I am excited today to have my dear buddy, and fellow SN parent, Rebecca Hunter posting for me about. Rebecca has a lot more expeince than I do in the kitchen. I have been trying to get a blog of her for a time and glad to finally have it done.
(sorry, not the most professional decorating job here in this picture, but probably reflects your average baker)
After several of Aimee’s recent Facebook posts and my own family’s food restriction issues, I bought a set of all-natural plant-based food colorings from IndiaTree via Amazon.com and told her I would view this product for her and all of you.
A little background: I am a 35 year old special needs mom of 3 kiddos, living in rural South Dakota. My oldest son, Charlie (8 years), has Autism and Leaky Gut Syndrome. Because he is highly addicted (yes, like a drug addict) to Gluten (wheat protein) and Casein (milk protein) we have him on a totally Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diet. He has been on this diet for approx. 14 months and has been “clean & sober” since last Feb. We can always tell when he’s gotten hold of something he’s not supposed to eat, because he begins exhibiting severe withdrawal symptoms within 3 hours of ingestion of prohibited foods. He also reacts with hyperactivity to FD&C red, orange and yellow dyes. My 6 year old son, Henry, has as yet undiagnosed (ADD /ADHD???). Henry reacts even more severely to food coloring, the entire spectrum including Carmel color results in not only severe hyperactivity, but also oppositional- defiance behaviors. My youngest, almost 4 month old Anna is allergic to milk protein. Thus as a family we are experiencing some fairly drastic food limitations. This year is the first year I’ve felt brave enough to do much in the way of holiday baking, which for me seems strange as I am normally very accomplished in this area. I first began decorating cakes/cookies at the age of 5 years when my mom took a Wilton Cake Decorating class and let me practice with her. I’ve been using these skills for over 30 years, self-taught in the more advanced parts of the Wilton Method of Pastry Arts and have been occasionally doing professional cakes for others since about the age of 15. In 2002, I even baked & decorated my own wedding cake.
Earlier this month, Charlie had to bring 8 dozen cookies to his 1st 4-H meeting for his 4-H club annual fundraiser. The actual baking of the cookies wasn’t really an issue (we did some Peppermint-Chocolate Chip shortbread cookies… my problems doing these were that I ran out of propane for my cook stove and was baking them 6 at a time in a small electric toaster oven! And some “eggnog” flavored sugar cookies… just GF/CF sugar cookie dough to which we added rum extract, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.) Our problems came with the boys getting totally bored with plain white cookie icing. (I did relent somewhat and said we could use the last of the sprinkles/colored sugars… just to get rid of it… I hate throwing away perfectly good baking supplies… as long as they didn’t eat any of the cookies that were decorated with them.)
After that experience, I went online to Amazon and bought a set of the India-Tree all natural plant based food coloring (set of 3 “red” , yellow and “blue”). When they FINALLY arrived via the mail (really the shipping was fairly prompt… no issues there…. The kids (and me too) were just chomping at the bit to play with this stuff!) and the baby was down for her evening nap, I whipped up a large batch of poured cookie icing (aka ColorFlow icing)… this is just a Royal Icing (water, powdered sugar, meringue powder, vanilla) to which I add a little light corn syrup. (I’ve not tried doing this icing for those w/ egg or corn sensitivity yet, but if that is a problem one could experiment with egg replacer powder and maple or agave syrup.) This icing is very “white” in color, so it takes quite a lot of coloring to tint it, especially in vibrant colors compared with a butter/shortening based icing.
We proceeded to try out our IndiaTree food coloring. Overall I got the approximate results I was expecting after my years of cake decorating and my work in the last few years with using natural dyes on my llama wool and in mineral cosmetics.
The India Tree “red” food coloring is made from beets (if you’ve cooked beet you’ll know they turn everything they touch a pretty reddish pink), so I got the “Barbie pink” I was sort of expecting using the red dye at 30 drops in 2 cups of icing (I chose not to “waste” these rather expensive food colorings attempting to make this darker… who says mittens have to be red-red anyway, right?) The yellow dye is made with cumin and tends to separate in the bottle… you really have to shake it up to emulsify this one to get an even color. It did not take much to get a pretty yellow (10-15 drops in about a cup to cup & half of icing for a nice lemon yellow and a little less for butter yellow). On the far right was our attempts using the blue which is made from red cabbage (this is about 35-40 drops of the “blue” in 1 ½ cups of icing) obviously it is not really a “blue”, but we got a really pretty pale lavender with it…lovely on it’s on but it wasn’t what Henry was really wanting for snowflake cookies which he saw in a magazine I had. In the picture our “green” looks a little more olive than it did in person. I was quite disappointed with using this set to make green (you may or may not have the same result… I had another way to get where I wanted to go, but I’ll talk about this more in depth in a bit, I didn‘t want to use up the entire set in one night trying to get this one to green, as we have some birthdays and Valentines around the corner). The attempt at green that we had resulting in icing in the grayish-yellow color you’d typically find on the outside of a boiled egg yolk… not really where we wanted to go for Christmas Tree and Wreath cookies… but then again after using Wilton’s Food Coloring Gels for 30 years, my standards are extremely high… I’m quite used to being able to take a paint chip sample and being table to match it with icing to an almost exact match.
