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on March 12, 2010
I'm giving this book 5 stars even though I have had some issues with it, because the author has created a great resource for alternative baking. Many people avoid starchy flours because of allergies, special diets, or a combination, and Elana has done a great job experimenting with the use of almond flour in a very wide range of baked goods. There is no other resource for almond flour baking that remotely approaches the breadth of this cookbook. You really can make everything from chocolate chip cookies to chocolate cake to pie dough with almond flour. I'm incredibly grateful to the author for trailblazing into this new frontier. The recipes do have various notable peculiarities (see below), and of course different readers, especially in the context of the specialized diets to whom almond flour baking will appeal (including scd, paleo, low carb, celiacs) will have different tastes, needs, and restrictions. However, I have found the recipes to be very adaptable where my tastes or needs diverged from the author's.

Potential buyers should know that this book is not only geared towards grain-avoiding and celiac diets, but also aims for a 'healthy' approach to baking, in the name of which it largely avoids butter and refined sugars. In addition to the titular substitution of almond flour for wheat flour, there is a relatively single-minded substitution of grapeseed oil for butter/shortening and agave nectar for white sugar. While I don't have any general problems with agave or grapeseed oil, unlike some readers, I'm not satisfied with these ingredients in all cases. In particular, I generally prefer the flavor and mouthfeel of butter over grapeseed oil, and I find agave nectar imparts an unwelcome sticky, flaccid texture to baked goods like cookies and biscuits, especially over time (I like it just fine in cakes and muffins). Still, I've had fantastic luck substituting 'back' butter and sugar where i want them, although when agave is removed, one sometimes needs to add more recipe- appropriate liquid (e.g., milk or egg) to compensate. These recipes are highly adaptable, which makes the book that much more user-friendly.

I'd say that this is also a baking book aimed more towards cooks than bakers. The recipes are pretty quick and dirty- dump and stir affairs. There aren't a lot of fiddly steps, using 7 different bowls to mix subrecipes, or explanations of techniques and experimentation a la cooks illustrated. I'm sure that aspect wins the book lots of fans among busy parents and those who don't enjoy the craft of cooking, but as someone more in the love-to-bake camp, I would have appreciated more attention to detail, use of various baking techniques that lead to a better texture in final products and experimentation with the kinds of fillips that separate the pedestrian recipe from the sublime. For example, in some of the cake and muffin recipes, I find the recipes substantially improve if one takes the time to beat sugar (or agave) and eggs to a ribbon, or beat egg whites separately and fold them in. I also wish the ingredients were given in weight (at least somewhere in the beginning)-- I had a number of failures until I realized the author packs her almond flour. Some of the baking times and such have also been off-- these kinds of details really matter for baking, and hard core bakers will be frustrated at the lack of precision.

As I've said, even though this isn't the perfect cookbook for my particular needs, it is a wonderful starting place for my gluten free and grain free baking experiments. (There is also a savory chapter, but I haven't really used it.) Some particular favorites are the crackers (all fantastic), chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cherry cookies, and pecan shortbreads (all of which I strongly prefer with creamed butter and sugar, though.) Although the cookbook is pretty small, I've still only cooked a small portion of the recipes (the author's website provides a lot of additional inspiration as well). I'm looking forward to baking through more of the recipes, adapting and changing as I wish.
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on February 25, 2010
If you are simply looking for GF recipes, there are better books out there. I made a few of the sweet items along side other similar GF recipes using Pamela's mix (biscotti for example) and found I preferred the items made with Pamela's mix for flavor and texture. The almond flour items weren't bad, it's just that the things I made with Pamela's tasted more like traditional nonGF food. If carb consumption is your main concern, then this may be more suited to your tastes.

