Customer Reviews: Gluten-Free Baking Classics
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on July 2, 2006
I had the great good fortune of meeting Annalise about eight months ago at a celiac support group meeting. I had previously used a recipe of hers (available on her Foodphilosopher website) for angelfood cake. I was impressed with it and was really looking forward to the publication of this cookbook.

This is gluten free baking with no apologies. Annalise is a very wise lady, passionate in her quest for excellence in gluten free baking. She has gone into the kitchen and rethought how we bake with gluten free flours. The result is an amazing collection of recipes that can go anywhere with the wheat-eating crowd and pass as the "real" thing.

Texturally her products are moist and don't have the grainy mouth feel for which gluten free baked goods are notorious. And taste - she points out in her introduction how much flavor wheat flour has, and then proceeds to compensate for the lack of flavor in the gluten free flours by carefully rethinking her porportions of fats, liquids and flavorings. The result is, product after product, items that not only look beautiful but truly taste delicious. I used to call the lack of flavor in a gf product the "dead spot" - something was missing in my gf baking, but I didn't know what. Annalise's recipes fill that spot completely.

I've been baking for over 40 years. I've been baking gluten free for almost 7 years. I've bought breads ready made, baked from mixes and from scratch. I have had the great pleasure of tasting Annalise's breads, made by her own hand, on a few occasions at our local celiac support group meetings. These are outstanding in terms of crunch, crust and flavor. She has made a real breakthrough with her French/Submarine bread recipes.

I have personally baked the chocolate chip muffins, lemon squares and chocolate ricotta muffins from this book. They are all unbelievably good. I have had a wonderful time making her angelfood cake in the past, and have had the pleasure of helping her test out new recipes for cinnamon buns and a crumb cake. My family of five (three gf eaters) are all impressed. And my non-allergic daughter, who still can and does eat wheat, can't wait for me to bake the crumb cake again - she probably ate 1/2 of the first one by herself.

A word of warning - while Annalise's flour blend for cakes and muffins may look "traditional" to you, it is not. Don't think that this is the "same old same old" - it is not. And, when Annalise advises using a specific brand of brown rice flour (Authentic Foods) in her blend because of the fine grind, pay attention folks! It really makes a difference in the end product.

Did I mention that Gourmet Magazine ran a November, 2005 article spotlighting her recipes? Go buy the book and bake all these goodies you've been missing. That's what I'm doing for my family.


Northern New Jersey Celiac Support Group
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on June 5, 2006
I recently went to a cooking demo given by Annalise Roberts and after tasting the submarine sandwich bread she made, I decided to buy the book and give it a try of my own.

I was amazed that when I tried to make the bread myself it came out just as good as hers. I have never even made bread before (gluten free or regular) and I couldn't believe with her precise instructions it made it so easy that it was a huge success on my first attempt. This bread is incredible. You can use this bread for countless things (sandwiches, garlic bread, bruschetta, even pizzas) If you have been longing for a great GF bread... you've found it.

This past weekend I decided why not try another recipe. So I made the Coconut Layer cake. OMG - AMAZING!!!!!! My mom (non-celiac) is not talking to me at the moment because she blew her diet because of this cake. She took one bite to try it and loved it so much she ate an entire piece!

If you only buy 1 GF cook book...this is absolutely the one!
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on May 9, 2007
When my kids and I were diagnosed, my first thought was, "How am I going to do this?!" I have always loved baking, and it's something my kids and I would do together --they really look forward to our baking days. I really thought that all of that was over. And, WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL LUNCHES?! The gf bread from the store is disgusting, and it crumbles if you try to use it for sandwiches. Well, my kids have sandwiches in their lunch boxes, and we are back to our baking days, thanks to this FABULOUS book! I've tried many other gf cookbooks, and this is in a totally different league -- an excellent baking book on par with conventional, wheat-based, baking books (of which I have many, as well!). Annalise, the Food Philosopher, has really devoted herself to studying gf baking and thank goodness for her! My kids can help me cut out Christmas cookies again. And, at their recent birthday party, we featured sugar cookies, chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, and chocolate chip pound cake -- all to rave reviews from our guests who couldn't believe they were eating gluten free. Kudos and many, many thanks to Annalise Roberts for her work! Seriously, don't bother with any other gf baking book -- you won't find any that are better than this one.
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on May 19, 2007
When I was told I had to go gluten-free I thought, "Oh no, what about baking?" I loooove baking. So I did some research and saw that this book had all excellent reviews on Amazon. So I tried it out. And boy am I glad I did. My husband, who is gluten-tolerant, said the oatmeal raisin cookies are the best he's ever had (I agree), and he doesn't normally even like oatmeal raisin! We most recently had the vanilla pound cake...moist and also better than the glutenous version. I started bringing baked goods into work and my co-workers couldn't believe gluten-free is good! One of my co-workers even bought this book, even though she is gluten-tolerant, because everything is just better! (Not to mention that even though desserts aren't "healthy," these are at least "healthier" than glutenous ones. Since I'm fairly new to being gluten-free, I appreciated not only the recipes themselves, but helpful hints and little tidbits and stories from Annalise for each recipe and in the intro of the book. I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE...even you gluten-eaters!
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on October 8, 2009
This cookbook is okay in some recipes and in some recipes not good at all!! I have tried other cookbooks that are also simple and would not rate this the best one. I read reveiws all the time and people say "This cookbook is not as good as others I have" Okay, so what are the other ones you have??!! That is so frustrating... if you take the time to leave a review you might as well help the people reading them out. So I will tell you that in my oponion I like Elizabeth Barbone's cookbooks better. I find her consitancy is better as an overall in the taste test factor.
I hope this helps all of you searching day and night for the right cookbook:)
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on May 6, 2009
I never was a huge baker before I found out I was allergic to wheat 10 years ago. Afterward, I would occasionally try to make gluten-free cakes and muffins and they turned out okay, but never great. Certainly nothing you'd feed to people who could eat wheat.

