contains a make-it-from-scratch philosophy and is completely illustrated. It has easy-to-follow step-by-step techniques that are unique in a world of dairy-free recipes because they replicate the rich flavor, tangy goodness and luscious texture of traditional dairy-based cheese.
Lucero creates magic with her recipes as she offers the reader wheels, blocks and rounds, melts and dips, schmears and spreads, shakes and grates, along with recipes for dry mixes.
The specialty ingredients in the book focus on texture and basic cheese-like flavor. Substitution quantities are given in every recipe.
Tapioca starch is starch from the cassava tuber. It is one of the main ingredients in making these cheeses. While this starch, sometimes called tapioca flour, comes from cassava, it is not be confused with cassava flour, which is made from the plant’s fiber. Tapioca starch is flavorless in the amounts called for in the book’s recipes, and it thickens liquids into a gravy-like texture and provides a stretchy quality to the heated firm cheeses, as well as the melts and dips.
Lucero calls for whole potatoes and white rice in a couple of recipes because they have similar starchy qualities. They stand in for tapioca starch in those cases.
Other ingredients include refined coconut oil, avocado oil or not cold-pressed olive oil, lactic acid in the form of powder, fermented brines, yogurt, vinegar or fresh lemon or limes, nutritional yeast and agar powder.
She provides a list of pantry basics and a list of what is left out of the pantry.
The list of what is left out of the pantry is a guideline for people with allergies with “The Top 8” allergens:
- tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
- fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
- shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
Throughout these recipes, seed, bean and/or vegetable substitution options are always given for tree nuts.
The instructions are clear and easy to follow.
In this beautifully photographed and superbly organized book, the nondairy cheese recipes can be adapted to fit many dietary choices and needs. Allergies and preferences will still come into play, but the recipes themselves all include substitutions to accommodate those with allergies — and to offer delicious variety.
I chose the Margherita Pizza Melt recipe to include with this column and added a cauliflower pizza crust recipe cut into dipping sticks. A different twist on pizza pie!
Try any of the recipes in Claudia Lucero’s book and I think you will be very surprised and pleased with the quality, taste and beauty in appearance.