I also tried several savory recipes. I have been searching for a savory GF pie crust that won't impart that sweetish aftertaste to my favorite quiche recipes. While I am not completely satisfied with this recipe, it's the best GF savory pie crust to date. Also, the pizza crust, again not the best taste/texture but it is really handy to throw together in just a couple of minutes and it is way better than any frozen crust I've had. It's also very filling. Finally, I tried the eggplant parmesan and it is the best eggplant parmesan I've had since going GF. For me, that recipe was worth the cost of the book.

Finally, like others have said, the final verdict is still out on the agave nectar and grapeseed oil. I used them for the first time I made a recipe because I wanted to follow exactly. If I repeated the recipe, I replaced them with sweeteners and fats I am more comfortable with.
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on October 26, 2009
This book has a number of good and SIMPLE recipes for gluten-free and low-carb dishes using almond flour. Well worth adding to the shelf; it simplifies and collects a lot of information about almond flour that is widely scattered.

The one big caution is that the author uncritically uses agave nectar for sweetening in almost all the recipes. She says this is because agave nectar is "lower on the glycemic index", but that's not an advantage, that's merely because agave nectar is largely fructose, the most dangerous of the sugars.

From Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D. in neurobiology (blog at [...]

"Agave syrup is made from the heart of the agave plant, which is pressed to release a juice rich in inulin. Inulin is a polymer made of fructose molecules. The inulin is then broken down either by heat or by enzymatic processing. The result is a sweet syrup that is rich in fructose. Agave syrup is marketed as a healthy, alternative sweetener. In fact, it's probably as bad or worse than high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). They are both a refined and processed plant extract. Both are high in fructose, with agave syrup leading HFCS (estimates of agave syrup range up to 92% fructose by calories). Finally, agave syrup is expensive and inefficient to produce. The high fructose content gives agave syrup a low glycemic index, because fructose does not raise blood glucose. Unfortunately, as some diabetics learned the hard way, using fructose as a substitute for sucrose (cane sugar) has negative long-term effects on insulin sensitivity."

I find that these recipes can be adapted by omitting the ill-chosen agave nectar sweetner, in favor of either ordinary sugar (sucrose) or for low-carbs an equivalent combination of Emerald Forest Sugar Erythritol, 1-Pound (Pack of 6) and NuNaturals NuStevia Pure White Stevia Extract, 1 Ounce (Pack of 2), as recommended by Lauren at Healthy Indulgences blog [...]
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on February 4, 2012
I haven't left many reviews but I was so disappointed in this book that I felt obligated to set the record straight.

I've recently had to go on a low-sugar, gluten-free diet and was upset that I was going to miss out on all the Christmas baking this year. However, a friend of mine made me a delicious gluten-free cake and I realized that I could make delicious desserts that everyone would like if I did some research.

And so, last Christmas was full of cakes and cookies all gluten-free, made from "regular" recipes I modified through a lot of research and a lot of trial and error. Success! But I don't always have time to hunt down new recipes so I figured I'd buy a cookbook to help me out. The reviews on this cookbook seemed very positive so I purchased it.

Well, what a disappointment! Many of the recipes are oily and bland tasting. The author uses Agave as a sweetener in most recipes and despite what the book says, this ingredient is NOT good for diabetics (you'd be better off using a sugar alcohol like xylitol). Sure, the author would probably say that Agave is "natural" unlike sugar alcohols (which are known for being more processed) however, Agave isn't 'natural' like maple syrup, it' is also highly processed sweetener that has more fructose than high fructose corn syrup.

I also assume she is trying to be "healthy" by staying away from milk, butter, and eggs in her recipes. Unfortunately, this ends up doing the recipes a lot of disservice. The use of grapeseed oil (light and relatively flavorless oil) makes her desserts taste heavy and (for lack of a better word) oily. The chocolate chip cookies I made came out as flat as a pancake... if she used ingredients like eggs it would help bind her recipes together better. Another alternative to help the texture (which I tried) is to add coconut flour which gives the dough more shape (but I understand that this is an almond flour cookbook so why bother adding in ANOTHER expensive flour to the shopping list).