When I saw the great reviews this book had on Amazon, I decided to give it a try. I made the lemon cake first. Wow. It was the best thing I've ever tasted. My boyfriend, who can eat wheat, ate both 8-inch cakes in 3 days (yes, I was mad ;-) ). Later he said he had a lemon cake at a nice restaurant and was disappointed because it wasn't as good as the one from this book. My 16 year-old cousin said it was his new favorite cupcake.

After that, I started baking all the time and enjoyed tons of things I haven't been able to eat for 10 years. Carrot cake, ice cream sandwiches, doughnuts, I've made them all. I've also given these to people who can eat wheat and they love them. I make many things dairy free as well, I just substitute rice milk (I find the brands with a creamier texture work best).

I do find, as some other reviewers have noted, that Annalise Roberts likes her baked goods quite sweet, and sometimes oily. I am not watching my weight or sugar intake, I just like the treats better with some small changes. Here is a list of the things I have made with my adjustments:

Carrot cake: I used unsweetened coconut, and I added a cup of (well-drained) crushed pineapple. I replaced 1/4 of a cup of oil with applesauce, and I reduced the sugar by 1/8 of a cup. This was the first gluten free baked treat my roommates tried, and they kept saying for the next few months, "Hey... when are you going to bake again?" Actually, they kept asking until we moved out last September!

Old-fashioned doughnuts: I changed nothing! They are perfect as is. I gave them to my dad and he ate them late at night. The next day he told me, "You know, I was expecting to feel sick after I ate those, or at least neutral. But, after I ate them I felt fantastic!" I felt the same way. I made the chocolate doughnuts too but I liked the old-fashioned ones much better. Next time I'm going to use fresh-ground nutmeg to see if that makes a difference.

Banana muffins: I used half brown and half Roger's organic sugar, and I mashed some banana and put it in the rice milk (her recipe called for chopped banana only). I reduced the liquid by 1 tbs of milk and 1 tbs of oil to compensate. My boyfriend ate 6 right out of the oven. I ate 3.

Chocolate chip muffins. I made these for a pro-D day at my school (I teach elementary school). I also made some morning glory muffins using her basic muffin recipe. They were all gone by 3 pm. ORDINARY muffins don't disappear at my school like that.

Ice cream sandwiches: Fabulous. I was so excited and I told everyone I ate my first ice cream sandwich in 10 years. They are best after they have been in the freezer for 3 or 4 days because the ice cream has time to make the cookie soft.

Coconut cake: I used 1/8 of a cup less sugar and I made this into a 4-layer cake by cutting 2 layers in half. This was for my mom's birthday. Her friend that stayed over said the next morning, "I was dreaming of that cake of yours. I'm having it for breakfast!" My mom did too. Another one of her friends told me about a month later, "I was driving the other day and I was thinking about that cake you made for your mom... will you make it again?" I'm thinking about it right now. Mmm... cake.

Sandwich bread: I had trouble with this bread, it kept falling in the oven. I did some research and realized that since I live in Vancouver, Canada, the moisture in the air is affecting my bread. I reduced the liquid slightly and I added a tablespoon of flour. I put in a little apple cider vinegar to tenderize the loaf. Now it rises beautifully and stays that way. I will post a picture one day if I get the chance.

Focaccia bread. Same as above. Less liquid, more flour and a little vinegar. I also added 1 teaspoon of gelatin. I topped mine with sun dried tomatoes and basil. Yum!

I also made cheese puffs, popovers, fudge cake, the pie crust and challah bread without any adjustments and they were all great. I also think this book helped me convince my dad to go gluten-free too, because it helped him realize the food could be really good. He feels so much better now.

Anyway this book gave me a new pastime and a healthier dad, so I have to give it five stars :-) .
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on May 1, 2008
It isn't often I feel passionately enough about a book or product to actually pen a review, but as the mother of a one-year-old with anaphylaxis-level allergies to wheat, I could kiss this author for "saving" my son's birthday party! My baby's wheat sensitivity is exactly the type parents dread, so severe it landed us in the ER the first time he was exposed to wheat, with such virulence his pediatrician banned wheat from MY diet as long as our son nurses. Overnight, our household became a wheat-barren landscape: our child never knowing animal crackers or teething biscuits, all of us happily substituting rice pasta into homemade mac-and cheese, my husband sneaking Subway at lunch.

