Debbie Adler never saw baking in her future, but when she discovered her son’s multiple food allergies she took to the kitchen and taught herself how to make healthy, allergy-free recipes. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow flock to her L.A. storefront, but for those who can’t make the trip Adler recommends treat seekers check out her first cookbook, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats.
Zola: You began cooking allergy-free treats because your son is allergic to “every food in the USDA pyramid.” What was your background in cooking before that?
Debbie Adler: My background in cooking used to involve making eggplant Parmesan ad nauseum for anyone who walked into my kitchen.
DA: I never envisioned a life that would involve measuring cups and a bound book of desserts that I created, but I think everything I ever did in my life, from being a CPA to doing a one-woman show when there was only one person in the audience, has helped me get to this point.
Zola: The book is a huge step! Are there any other big plans for Sweet Debbie’s?
DA: I would like to do a cooking show that highlights allergy-free, vegan and gluten-free fare.
Zola: Your Irresistible Red Velvet Cupcakes are a top seller in your shop. What’s your personal favorite from the book – the one that you crave more often than any other?
DA: Against all odds, my favorite thing to eat in the bakery is my Plum Lemon Pinkyprints. I say that because I’m a huge chocolate person, but these cookies are so satisfying with the plum lemon jam coming together with the chewy cookie. I eat one of them every 4 hours.
Zola: For those with and without allergies, who are looking to start cooking better, cleaner food but don’t know where to start – what do you recommend? Any favorite cookbooks or blogs for beginners?
DA: I would say start making meals that contain more whole foods than foods from packages. That’s a good place to start.
There are many great blogs out there that I check out on a regular basis such as Allyson Kramer’s Manifest Vegan.
Zola: Your bakery is in Los Angeles and caters to allergen sufferers and A-list celebrities alike, such as Gwyneth Paltrow. Do you ever find yourself starstruck by some of your famous patrons or is it all in a days work?
DA: Yes, I’m still starstruck even after all these years.
Zola: What’s been the most challenging recipe to adapt into a healthier/allergy-free version?
DA: I really never adapted anything because I rarely baked before I started my bakery. I just developed formulas based on what ingredients I knew were safe and nutritious.
DA: My favorite indie bookstore is Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. I was just there to give a talk and it blew me away how in this day and age a relatively small but vibrant independent bookstore could thrive with all sorts of activity, not the least of which is people lining up to buy books in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday. But most importantly, they have the best coffee in their café!
Sweet Debbie’s Plum Lemon Pinkyprints
Makes about 16 cookies
I think pinkies must be envious of their opposable neighbors four digits down. Let’s face it. Thumbs get all the action. With thumb sucking, thumbs-up, sticking out like a sore thumb, hitching a ride by the way of thumb, being all thumbs if you’re clumsy and holiday cookies called thumbprints, it’s clear there is a prejudice. So I’m here to start the equal rights for pinkies movement by introducing my Plum Lemon Pinkyprints. They are now a hands-down favorite in my house.
1/2 cup dried plums (aka prunes)
1 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
15×13-inch sheet of parchment paper
1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 cup amaranth flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon stevia powder
1/4 cup water
1. To make the jam filling, boil the dried plums in the water in a medium-size saucepan for 15 minutes, or until very soft. Drain the water and place the plums and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 15×13-inch cookie sheet with parchment paper.
3. To make the cookies, whisk together the two flours, baking soda, guar gum and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle.
4. Microwave the coconut oil and coconut nectar in a 2-cup measuring cup for 20 seconds. Add the vanilla, lemon extract and stevia and stir to combine. Pour into the flour mixture, add the water and stir until the liquid is absorbed.
5. Form the dough into marquise-shaped ovals, using about 1 1/2 tablespoons for each, and place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.
6. Gently press your pinkie, lengthwise, in the middle of each oval to form an indentation.
7. Spoon some plum lemon jam filling into each indentation. Dip your index finger into some water, and smooth out the top of the filling in each cookie with your wet finger.
8. Bake the pinkyprints for 17 to 18 minutes, or until they are a light golden brown. Rotate the cookie sheet from front to back after 10 minutes of baking.
9. Transfer the cookie sheet from the oven to a wire rack and let sit for about 10 minutes before removing the cookies to cool completely.
Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (1 pinkyprint): 150 calories, 5 g total fat, 0.0 mg cholesterol, 24 g carbohydrates, 80 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein, 7 g sugars.
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.