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Easy Gluten-Free Baking Spiral-bound – March 16, 2009
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"Mmmmm...these baked goodies are DELISH!" --Rachael Ray, author; host of the Rachael Ray Show; Food Network star
About the Author
Elizabeth Barbone is the founder of GlutenFreeBaking.com and an alumna of the Culinary Institute of America. With her solid professional baking background, Barbone is known for creating gluten-free recipes that taste just like their wheat counterparts. In addition to creating recipes for GlutenFreeBaking.com, Barbone travels the country speaking to celiac groups and teaching gluten-free baking classes. She lives in Troy, NY.
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I'd say two things cause this book to stand out above the competition. First, the recipes are obviously exceptionally well tested. Second, these recipes are carefully calibrated to produce foods that very closely resemble the classic baked goods most Americans were likely familiar with before a gluten free diet. If you're craving chocolate chip cookies, pancakes, or chocolate cupcakes, this book will give you versions that, frankly, no one would guess lack wheat. The author herself is not gluten-intolerant, so she eats and compares 'regular' versions and gluten free versions. I think this perhaps gives her a leg-up in reproducing wheat based foods so exactly, without letting wishful thinking or shifting taste buds influence her judgments. There is even a chapter devoted to replicating store-bought products like twinkies, oreos and graham crackers. Although this book would be perfect for a family with celiac children, or all-american tastes, the basic recipes and techniques are so well-tested that it would be very useful to the celiac gourmet looking for help adapting the base recipes in his or her favorite creations. [The author also has a paid web site with more well-tested recipes and some product reviews. Although somewhat expensive, I have ultimately found this to be a good value given the quality of the recipes.]
The 'classic american' focus of the book is it's main virtue, because most celiacs will be craving just these kinds of foods. However, this is not the book to turn to if you are looking to make healthy, low-calorie, or 'whole-grain' type recipes, multi-component five star restaurant style desserts, or want to experiment with the newest, most unusual or health-food-store type ingredients like stevia, amaranth flour, or mesquite. Most recipes use some combination of white rice flour, cornstarch, sweet rice flour (and also xanthan gum)-- i have often substituted brown rice flour with great success, just to avoid a totally refined sugar/starch bomb (and I have found that purchasing finely ground rice flour does make a difference for products like cakes). Otherwise, most of the ingredients are pretty standard ones: butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder, cinnamon etc.. There are occasional uses of ingredients like shortening and jello (in poke cake), but not very often. Except for those who object to refined products like sugar and cornstarch, it's hard to imagine a gluten intolerant baker who wouldn't find this book extremely helpful.
After working through GF books that produced expensive 'concreters' or bread the consistency of sawdust, Elizabeth's book is refreshing because every recipe WORKS. What's more, there's very useful information in these pages about the GF flours, starches and techniques (such as why we preheat ovens to get spring).
Oh sure, I use sorghum (my go-to flour), along with super fine flour versions of the nutritious grains for better and lighter crumb. When I want 'wholesome wheat-less', I bake with the grain flours - millet, teff, sorghum, brown rice, amaranth, garbanzo, toasted oat, etc. I have developed my nutritious recipes for muffins, breads and cakes with these flours.
My recipes took many long months of experimentation and testing because none of the recipes from the highly rated GF books were ever quite right. Also, thank goodness for all of the generous bakers who share their recipes on the web. This is where I found the most useful recipes and explanations of ingredient characteristics so that I could develop my recipes successfully.
But, in the land of cookies, cakes, cupcakes and yes, Twinkies, Elizabeth's recipes rock! Most of these goodies have no nutritional value and the world can't seem to get enough of these empty calories. Remember the great Twinkie protest? Why not have a great GF recipe book that faithfully replicates these delicious treats? Indeed...
Because most people still stigmatize gluten free as inferior, Elizabeth's recipes will make believers out of everyone. My family takes all of my GF baked goods to work as sandwiches, meals, snacks and desserts. My jumbo whole grain pumpkin carrot raisin, bananarama or bacon cheddar zucchini muffins are envied by their co-workers just for size/appearance alone. If no one wants to share, it's announced that these are GF baked goods. Co-workers turn up their noses and vanish; my family just chuckles.
As a public service, I use Elizabeth's recipes to fake out all of the cake/cookie/bread/pancake/waffle snobs. Thanks to Elizabeth, GF is as good or better than wheat. BTW, Elizabeth's GF pancakes and waffles are also divine.
Because of modern over-glutenized wheat (oh, no thank you Monsanto and Bayer), why not offer everyone the lowest common denominator in baked/skillet goods? The entire universe should eat gluten free, live long and prosper. Even if it's GF junk food, our GI tracts are still better off without the gluten.
n.b. - Elizabeth, I hope that you tackle the more nutritious grains in your future GF baking endeavors and maybe provide us with another book of fabulous recipes. Oh, and LOVE the spiral binding! Thank you! Why more publishers don't do this is a mystery.
Her brownie recipe is one of the best I've ever tasted. However, I substitute half brown sugar along with the regular sugar. Makes it even more amazing.
The only gluten-free pizza crust I've ever fallen deeply in love with comes from Upper Crust pizzeria in Santa Fe, NM. I think about getting a part time job there just to know the recipe. Yeast breads are just plain hard to replicate. I rarely make them myself.
I did a steady gluten free diet for around a year, then just decided I could have a little arthritis for the sake of good taste. So I got rid of all my other gluten free cookbooks EXCEPT this one. That's saying a lot.
I thank Elizabeth Barbone for going out there and figuring it out for the rest of us. She does it well considering....