A month ago, though, we began planning the ubiquitous overdone first birthday celebration. We had some degree of faith we'd find a cookbook, but having tried market-ready wheat-free products ourselves, slogging through the dry, dense world of commercially-prepared baked goods and deciding we'd rather go without bread in the house than provide storage space for yet another crumbling compacted rice block, we had little faith in our final preparation. I did the requisite research, reluctantly settling on Ms. Roberts' Gluten-Free Baking Classics; the reviews looked good, the recipes at least had some variety, and if it was going to be bad, at least it was the best of the awful available in our newfound wheat-free world.

So imagine my surprise when my husband, fearing social ostracization in the face of a probable brick-cake debacle, coyly suggested he'd like some cupcakes when our cookbook arrived? The author's introductory chapters list very specific mixing and handling instructions for her basic flour (another plus for this book, it uses a singular flour mix for the majority of the recipes), and while I followed her mixing instructions, I did defy the author's admonition not to scoop right out of the container once our project was underway! Having no idea how this wheatless batter would react anyway, I halved the recipe and only partially filled the cupcake tins, expecting little rise or texture. After all, these suckers would clearly not be something we wanted excess of cluttering our counter or fridge space with a party coming up. But within half an hour, lo and behold! Beautiful, peaked, butter-colored mounds rising just above the rims? The scent of warm vanilla permeating the kitchen?? My husband sneaking in, peeking into the oven, drooling with anticipation??? And me, ever the pessimist, shooing him away and reminding him this was, after all, gluten-free!

The final verdict, though?
Light, fluffy, sweet, moist cupcakes, spongy on the inside with delicately crisped edges: a resounding success! Ms. Roberts' vanilla cupcakes were our first outright baking success in almost a year!! We used the Coconut layer Cake recipe as a stepping-off point for my son's birthday cake (I adapted a certain cable "Network" that does "Food"s "Lime in the Coconut" cake instead, using this as my template). We've only had our cookbook two weeks, but if the rest of it is as good as what we've tried so far, we look forward to many continued successes!

I guess the two questions I had when I was looking to at least be able to give my son a REAL birthday cake were a) can you tell these dishes are wheat-free, and b) despite all the glowing reviews, are these things really any good-- or just good by a wheat-free standard? Well, when it comes down to it, they are a tiny bit different, but not in a way that's truly discernable, and certainly not in a way that's "bad." It's hard to put your finger on exactly what varies from the original, and unless you've been baking (or eating baked goods) for some time, there's nothing you'll sincerely miss from the original. These products' difference may be as simple as their "lacking" the flavor of wheat, but when it comes down to it, there's no negativity implied in that difference. It's simply a new breed of culinary aestheticism. Ms. Roberts' recipes are truly priceless in the niche they fill, representing works of culinary art and sensory pleasure in their own right. And yes, they are good. Great even in some senses. Nothing you will ever regret, and certainly nothing that would ever lead you to look back on the wheat and gluten-laden diet you once revelled in with any sense of longing.

This book quells the great carb demon, and re-establishes the parts of your diet you really do come to miss living wheat-free: pizza, cookies, sandwiches. Yes, even birthday cake, too. Follow the directions for the author's flour mix, blend well, and you'll have a canvas from which to work, take liberties, create your own decadent wheat-free treats.
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on May 1, 2007
I have been wheat and dairy free for 3 years and, being a person who has always loved to bake, have researched and purchased many cookbooks. This cookbook is the absolute best one I've found yet! I have made many of the recipes in it, including coconut cake, pizza crust, rustic flatbread, chocolate cake and muffins, and every one has beat my previous favorite recipe. I have made my own adjustments to make the recipes dairy-free such as substituting soy milk for milk and non-dairy margarine for butter and, nonetheless, everything turns out great! My family loves the food, even though they are not on my diet. Buy it!
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on December 27, 2006
I was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago. Prior to that I was an experienced cook with quite a reputaton for my baking. Since I found out that I have celiac disease I have been trying to find substitutes in order to adapt my old recipes and find new ones that are gluten-free. I have met with marginal results in the area of baking until Annalise Roberts. I first tried her recipe for lemon cake that was in an article in Gourmet magazine. It was fantastic! Not just fantastic for gluten-free, fantastic period. When I heard that she was publishing a cookbook I couldn't wait until it was available. The extra fine brown rice flour concoction is the key to her baking. With the combination of her recipes and the brown rice flour I am back to baking desserts that i am proud of. Thank you Annalise Roberts!
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on March 26, 2007
With a celiac daughter in the house, I have tried dozens of recipes for various GF breads, pizza crusts, sandwich buns, muffins and cakes. Most were dismal failures. From Annalise Roberts' book, I have baked muffins, the lemon layer cake, cupcakes, french/italian bread, cookies, pizza crusts, sandwich bread and pound cakes. All turned out wonderful. Even guests who had never had GF baked goods loved them and wanted the recipes. This is absolutely the best GF cook book for celiacs who miss the everyday goodness of traditional baking.
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