Interview with Cara Reed: Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking
Cara Reed is a food star in the making. Her food, found at her blog Fork and Beans, is not only creatively and thoughtfully made, but also beautifully photographed and described. She delights in the food she makes, which is doubly wonderful, because she started making it because it challenged her abilities.
We're so pleased that Cara took some time out to talk to us about her cookbook, her blogging life, and more. She is a gluten-free goddess. Trust us.
And read on.
Just to get it out of the way — what was it that turned you into a gluten-free vegan baking blogger?
For lack of a better term, you could say it’s my destiny. I started Fork & Beans as a means to document what I would cook for dinner (I’m a much better cook than baker, or at least I was almost three years ago) and then “it” just happened. I realized how HARD gluten-free and vegan baking was and it angered me that I couldn’t get it, I realized that if I was running into this problem, others were as well so I set out to conquer it. I cannot tell you how many tears were shed over failures but it became the fuel to keep going to the point where inevitably I began to love it and baking became the signature mark of Fork & Beans—it was more of Fate’s doing, really.
You have an utterly delightful style, revealed in recipes like your Beggin’ for Samoa Cupcakes, which is a take on the popular Girl Scout Cookie recipe. How do you decide what types of foods to make over in a gluten-free and vegan way?
I’m really inspired by classic recipes that you wouldn’t typically think someone who is gluten-free and/or vegan could eat. I first started out by making a list of all my childhood favorites and wanted to see if there was a way that I could make them still taste good but not contain gluten, eggs, and dairy. Then the obsession happened and it hasn’t left me since.
Have there been any recipes that have been tough to create when you can’t use traditional ingredients like eggs and milk?
Croissants! I get asked on a weekly basis to create a puff pastry of some kind. I’m definitely working on it because I love a good challenge—it’s so rewarding when I figure it out.
You have entire section of the cookbook devoted to childhood favorites. Are you still a bit of a kid yourself, and are these the foods you loved in childhood? Why did you think it was important to include a section like this?
The motivation behind that is my 10 year old niece who is unable to eat dairy, eggs, and nuts. I have witnessed several social eating situations where she was left out of the mix because of her allergies. It broke my heart every time, so I keep those memories implanted in my brain each time I create a childhood favorite recipe. No one should ever feel left out! I tell you, I get THE greatest joy when a mom emails me thanking me for a recipe that their child (who cannot eat fill in the blank) loves. It’s like food allergy vigilante-ism for me. I get deep satisfaction from it.
“Decadent” may be as much of a key word as “Gluten-Free” and “Vegan” in your cookbook’s title. Do you feel baked goods should be lush and decadent as often as possible?
I want to gain 5 lbs just from the smell of a baked good—that is the signature of a decadent dessert. Just because I bake gluten-free and vegan doesn’t mean it’s always healthy and that’s okay in moderation. More importantly, I want someone to take that first bite of my food and never even guess that it’s missing gluten, eggs, or dairy. That is my mission I have in mind when creating decadent desserts.
You also include cheesecake in the book — what’s the best replacement for cheese you’ve found for this purpose?
Cashews are the wonder food. The possibilities you can create from them are incredible—from cheeses, creams, to mousses, it’s one of my favorite ingredients to work with.
You even teach people how to make their own food colorings and sugar glitter, as well as frostings and toppings. Are there hidden ingredients in the commercial versions of these that would make it difficult to keep to a vegan and gluten-free regimen?
In my opinion, it’s just best to eat food from scratch as much as possible. There are several studies about the effects food dyes have on our bodies and tons of yucky stuff that is thrown into food colorings (like dried-up beetle for some of the red coloring) and hidden gluten in sprinkles. These homemade food colors and sugar glitter recipes allow you to have fun and be creative in your own kitchen with what you already have! Sorry, that sort of stuff gets me happy ☺
Which bakers inspire you?
Karen Tack, recipe creator of “Hello Cupcake” and “What’s New Cupcake?” She sees food the way I do and invites my creativity out to play.
Do you have a favorite recipe in the book, or is it impossible to choose one?
The Maple Nut Scones and Upside-Down Pecan Sticky Buns. Good grief, my mouth is watering just thinking about them.
Is there anything else you want people to know about the cookbook?
There is a little something in there for everyone. From Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pop Tarts, Pumpkin Muffins, Carrot Cake, to a treasure trove of Donuts, you have an endless array of awesome recipes to choose from that can be made for any special occasion (like craving dessert--my favorite special occasion).
Thanks so much!
THANK YOU!!!! xo