I just feel like the author's quest to be 'healthy' and 'natural' most of the recipes flat and tasteless. What's even worse is that her approach isn't necessarily healthier. Many people can eat dairy and ordinary sweeteners (although we should all try to keep sugar to a minimum). A better approach would have been to give us some alternatives in these recipes and let the reader decide. For instance saying "3/4 Cup Agave nectar OR 1/2 Cup Sugar + 1/3 Cup Water" (or whatever liquid was needed to make up for the missing moisture when omitting the Agave). I'm sure some of these recipes would be better substituting in butter or another type of sweetener, but if I'm going to go through the trouble of doing that then I'd rather do it from a 'normal' recipe that I already know tastes good. Out of 7 dessert recipes I tried in this book, I didn't like any of them.

The bottom line is that the desserts contained in this book fall short and some are inedible which is really disappointing when you're spending a lot of time (and ingredients) making them.
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on August 28, 2009
Elana Amsterdam has created the cookbook of my dreams! No refined sugar, wheat and often no dairy in the recipes, but best of all is her use of Almond Flour! I have never used it before getting this book and I have to say it is a revelation. Packed with protein and so delicious that once my friends try "just a bite", they beg for more. I've had this book for all of a month and it's already dog-eared and covered in post-it bookmarks saying "Make this next " or "This was fantastic!" I have loved every single thing I've made from this book. I can't recommend it more highly. Your family and friends will thank you for the delicious food and treats - and you will be giving their body the nutrients it needs. I've done a LOT of alternative recipe cooking in my day and this is the only one I have ever found to be simple, quick, easy and just as delicious as traditional recipes. Did I mention quick? I'm amazed at how fast I can throw them together! It's a working persons DREAM! Quick and healthy!

I'm not celiac or diabetic, but I do like keeping things natural. This book is everything and more that I could have hoped for. I would have put 11 stars if I had the choice. Get this book and change your life. Rediscover what real food tastes like.

Kimberly
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We've been gluten, dairy, soy free since 2006 and I've owned TONS of books in my attempt to find breads and treats that have a tasty, non-grainy texture but don't use funky gums (guar or xantham) and that isn't made with empty calorie white rice flour, tapioca flour, & potato starch. (remember the processed foods that you're supposed to avoid? those flours are just as unhealthy - might a well eat white wonder bread).

I had tried almond flour cooking in the past, but never with blanched almond flour Blanched Almond Meal Flour, 5 lb., which has a very different texture than Bob's red mill almond flour. When I had tried baking with Bob's almond flour, the texture was just too gritty and it didn't go over well with the family. I'd pretty much given up on almond flour cooking until this cookbook.

The recipes in this cookbook are easy and have a great texture that even your full-on gluten eating friends will appreciate.

HOWEVER, you will want to steer clear of the agave, as much has come to light that it is not low glycemic and is just as bad as corn syrup. Also, I don't go for the grape seed oil, as we only use olive, coconut (short chain fatty acids, very healthy - do the research!), or butter (despite our dairy free status, butter is ok for us)in equal measure to the grape seed oil she asks for.

The substitutions I've found that reduce the sugars even further and work out GREAT for the agave are as follows:

Most recipes call for a 1/2 cup of agave, so my substitutions are based on that. You can do the math to change it to other measures (1/4th cup or 3/4 cup as needed).

When it calls for 1/2 cup of agave, use instead 2 Tbsp honey with 3 stevia packets, or a 1/4 cup maple syrup and 3 stevia packets (or 2 squirts of vanilla stevia if you prefer that over the packets). FYI - Honey is sweeter than maple, thus the higher amount of maple if using it instead of honey.

