Easy Gluten Free Baking

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May 1, 2010 by Flora Dawn

I don’t review or recommend a lot of gluten free cookbooks. It’s not that there aren’t any to review, I just don’t think most are worth buying.

In general, cooking gluten free isn’t so difficult, it’s the baking that gets complicated. Let’s face it, baking is a science.

Not only does baking require the right ingredients in the right ratios, but the right temperature, humidity, pan size, technique, etc.

It can all be overwhelming to the home cook, who will most likely grab a mix.

Add gluten free to the equation and it becomes a complicated science at best.

What we really need as gluten free bakers is a cookbook that can guide us through the process.

I think the closest thing we have is Easy Gluten-Free Baking by Elizabeth Barbone.

Barbone is a pastry chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She doesn’t have Celiac; but lucky for us she has a fascination with gluten free baking.

She gives great advice and tips, even explaining hot to turn her recipes into dry mixes to keep on hand.

Her recipes produce wonderful baked goods. I was completely shocked. I just kept baking my way through this book. And every single recipe I tried made amazing food.

The appearance, taste, texture, even smell was so normal.

Barbone doesn’t use one magic flour blend, which has it’s pros and cons, but honestly what she is doing works.

She said in the book that she tests every recipe 30-40 times and I believe it. And although I might be able to figure out what flours will work eventually, I don’t really want to be making banana bread 30-40 times in the process. It is so nice to have a professional pastry chef figuring out the recipes for us.

I think Barbone’s cookbook is really a collection of classic American desserts. There is a section about ingredients and necessary equipment. The other chapters are: Breakfast, Muffins and quick breads, Yeast Breads, Cookies, Holiday Cookies, Brownies and Bar Cookies, Cakes, Pies and my personal favorite “Tastes Like.”

Yep, she throws in a chapter for recipes to recreate those store bought goodies we miss and love. Oreos, twinkies, girl scout cookies, nilla wafers, ritz crackers anyone?

Hits:

  • I love the layout of the book. I think it was divided into chapters really well, and it is spiral-bound in a hardcover. So smart! This is one cookbook that actually lays flat while you are cooking or reading a recipe. Why can’t they all do this?
  • The photography is nice, clean and classic.
  • The recipes are clear and she even divides the wet and dry ingredients.
  • She explains how to turn her recipes into make ahead mixes….gotta love that.
  • She eats gluten, so she really knows what flavor and texture she is trying to reproduce, unlike someone telling us how to make something they haven’t actually eaten in 20 years.
  • This book didn’t try to reinvent food; just take traditional recipes and convert the flours to gluten-free.
  • Love the pancakes, chocolate waffles, banana bread, sandwich bread, pie crust, hummingbird cake….think that is all I have tried.
  • She uses ingredients found at a well-stocked grocery store. With the exception of dairy whey, I had all the necessary dry ingredients. As far as gluten free goes, her ingredients aren’t odd.

Misses:

  • Not sure if it was just me, but the buttermilk biscuits (tasted great by the way) had strange directions for “dropping” the dough, but the texture was that of a regular biscuit so I was confused.
  • Easy in the title. I think easy is a relative term; and while I am sure this is easy baking for a professional pastry chef, probably not so easy for the inexperienced baker, much less the inexperienced gluten free baker. While these recipes aren’t super complicated, they require multiple bowls, multiple steps and lots of ingredients.
  • Her recipes are pretty basic, I think she could have done the new baker a favor by making suggestions on how to make variations. For example banana bread; this a great, classic recipe. I think she could have offered up that stirring in nuts or chocolate chips would be fine additions. However, more experienced or creative bakers will just make these assumptions.
  • Barbone uses traditional ingredients like butter, sugar, eggs, and lots of dairy. If you have a problem with any of these ingredients her recipes might be hard to adapt.

In a nutshell:

Easy Gluten-Free Baking is a wonderful cookbook for those of us fumbling our way through gluten free baking. Definitely written and edited by baking professionals, this is one cookbook that appears to be well thought out and well researched. Everything from the font to the page layout is easy to read and follow.

The recipes are for the classic baked goods we all crave and want to make gluten free, we just don’t know how. With familiar ingredients, like butter, sugar and eggs, the results are amazing. Easy Gluten-Free Baking is one cookbook any gluten free baker is sure to use and enjoy.

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