In reviewing this product for you all, I’d have to say that if you have little girls or want to use this for cookies, cakes and cupcakes or whatever in the warm color spectrum from yellow , orange, pink-red, pink or purples, you’ll be really happy with the 3 color natural food coloring set from India tree. If you have boys who aren’t into pink/purple or want cool colors of blue and green or need Christmas red-red, black or brown (or some more unusual colors like gold or silver) look for another way to get there in advance of your baking project.
And now for the alternate method of how I got where I wanted this project of baking GF/Dye Free Christmas Cookies for the Kindergarten and 2nd grade Christmas Parties today to go.
Being too frugal to throw out our “frosting mistakes”, we used another type of product we had on hand (which most people probably don’t have in their pantry unless they also make their own mineral makeup) to tweak our “mistakes” into something we could use. In my home-business I make goat’s milk bath/body products and also make handmade mineral makeup… so guess what groovy product I have a lot of on-hand? If you guessed Lip-Safe (aka edible) colored mica/mineral pigment powders, you are correct. In years past, when I lived in Independence, MO as a teen/college student, we had a Cake Decorating Shop that carried food-grade mica and mineral pigments for this use, so I put 2+2 together and got 4. I buy all my mica powders for making makeup from TKB Trading in California ( www.tkbtrading.com) and am friendly with the owner of this business having met Kalia at the Falls Park Farmers Market (Sioux Falls, SD) in 2010 when she was visiting for her nephew’s wedding. Typically lip-safe micas are used in lipstick/lip balms as well as foundation, blush, eye-shadow etc. TKB Trading carries hundreds of these colored pigments. Just be careful in ordering that they are all lip-safe colors if you will use them for baking/food uses and it really doesn’t take very much mica to get a nice result. It is usually sold by the ounce and there are quite a few teaspoons of product in an ounce of mica. Please be careful to check the additional info link on each mica color before ordering (especially the greens & blues) to verify they are lip-safe and therefore edible, as many of the purples, blues and greens are NOT LIP-SAFE because some of them contain ultramarines and/or chromium greed dioxide (these are eye, face, nail safe in makeup/nail polish, but NOT FOR LIPS/EDIBLE).
The pink we got with the India Tree dye on the left in the green container was o lovely we left it alone. Most of the other colors (except our “green” which that gray-yellow was pretty scary looking… let‘s just say it was off putting enough you didn‘t want to eat it, especially if you still have a baby in diapers!) were pretty enough if they’d been what we were working for, but we really wanted something a little more vibrant, so we tweaked them to get where we wanted to go.
Gold icing (2nd from left) =1 cup of our India Tree yellow icing + 1 tsp of TKB Trading’s “Gold Basics” mica powder
Christmas Tree Green icing = (20 drops India Tree yellow + 30 drops India Tree blue = grey-yellow “green”) + 2 tsp TKB Trading’s “Green Apple Pop” mica (lip-safe green) + 1 tsp TKB Trading “Blueberry Pop” mica (lip-safe blue) Please note: I think you could skip the India Tree color in this one, use just a bit more mica and get a similar result.
Light blue icing = 1 ½ cups of our lavender (30 drops India Tree blue) icing + 2 tsp TKB’s Blueberry Pop mica powder
Christmas Red icing = 2 oz our India Tree dark pink icing + 1 tsp TKB’s Colorona Bordeaux mica (*TKB has a number of gorgeous reds to choose from that will get you in the red color group with your icing… however if you are vegetarian, please check the additional info link to double check the red you are ordering is a vegan pigment.)
Silver Icing= 2 cups icing (w 30 drops India Tree blue) + 2 to 3 tsp. TKB’s Polished Silver mica + 1 tsp TKB’s Pearl Basics mica.
One of the nicest things I found in my experiment of using my mica powders to tint icing was that in Royal Icing or Colorflow cookie icing we got a slight shimmering finish because the mica itself reflects light, so you can get “metallic” and satiny finishes with this method of coloring.
If I still just had all boys (and with all my nieces living far away), I probably would not consider ordering the India Tree food coloring again, because I can get Valentine‘s pinks and reds other ways. But now that we’ve recently added a daughter to our family, I will probably order it again for the girly girl stuff, as it was easy to use and less messy to work with (the micas are easier to spill unless you also get some little jars to store them in … and if somebody sneezes there is going to be a big mess to clean up… happened several times as I have a cold right now.)
**Please verify all mica’s you order don’t contain epoxy (some of the duo-chrome micas do have this and I don’t recommend using them in lipstick or food), don’t contain FD&C dyes (as a few of TKB’s micas do) and that none of the mica’s you order contain bismuth (main ingredient in Pepto Bismol, and many people have sensitivity to it on the skin.)