Regarding STEVIA - much of it has a nasty aftertaste that I can't stand. However, the Stevia in the raw brand Stevia Sweetener In The Raw, 50-Count Packages (Pack of 12) does not have the aftertaste! (They process it differently in some way)
I've tried every stevia in hopes of finding one I could tolerate as I really wanted to reduce our sugar intake, so I was thrilled to discover stevia in the raw. Until then I was able to use the liquid vanilla creme stevia Sweet Leaf Vanilla Creme Flavored Liquid Stevia, 2-Ounce Bottle but I could still detect a small bit of the aftertaste (it's kind of a bitter taste...) If you are not sensitive to stevia you can use whichever you like obviously. But for those like me, I want to point out these two particular stevia products.

SUMMARY: Great tasting recipes with good texture but sub honey/maple & stevia for the agave and coconut or butter for the grapeseed oil for healthier options.
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on March 28, 2011
I ordered this book about a year ago and I tried several recipes in it. I was so excited when it arrived as I cannot eat gluten and am so tired of bland food. This author loves Agave which I bought to make her recipes. I found I hate agave and I ended up rewriting the recipes to work and taste better. I do like using the almond flour she recommends. The book is very pretty and well put together. It appears she did a lot of hard work on this book. But the recipes do not turn out well even when using that agave stuff-one example is the pecan pie. I made it exactly as instructed in the book but it was so bad I threw it out. It tasted nothing like pecan pie. I have never given a bad review but this was a great disappointment. I would recommend anyone who has a gluten issue to try making a few of the recipes in this book BEFORE buying the book (if possible) to see if you like them.
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on March 26, 2010
I am both gluten-intolerant and prone to candida problems, so I am always looking for innovative ways of making gluten-free/sugar-free treats. Though the recipes here are low-glycemic rather than sugar-free, this book provided some good starting points for working with almond flour.

Unfortunately, I disliked the texture of goods made with grapeseed oil as the author recommends, as they came out heavy and oozed oil even after baking and cooling. I've been substituting a mix of virgin coconut oil and organic butter instead, with improved flavor and texture resulting. It has been harder to substitute for the agave syrup, as I must avoid excess fructose, but I have been having reasonable results with a mix of erythritol and stevia.

The pie crust recipes are quite good when coconut oil and/or butter is substituted. Her cookie recipes are decent, but seem to be mostly the same basic almond-flour shortbread with varying flavors added. I have tried a couple of the "breaded" savory recipes, and had problems with the almond meal mixture falling off the food and (again) tasting heavy and oily.

Still, I applaud the author for working to create low-glycemic GF recipes that do not require the use of eggs or gums as binders. It's not easy to do, and there are a few recipes in here that I will return to time and again (the pie crusts and pecan sandies come to mind).

Overall, I would recommend this book as an inspiration point for adventurous cooks with special dietary needs, but not for someone just getting started on a low-glycemic or gluten-free diet. The recipes rarely resemble their conventional counterparts and are likely to disappoint someone new to the world of GF cooking.
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on August 15, 2009
For people with celiac disease, baking is not always easy, results often not too pleasing and very often not too healthy either. This book adresses these 3 problems in a magnificent way. The recipes are super easy, the results absolutely delicious and the nutritional value outstanding. I reach for Elana's recipes again and again. Friends and family prefer 'her food' over regular stuff. If you have never cooked before and don't know where to begin, this book is a great place to start. For more experienced cooks, the book has a lot to offer as well: a lot of recipes for pie crusts, pizza's, breads etc etc that spark your own imagination and creativity. Do your family, your palate and your health a favour and buy this lovely book!
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on August 12, 2009
The first item I made from the cookbook was the Salmon Dill Burgers. It's funny really because before I began trying these recipes, I thought to myself, "I want something to satisfy my taste since I can't have normal food," but after eating these Salmon Dill Burgers, I thought, "This is normal food!" The Sesame Crackers and the Pecan Shortbread Cookies are equally normal (aka terrific)! It's great because I am not sacrificing taste, but I am eating food that is much better for me. I have not been disappointed with any of the recipes I have tried from the book, and I feel much better eating food made with almond flour instead of grain flours.
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