Cookbook Reviews – Older Reviews
Published in 2010 and earlier
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Baking at Its Best
Allergic Living gives two thumbs way up for Cybele Pascal’s The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook. Pascal had all the right ingredients take on her second cookbook: an accomplished home chef, she earned her stripes in restaurant kitchens, and she lives with multiple allergies in her family. Add two more to the mix: she’s a writer by profession and has boundless passion for baking.
With a team of 20 testers to assist, Pascal mixed, baked, tweaked and rebaked. Everything had to live up to her standards. The result is a truly superb recipe collection and must-have for those with – or without – diet restrictions. Celestial Arts, $29.95. See Allergic Living‘s interview with Cybele Pascal.
Warning: Do not peruse while hungry; you may try to eat the scrumptious pages. This book is a great idea: the manufacturer known for its snacks, bars and breakfasts without top allergens (including gluten) teamed up with Leslie Hammond, a culinary expert with an allergy-friendly focus, and a collection of 150 awesome safe cookie recipes was born.
Young children will be over the moon for: Gimme S’more Bites, the Fantastic Fairy Cookies and Caramel-icious Apple Cookies. And for your own safety, don’t stand between allergic women and the Especially Expresso Brownies and Ludicrously Lemon Bars.
Author Alisa Marie Fleming calls this a “guide and cookbook,” and what particularly impresses is the depth of the former. This is no quick gloss-over: it’s a comprehensive, must-have resource for those avoiding dairy. The author, who’s well-known for her website Godairyfree.org, walks the reader through the dairy allergy basics and offers extensive lists of both hidden dairy sources and ingredients that will inspire.
There are thorough sections on dairy substitutes (homemade margarine, anyone?) and creative recipes, from soups to salads to curries and Make Your Own Pizza (without cheese.) Baking without dairy is usually a challenge, but Fleming rises to the task with the likes of Coconut Fudge Brownies, Orange Chocolate Chunk Cup- cakes, and Pumpkin “Cheesecake”.
Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook
The author is a graduate of the Johnson & Wales University Culinary School and an instructor of culinary arts. After his wife was diagnosed with celiac disease, Robert Landolphi added gluten-free chef to his passions and his credentials.
In this book, he serves up inventive gluten-free techniques, including his method for “dusting and encrusting” – herb and flour mix “breading”. The mains are mostly simple and always elegant. His wife must have a sweet tooth, since 82 pages are devoted to an impressive selection of pies, cookies, cakes and cobblers. For anyone who’s struggled with a gluten-free pie crust, his tutorial on that alone is worth the cover price.
After Erin McKenna was diagnosed with wheat and dairy intolerances, the self-described snacker suddenly found her choices of baked goods rudely restricted. Complicating shopping trips, she’d also cut sugar from her diet. But rather than settle for the few cardboard-ish vegan treats available, McKenna began to whip up her own desserts. Then she had a brainwave: why not create a bakery where she and others like her would want to eat?
“I set out to change the way people saw this kind of baking and to make it a new experience,” McKenna explains in an interview. After toiling feverishly for a year to develop delicious, workable recipes, McKenna opened BabyCakesNYC in August 2005 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. From cookies to cupcakes, cinnamon buns, brownies, muffins and more, the vegan goodies this bakery serves are free of dairy, egg, refined sugar and most are made with no gluten or soy.
It’s a small venue, but no small phenomenon: the quality of the desserts at McKenna’s shop has won over even hard-bitten skeptics. In 2006, New York magazine awarded BabyCakes the title of “best cupcake” in the whole Big Apple. “Even though ours was made without all these things, they said it was still the best,” McKenna says. Business has boomed, bolstered by media attention, including three appearances on The Martha Stewart Show.
And now, McKenna spills her secrets in BabyCakes, the cookbook. This is a beautiful compilation of recipes that employs tasty, healthful ingredients such as: agave nectar to sweeten, gluten-free flours, cold-pressed coconut oil instead of butter, and applesauce to replace egg. While the book is already a success, McKenna has one regret: that its subtitle says the recipes are gluten-free. Most are, but some of the early ones include spelt, which is not allowed for those with celiac disease.
I’d treat that as an oversight, and press on since this book contains page after page of scrumptious and truly gluten-free temptations. When Martha herself declares the cupcakes to be “absolutely delicious” – you might just have to test a batch of your own.
Note: There are also no nuts or peanuts in this book. But if you go to the bakery, be sure to ask about nut “may contain” items, since the shop notes certain suppliers are not “100 per cent nut-free”.
BabyCakes, $28 Can ($24 US), Clarkson Potter Publishers.
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